Responsibility for Underride Truck Accidents

Responsibility for Underride Truck AccidentsMany compact cars are so small that when they collide with 18-wheelers, semis, and other large trucks, they can slide under the trucks – killing anyone in the compact car. Cars might slide or be forced under a truck in a rear-end collision. Truck underride accidents can also happen in a head-on crash or when a car and the side of a truck collide.

At Philbrook Law Office, we file wrongful death claims on behalf of the families of the victims of truck accidents. Any victims who are lucky enough to survive an underride accident can file a personal injury claim against the truck driver and any responsible trucking companies.

How do truck underride accidents happen in Vancouver, WA?

Truck underride crashes may occur:

  • When a truck moves into another lane of the travel. If a passenger car is in the new lane, its only path may be under the truck.
  • A truck driver moves into an oncoming traffic line. The car coming from the opposite lane then slides under the truck.
  • A truck rear-ends a car in front of it.
  • A car rear-ends the truck in front of it.
  • In other ways that may involve multiple vehicles.
  • When cargo from a truck spills onto the highway and the spill forces the car underneath the truck.

Can truck underride guards help?

Trucks that are equipped with guards can prevent truck underride accidents at the point of collision. As of 1996, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) established rear underride guard requirements for trailer and semitrailer trucks to help avoid rear-end collision underride accidents. The regulations do have some exceptions for “special purpose vehicles” because the guards may not be practical “due to the presence of work-performing equipment mounted on the rear” of the trailer or semitrailer.

There are two federal underride guard standards that work in unison:

  • The first standard, FMVSS No. 223 (the “equipment standard”), “specifies performance requirements that rear impact guards (guards) must meet before they can be installed on new trailers.” The standards include strength requirements and testing procedures that must be met by manufacturers. The first FMCSA standard also requires that the manufacturers include proper installation standards and affix a certification label to the equipment.
  • The second standard, FMVSS No. 224 (the “vehicle standard”) requires that most new trailers above a certain GVWR be equipped with a rear impact guard that complies with the first standard. The FMCSA second standard provides specific information on the placement of the guard relative to both the rear and the sides of the truck.

New truck underride legislation was proposed in 2017 but did not obtain approval. However, new legislation passed in 2021 may change things.

Truck underride requirements based on the new 2021 infrastructure bill

The new truck underride legislation, according to the FMCSA:

  • Requires that the FMCSA, within one year from the date the legislation was passed, update the agency’s periodic inspection standards related to underride protection.
  • Directs the Secretary of the Department of Transportation, within one year from the date of passage of the legislation, to “strengthen rear underride guard standards and to conduct additional research on the design and development of rear impact guards to prevent crashes at higher speeds.”
  • The Secretary is also required to finish additional research on side underride guards. If necessary, the FMCSA should then develop performance standards for side underride guards too.

The FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are also required to serve on an underride advisory committee, which will provide advice and recommendations to the Department of Transportation Secretary on safety measures designed to reduce the risk of death and injury due to truck underride accidents.

Who is liable for truck underride accidents?

Our Vancouver, WA truck accident lawyers file negligence and product liability claims when truck accidents occur.  The claims are filed against:

  • A claim against the driver usually involves demonstrating that the driver tailgated, sped, was distracted, drove while tired, drove while under the influence, or was negligent for other reasons.
  • Trucking companies. A lawsuit against trucking companies is usually based on showing that they failed to vet their drivers, failed to inspect their trucks, and failed to comply with the requirement that trucks have quality rear guards.
  • A claim against the manufacturer of the truck is based on showing that they also failed to install required rear guards. We may also argue that the truck was not crashworthy and never should have been on the road. Another argument is that the truck failed to have side guards or front guards – even if there isn’t a current law that requires those types of guards.

In a negligence claim, we argue that the driver or trucking company failed to follow the law and failed to operate their truck in accordance with truck industry standards. In a product liability claim, we argue that the truck was defective because it failed to have proper guards that could have saved the life of a car occupant or caused the occupant severe injuries.

We also anticipate the arguments that the insurance companies and defense lawyers for the defendants are likely to assert. These arguments might claim that:

  • Installing guards is too expensive.
  • Installing guards is not practical for the type of truck involved in the crash.
  • Trucks are visible and the driver of the cars should have seen the truck. This argument is often untrue (and doesn’t have legal merit). Many accidents happen at night. Often, the lights on 18-wheelers and any reflectors just aren’t visible at night. Many times, the accident happens so quickly that the car driver doesn’t have time to respond.

At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground, WA truck accident lawyers file claims against all responsible drivers, trucking companies, and truck manufacturers. We demand compensation for the victim’s and family’s economic losses and personal losses. Our lawyers have a strong track record of success settling truck accident claims and trying truck accident cases in court. We handle all types of truck accidents, including truck underride accidents.

To assert your right to compensation when drivers and others cause harm or wrongful death, talk to our attorneys in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA. Call us at 360-695-3309 or use our contact form to schedule an appointment. We represent accident claims on a contingency fee basis.