Underride truck accidents are one of the most dangerous and fatal types of collisions. They occur when all or part of a car is forced under a large commercial truck. In almost all underride accidents, the passengers riding in the car are likely to encounter the underside of the truck, causing a catastrophic injury or fatality. It is not uncommon for the top of the car to be flattened, penetrated, or completely leveled off.
Underride accidents often occur when a truck is either stalled or moving slowly and is hit from the back by a passenger car that is unable to slow down. The car will then slide underneath the trailer, becoming pinned underneath the larger commercial truck. These accidents also happen when truck drivers change lanes and do not see a smaller vehicle in their blind spot. The passenger car can then become pinned under the middle of the truck. These accidents frequently happen at night because it is harder to see a darkened trailer.
Causes of Underride Accidents
Injuries sustained in underride accidents are often severe due to the massive size difference between an 18-wheeler and a passenger car. A commercial truck can often weigh 80,000 pounds, and a typical passenger car, by comparison, weighs approximately 3,000 pounds. Although these types of wrecks can happen for any reason, some of the more common causes of underride accidents include:
- A passenger car tailgating an 18-wheeler
- A truck driver suddenly stops in the middle of the road
- The driver of a passenger car does not see the trailer either in front of them or to their side during a lane change due to fog, rain, or darkness
- A truck driver failing to turn on vehicle lights at night or in low visibility conditions
- A truck driver’s failure to meet the standards for visibility when parked on the road
- A truck driver’s failure to use underride guards
- A truck driver’s failure to maintain brakes
- A truck driver’s failure to maintain reflective tape
- A truck driver’s failure to keep rear lights in working order
Required Safety Features That Prevent Underride Accidents
The federal government has numerous regulations that require certain safety features aimed at preventing these types of accidents. Often, due to the pressure to cut costs, employers of truck drivers or the drivers themselves fail to adhere to these required safety standards.
Reflective devices are federally required on commercial trucks. These devices, including reflective paint and tape, increase a truck’s visibility. Additional reflective signage must be used if a truck is parked on the side of a road. These laws have been enforced since 1993, and require reflective tape along the side of the vehicle. However, it is not uncommon for older trucks that were built before 1993 to not have these features.
In addition to reflective tape, trucks should have their rear bumper lowered to prevent underride accidents. This is another safety measure required by federal regulations. Unfortunately, rear guards are not always effective and the devices can sometimes fail. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested these guards by hitting them with a car driving 35 miles per hour. At that rate of speed, the car was still able to crash right through the guard and was crushed under the trailer. These types of failures have caused many to question whether our federal regulations are strict enough. In Canada, by comparison, the Canadian government requires rear bumper guards that are 75 percent stronger than those required by U.S. regulations.
South Carolina Truck Accident Lawyers at Chappell, Smith & Arden Fight for Victims of Underride Accidents
If you or someone you know has been involved in an underride accident, the experienced South Carolina truck accident lawyers at Chappell, Smith & Arden can handle your legal claim so that you can move forward. We will assess the extent of your damages and review compensation provisions in any relevant insurance policies. If your accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, we can help you pursue a personal injury claim. To learn more, call us at 803-929-3600 or contact us online for a free consultation.
With six office locations across South Carolina, we represent victims of truck accidents in Columbia, Aiken, Camden, Sumter, Orangeburg, Greenville, Florence, Beaufort, Irmo, Spartanburg, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head Island, West Columbia, Rock Hill, Charleston, Lexington, Winnsboro, Summerville, and throughout the counties of Lexington County, Richland County, Sumtner County, Aiken County, Florence County, Lancaster County, York County, Orangebury County, Kershaw County, and Newberry County.