Underride truck accidents are among the most lethal types of crashes on South Carolina roads. They occur when a smaller car collides with a semi-truck and slides underneath the trailer, crushing or shearing off the top of the car. This often results in devastating injuries and even death. Read on to learn more about the gravity of this issue and how skilled attorneys can help victims navigate the complex aftermath.
What Is an Underride Truck Accident?
Collisions between two cars are devastating enough. A crash between a car and a semi-truck is even worse. The mere mechanics of an underride truck accident can lead to catastrophic injuries for victims. In an underride crash, the car slides beneath the trailer of a semi-truck. Because the top of the car is crushed, these crashes are often fatal for its occupants. There are two types of underride truck crashes.
Side Underride Accidents
Side underride accidents happen when the car collides with the side of the semi-truck’s trailer. This can happen if the truck turns left in front of oncoming traffic and a driver can’t stop in time. It can also occur if the truck turns right from the left lane and traps a car in the right lane.
Rear Underride Accidents
Rear underride accidents happen when the truck stops suddenly, and a car rear-ends it. If the truck lacks proper brakes or hazard lights, a car might not have enough time to stop or slow down before slamming into the back of the truck.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandates that trailers have a rear underride guard. This safety bar is meant to prevent rear underride truck accidents, but NHTSA does not require regular inspection of these guards. Aging guards can fail in a collision, and safety advocates assert that underride guard requirements are not stringent enough. Side underride guards are not mandated.
Common Causes of Underride Truck Crashes
Often, human negligence or error is to blame for truck underride accidents. There can also be many other factors that contribute to the devastation of an underride truck crash, including the following.
Lack of Safety Equipment
The truck may be missing important reflectors, lighting, or underride guards to prevent accidents.
Poorly Maintained Equipment
The truck may have this equipment, but it may not be maintained properly. The rear guard may be in disrepair. Reflectors may be obscured by mud and dirt. The lights may not be in working order.
Not Using Hazard Lights
If the truck is pulled over, it needs adequate warning lights so cars on the road can see it.
The trucker may engage in unsafe driving behavior, like speeding, tailgating, or failing to yield. Truck drivers may make unsafe turns, lane changes, or back up where they cannot see. They may change lanes into a car in their blind spot.
If the truck driver stops suddenly in the middle of the road, drivers behind the truck may not have enough time to react.
Underride truck accidents often happen at night on country roads where visibility can be poor. Car drivers may not be able to see the trailer behind a truck until it is too late.
Rain and snow can obscure vision and lead to slippery road conditions. Cars may brake but slide right under a tractor-trailer. Fog can also cause deadly accidents.
Distracted or Impaired Driving
Truck drivers on their phones aren’t paying attention to the road and can make poor decisions.
Steps to Take After an Underride Accident
Many of the mistakes to avoid after a car accident apply to underride truck crashes as well. It is vital to take prompt action following a truck accident.
Seek Medical Care Immediately
Injuries from underride collisions can be especially severe. If anyone is hurt, their health and well-being should always be the first priority.
Follow the Doctor’s Instructions
Be sure to have your injuries diagnosed and treated. Refusing to follow a treatment plan can work against you when seeking compensation.
Keep All Records
Be sure to keep a copy of all documents relevant to your case. This includes medical documents like billing statements, test results, and doctor’s notes. Keep copies of pay stubs as proof of lost income. Any letters you receive from insurance companies and other parties should also be kept.
Hire an Attorney
The team at Pracht Injury Lawyers has the experience and knowledge to navigate complex cases like underride truck accidents. Before you speak to anyone else, consult with our lawyer to protect your legal rights.
File a Claim
Do not speak to insurance adjusters before connecting with a skilled lawyer. Any statement you make becomes evidence. Your attorney can guide you through this process to protect your best interests.
Heightened Dangers and Types of Injuries
The size difference is a major reason why underride crashes are so dangerous. Semi-trucks are much bigger than passenger cars. This is especially true with smaller cars that are low to the ground. A typical tractor-trailer can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds fully loaded. Compare that to the 3,000-pound weight of an average compact car.
The height difference is a big contributing factor as well. In an underride accident, the point of impact is often the roof, hood, or windshield of the passenger car. The car’s bumpers won’t be effective, and safety features like airbags may not activate. The top half of the car can be crushed or torn right off. This often involves the head, shoulders, and upper torsos of passengers.
The most common types of injuries reflect this reality:
- Serious head and neck injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries, skull fractures, and concussions
- Herniated discs and other back or spinal cord injuries
- Fractured ribs and collapsed lungs
- Cuts and lacerations
- Other bodily trauma, like broken bones and crushing injuries
- Organ damage and internal bleeding
- Limb amputation
- Permanent disfigurement
- Lingering pain, soreness, and reduced mobility
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Loss of consciousness, including comas
- Fatalities, including decapitations
Often, the truck driver is unharmed in an underride accident. In the cabin of the truck, they are far away from the point of impact. As the accident usually involves the trailer, the truck at the front may not be damaged at all. The truck driver may not even know anything happened.
Seeking Compensation for Damages
The aftermath of an accident with a truck can be a complex affair. Working with a skilled South Carolina personal injury lawyer at Pracht Injury Lawyers can provide peace of mind. They can help you identify the relevant commercial truck crash defendants. Possible liable parties may include the truck driver and trucking company. It may also include whoever was responsible for the truck’s maintenance.
If you or a loved one has been involved in an underride truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. You can seek to recover such damages relating to medical bills, lost wages, loss of future earning potential, and pain and suffering. Your personal attorney can investigate the accident and present the strongest case possible to the courts. Let us help you get the justice you deserve.