According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, (IIHS), a non-governmental source of crash and safety data, there have been 500 to 600 deaths per year in the United States resulting from an underride collision between a passenger car and a tractor-trailer. In Texas, roughly 21 people die every year from underride accidents. If you survive an underride crash, you are most likely to suffer a catastrophic injury. “Underride truck accidents” refer to crashes where a smaller vehicle slides or is forced underneath the trailer of a larger truck, such as an 18-wheeler. These accidents can be particularly devastating because the top of the smaller vehicle is often sheared off upon impact, leading to severe or fatal injuries.You may need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you determine your rights in these cases if you or a loved one has been involved in this type of accident.
Underride accidents are commonly categorized into two types based on their occurrence:
- Rear Underride Accidents: These occur when a passenger vehicle collides with the rear of a trailer. This can happen if a truck stops suddenly or if a passenger car is traveling too quickly and cannot stop in time.
- Side Underride Accidents: These occur when a passenger vehicle slides or is forced underneath the side of a trailer, often at intersections or when a truck is making a turn.
Causes Of Underride Accidents
Here are some of the most common causes of these types of underride accidents:
- Inadequate or malfunctioning lighting or reflectors on the rear or side of the truck, making the truck appear less visible to other drivers.
- Trucks stopping or slowing down suddenly without adequate warning.
- A truck making a sudden or unexpected lane change or turn.
- A smaller vehicle following too closely to a truck.
- Poor road conditions or weather conditions.
- Driver errors, fatigue, or distractions from either the truck driver or the driver of the smaller vehicle.
Here is a brief overview of the relevant legal aspects of underride truck accidents in Texas:
- Regulations: The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established regulations for truck safety features, including requirements for rear impact guards. These are barriers that are attached to the back of trailers to prevent cars from sliding underneath. However, there is criticism that the standards for these guards are outdated and that many guards fail during collisions.
- Liability: Liability in an underride accident, as in any vehicle accident in Texas, often revolves around the concept of negligence. If the truck driver or the trucking company failed to maintain the truck properly, failed to adhere to safety standards, or was negligent in any other manner leading to the accident, they can be held liable. On the other hand, if the driver of the passenger vehicle was negligent, it could affect the liability assessment.
- Texas’ Comparative Negligence Rule: Texas follows a “modified comparative negligence” rule. This basically means that if you are injured in an underride accident and are found to be partly at fault, your compensation might be reduced by your percentage of fault. In addition, if you are found to be more than 50% at fault, you’re barred from recovering any compensation.
- Potential Damages: Victims of underride accidents or their families might be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, and in tragic cases, wrongful death.
- Statute of Limitations: In Texas, there is generally a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury and wrongful death claims, including those stemming from truck accidents. This means that victims or their families have two years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit.
- Evidence: As with any accident, it is important to gather as much evidence as possible. This includes photographs of the scene, witness statements, police reports, and any other relevant documentation. It might also be beneficial to hire an expert to reconstruct the accident given the complex nature of truck accidents.
Due to the complexities of underride accidents and the potential for significant compensation, victims or their families can often benefit from seeking an experienced personal injury attorney to represent them. An experienced truck accident attorney in Texas can help navigate the intricacies of the law, negotiate with insurance companies, and help you with a lawsuit if it becomes necessary. Our legal team has the resources to thoroughly investigate your claim and develop an effective strategy on your behalf. Contact Ceja Law Firm, PLLC as soon as possible to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your case.