Learn how the law treats underride accidents in Texas
However, there is one type of accident that is exclusive to large trucks: underride accidents.
Underride accidents occur when a smaller vehicle becomes wedged underneath a larger truck. They are one of the most devastating types of accidents and often result in serious injury or death.
What is an underride accident?
An underride accident occurs when a vehicle crashes into a large truck and becomes trapped underneath the truck.
There are 2 main types of underride accidents:
- Side collisions. These accidents generally occur when a truck driver turns onto a roadway, makes a U-turn, or changes lanes. Though truck drivers often assume other people on the road can see them, it isn’t always the case. For example, if a tractor-trailer is making a U-turn at night, an approaching vehicle may see the cab’s headlights in the oncoming lane but not see the unlit trailer stretched across the other lane until it’s too late. The result is that the car becomes trapped underneath the side of the trailer.
- Rear collisions. These accidents generally occur when a small vehicle rear-ends a larger vehicle. Remember, trucks take a long time to accelerate. As a result, passenger-vehicle drivers often misjudge large trucks in front of them (believing the trucks are traveling the speed limit when in fact the truck is still getting up to speed).
Common injuries caused by underride truck accidents
Underride accidents are very serious. The top of your car can easily get sheared off. On top of that, your airbags, crumple zones, seatbelts, and other safety features may be rendered useless because the first point of impact is the windshield.
Unfortunately, most people don’t survive underride accidents.
If you survive an underride crash, the injuries you’re most likely to suffer are catastrophic and include:
Who’s liable for an underride accident?
To recover damages in an underride accident, the injured party (or a loved one of the deceased) must prove that some other party was at fault for the accident. In most cases, this means they must prove that the truck driver’s negligence caused the accident.
Let’s look at two common examples:
Jill is driving in the middle lane of a 3-lane highway when the truck in the far-right lane suddenly swerves into her lane and forces her vehicle under its trailer. In this case, the truck driver is likely liable for the accident.
Joe is driving behind a large truck. He’s following too closely and when the truck slows down he slams into the back of the trailer. In this case, Joe is likely liable for the accident.
In some cases, the truck driver and the driver of the passenger-vehicle are liable for the accident.
For example, let’s say a passenger-vehicle driver is following a truck too closely, but the truck is driving with a broken brake light and no reflectors. In this situation, both parties may be partially responsible if a rear-end collision occurs.
Texas follows the modified comparative fault rule. This means a person’s damages are reduced by the percentage of their fault.
For example, if the driver of the passenger vehicle is 30% at fault, they can only recover 70% of their damages. What’s more, if a party is more than 50% at fault, they can’t recover any damages.
How can underride truck accidents be prevented?
In an attempt to help prevent underride accidents, trucks are required to have underride guards installed. These guards are designed to prevent smaller vehicles from being pinned beneath the trailer if a rear-end collision occurs.
Interestingly, it was Hollywood star Jayne Mansfield's death on a Louisiana highway in 1967 that sparked the first calls for underride guards (though it wasn’t until 1998 that rear guards—known as Mansfield bars—became legally required).
Unfortunately, side guards aren’t required under the law, even though the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that they would significantly reduce injuries and deaths on American’s roads.
The best way to avoid an underride accident is to obey the rules of the road and to keep plenty of room between your vehicle and the large truck in front of you.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an underride accident, use our free online lawyer directory to locate an experienced Texas truck accident attorney in your area who can help.
Consumer Reports, How Tractor-Trailers Can Be Made Safer
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Underride Fatalities by State
NBC News, Underride Crashes Kill 200 People a Year. Will Congress Act?