Truck Accident InjuryThe Deadly Consequences of Truck Underride Accidents

February 21, 20240

Truck underride accidents are among the most devastating types of crashes on our roads today. An underride accident occurs when a passenger vehicle collides with the side or rear of a large truck and slides under the truck, causing massive damage. These horrific crashes often result in severe injuries and fatalities. In this article, we’ll examine the causes of underride accidents, the deadly consequences, and what can be done to prevent these tragedies.

What Causes Truck Underride Accidents?

There are several factors that contribute to underride collisions:

  • Truck Size – The enormous size differential between trucks and passenger vehicles makes underride more likely. When a car hits the back of a truck, its front end crumples while the stiff back end of the truck stays intact. This allows the car to slide under the truck. A typical tractor-trailer can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Passenger cars average around 3,000 to 4,000 pounds, so you can see why this can be fatal.
  • Lack of Rear Guards – Federal regulations require rear guards on trucks to prevent underride. However, the standards have not been updated since the 1950s and are outdated. Many guards fail in crashes. The guards are also not required to extend across the entire width of the trailer.
  • Speed Differential – When a fast-moving car approaches a slower truck from behind, the speed difference makes it harder for the car to stop in time. An underride can occur before the car brakes take effect. Trucks are speed-limited to 65-75 mph in most states, while passenger cars can go much faster.
  • Poor Visibility – Truck drivers have large blind spots around their vehicles. A car can disappear from view and slip under the truck before the driver realizes what has happened. Modern tractor-trailers have huge no-zones spanning 20+ feet behind the trailer where cars “disappear.”
  • Driver Inattention – Distracted or drowsy drivers may not react quickly enough to avoid a rear-end collision with a truck. This leads to sliding under the truck’s chassis. Texting, talking on cell phones, eating, reading, grooming, and other distractions take drivers’ eyes off the road. This can easily lead to a chain reaction.

The Deadly Consequences of Underride

Truck underride accidents carry an extremely high risk of severe injury and death compared to other types of crashes. Here are some of the devastating consequences:

  • Decapitation – If an under-riding car collides with the rear of the truck, the top of the car’s occupant compartment can shear off. This leaves passengers vulnerable to decapitation by the truck’s rear frame. The car’s roof is often sliced off as cleanly as with a knife.
  • Massive Head Trauma – The violent stop as a vehicle slides under a truck crushes the roof down onto occupants’ heads. The intense force often causes catastrophic brain injuries or skull fractures. The brain can be severely damaged both from the initial impact and from being smashed between the collapsed roof and headrest.
  • Spinal Cord Paralysis – As the collapsing roof damages the spine, paralysis of the limbs, torso, or entire body can result. These spinal cord injuries lead to permanent disability. Pressure or severing of the spinal cord causes loss of control and movement.
  • Internal Organ Damage – When a human body rapidly decelerates from 60-70 mph to zero, organs can detach from connective tissues and start hemorrhaging. Ruptured spleens, livers, kidneys, and aortas are common. The violent stop turns organs to mush.
  • Severe Limb Trauma – Legs and arms can get caught underneath the truck as the vehicle is crushed. This causes extensive lacerations, fractures, nerve damage, or amputation. Limbs are often “de-gloved” as skin detaches from muscle.
  • Burn Injuries – If either vehicle catches fire after an underride, surviving passengers may suffer disfiguring burns before they can escape. Car fuel supplies can ignite under the friction, exploding into flames that engulf the passenger compartment.

The Tragic Reality of Wrongful Death

The exceptionally high mortality rate of truck underride crashes means that many accidents result in wrongful death. Survivors are left to grieve and seek accountability. When a truck driver’s negligence or a trucking company’s complacency leads to fatalities, families can pursue legal action for wrongful death. Financial recovery cannot make up for the staggering loss of losing a loved one too soon. But it can provide stability after the primary breadwinner is gone.

After an underride accident, the immediate cause of death is often decapitation, catastrophic head/brain trauma, or internal organ failure due to massive internal bleeding. Survivors typically need to lay their loved one to rest in a closed-casket funeral due to the extent of injuries. Families struggle to come to terms with how a normal drive can turn deadly in an instant. The deceased often leave behind spouses, children, parents, and other dependents. Their deaths create an emotional and financial void for those left behind.

Preventing Truck Underride Tragedies

There are steps we can take to make underride accidents less likely and less lethal:

  • Improved Rear Guards – The federal government should update outdated standards to require guards that are stronger, better designed, and cover more surface area to block passenger compartment intrusion. Expanding guards across the entire width of trailers would help enormously.
  • Collision Avoidance Tech – Widespread adoption of automatic emergency braking and other tech could alert drivers and apply brakes to reduce rear-end truck crashes. Radar, cameras, and sensors can detect impending collisions.
  • Truck Side Underride Guards – Side underride guards would prevent deadly intrusion when cars strike the sides of tractor-trailers. These are not currently required under federal law. Side guards would keep vehicles from sliding under the belly of trucks.
  • Increased Public Awareness – Education on maintaining safe following distance around trucks and resisting distraction/drowsiness could help motorists avoid underride situations. Defensive driving programs should highlight the dangers of tailgating trucks.
  • Truck Speed Limiters – Limiting truck speeds to 65 mph could help equalize speeds among cars and trucks, making rear-end collisions less violent. This could close the speed gap that contributes to underrides.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a truck underride accident that was not your fault, please contact our law firm to discuss your legal options. Our experienced attorneys will fight to recover full compensation as you focus on healing and grieving with your family.

You can visit our office at 15 Broad St #800 Boston, MA 02109.

Or call now for a free consultation on (617) 263-0860.

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