An underride accident with an oversized truck can be traumatic, leading to life-changing injuries, fatalities, and totaled vehicles. It happens when a smaller vehicle crashes into the back of a commercial truck and slides underneath. It can get caught and dragged, or the top could get cut off. Underride guards can prevent these tragedies from happening.
An underride guard is usually a thick, straight bar installed to hang under truck trailers as a barrier. The federal government set out a standard for these more than 50 years ago, requiring that the bars be 30 inches off the ground – that was later lowered down to two feet. The guard is supposed to hit a passenger vehicle’s front bumper and prevent it from going under the truck.
This has been a subject of controversy for a long time for several reasons. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reported that a small car driving just 35 miles per hour managed to break an underride guard and slide under a parked truck. Truck industry representatives do not like the guards, claiming they are too expensive and ineffective. Still, truck accidents can be catastrophic even at low speeds, so there have been public outcries, and lawmakers are still trying to push through stronger regulations.
In 1996, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) instituted federal regulations mandating many commercial trucks to have underride guards installed. The rules were clarified two years later, and all commercial trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more had to follow the guidelines. This meant that more trucks needed to have the guards installed – any commercial truck in Georgia that falls into that category must have the guards.
A new federal law was proposed in 2017 to strengthen the requirements further. It was introduced in Congress and applied to trucks in that same weight range. The proposed law called for stronger underride guards, plus additional underride guards on the sides and fronts of those vehicles. One of the other points called for regular underride guard inspections. The proposal was reintroduced in 2021 with the support of U.S. Senators and a U.S. Representative.
In 2022, the NHTSA released a final rear underride guard upgrading rule. The revised standards require rear underride guards to be strong enough to protect passengers in compact and subcompact vehicles driving 35 miles per hour. The previous rules were for vehicles traveling up to 30 miles per hour.
The IIHS claimed that this new rule was not meaningful and that the protection needed to be more effective. According to IIHS, most new underride guards already met that standard. The IIHS called for crash testing of guards installed on trucks, plus fewer exemptions for trucks without guards.
The IIHS also advocates for side underride guards because smaller vehicles can also become wedged beneath the sides of large trucks. This organization has underride testing requirements, but they are voluntary.
These devastating crashes can happen when a truck driver is fatigued. That can happen on an overly long shift, especially when they drive over the allotted hours and have not taken rest breaks. Other truck drivers might drive recklessly, be careless, or not have enough experience.
Override accidents can occur when other drivers tailgate tractor-trailers and the large truck suddenly stops. Without enough time to slow down, the smaller vehicle has nowhere to go except underneath the trailer. Other reasons for underride accidents include:
Common injuries from these kinds of crashes include broken bones, internal injuries, amputations, burns, and spinal cord injuries.
The answer to this question depends on what the evidence reveals. An owner/operator truck driver is self-employed, so they might be responsible for the damages if they behaved negligently. Trucking companies can also be accountable for their employed drivers’ behaviors, including acts of negligence.
A trucking company might be at fault if it fails to install and maintain appropriate underride guards on its vehicles. In addition to that, other possible third parties who might be held liable include underride guard manufacturers and installers, maintenance vendors, and inspection agencies.
An investigation will start soon after an underride accident, and the initial steps are taken by law enforcement officers who arrive at the scene and write up police reports. That alone is usually insufficient to solely support an insurance or legal claim, so accident survivors often work with truck accident lawyers. It is essential to contact one right away because they can work to gather evidence from the scene. That includes photos of what happened, vehicle damage, and witness testimony.
Other sources of crucial evidence include medical records, truck driver driving records, and truck company, driver, and vendor logs. With underride crashes, attorneys work to determine whether the truck had a guard installed when the accident happened. They will also examine the guard’s condition, how it was installed, and whether it meets federal guidelines. Inspection records can also be analyzed.
An underride accident is one of the worst things someone can experience, and our skilled, compassionate Savannah truck accident lawyers at Childers & McCain, LLC are prepared to protect your rights. Call us at 478-254-2007 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Macon, Georgia, we serve clients in Savannah, Albany, and Atlanta.
Facing the aftermath of a serious accident can be overwhelming. Before you speak with the insurance companies, make sure you schedule a free consultation with the Macon personal injury lawyers at Childers & McCain. We can protect your rights while anticipating the insurance company’s tactics to make sure you get the full compensation you deserve. You don’t have to navigate this tough road alone – let our team of professionals help you move forward.