A truck “underride” accident happens when a passenger vehicle strikes the rear or side of a tractor-trailer and the passenger vehicle underrides or slides underneath the rear or side of the trailer. The top or roof of the passenger car is often crushed or removed in an underride accident often resulting in serious injury or death. In addition, there is often intrusion into the passenger compartment of the car. Our Birmingham, Alabama truck accident attorneys at Cross & Smith have experience in handling tractor-trailer accidents that involve an underride collision.
A passenger vehicle offers little to no protection from a tractor-trailer in a Birmingham, Alabama underride collision. There is a substantial height difference between a tractor-trailer and a standard passenger car. This height difference can cause the passenger vehicle to ride under the rear or side of the tractor-trailer. The passenger car is simply not designed to withstand this type (underride) of collision. Most members of the traveling public are not aware of this significant danger. The trucking industry, on the other hand, has been aware of this danger for years.
The United States Department of Transportation (“DOT”) has promulgated regulations that are intended to prevent underride accidents from happening. Each trailer or semitrailer manufactured after January 26, 1998, with a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 pounds or more, must have an underride guard. 49 CFR § 393.86. Trailers or semitrailers manufactured before January 26, 1998 must also have rear underride guards, but these guards are subject to less stringent specifications. Rear underride guards are commonly referred to as ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) bumpers. Generally, there are two types of underride guards: rear guards and side guards. The DOT only requires that trailers have rear underride guards. This is the case even though serious injuries from side underride accidents occur far too often in Birmingham and elsewhere in Alabama. Recognizing this danger, many European nations require side underride guards as well as rear underride guards.
Rear underride or impact guards are meant to reduce the possibility of an underride from happening or lessen the damage to a passenger car in a rear impact collision. The DOT defines rear impact guard as follows: a device installed on or near the rear of a vehicle so that when the vehicle is struck from the rear, the device limits the distance that the striking vehicle’s front end slides under the rear of the impacted vehicle. 49 CFR § 571.223. The DOT requires that tractor-trailer underride guards meet certain minimum standards. For instance, the underride guard cannot be more than 22 inches from the ground, the guard must extend to within four inches of the side of the trailer, and the guard must meet certain strength requirements. While these minimum requirements have improved over the years, most safety groups advocate for more stringent requirements, particularly with respect to the strength requirement and height requirement.
Underride accidents or collisions are often not recognized by members of the public in Birmingham and elsewhere in Alabama as a potential avenue of recovery because these accidents involve rear-end collisions, particularly since the claim is made by an occupant of the vehicle that rear-ended the tractor-trailer. Often an underride case is pursued when the truck driver acted with due care in operating the tractor-trailer. The issue is whether the rear underride guard was properly manufactured, designed, installed and maintained and whether the guard caused the injuries claimed. The manufacturer or owner of the underride guard might argue that the driver of the passenger car was guilty of contributory negligence thereby barring his or her recovery. However, this argument is generally not available for manufacturer’s to employ against individuals who were merely passengers in the automobile.
If you, or someone close to you, have been injured in a truck accident, please consider contacting the experienced truck and 18 wheeler accident attorneys at Cross & Smith. Our Birmingham truck accident attorneys have handled truck and tractor-trailer accident cases involving underride collisions and accidents. You may contact us online or call our office at (877) 791-0618 for a free confidential consultation.