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aerial view of accident where a car drove under an eighteen-wheeler

Car crashes can be dangerous, no matter the cause — but there is one collision type that almost always leads to severe injury and death. You’ve heard of rear-end, T-bone, and head-on crashes — but are you familiar with underride collisions? They are less common and cause fewer fatalities, but people injured in underride truck crashes are more likely to face catastrophic injuries

Tractor trailers are broader and taller than passenger cars, and there’s considerable room between the bottom of the truck and the pavement. During an underride crash, a car slides under a large truck. In some cases, the truck drivers do not even realize there’s been a collision. On the other hand, the car’s driver and passengers are at high risk for life-altering trauma and often face medical bills, therapy costs, and other unexpected expenses. After an accident, you should contact a Virginia trucking accident attorney to determine your legal options.

Underride crashes are so dangerous because of the positioning of each vehicle. When a car slides under a large truck, the collision may rip off the car’s roof or shatter the windshield. Because of the nature of the crash, airbags are not always automatically deployed. Sometimes a vehicle will slide under a truck and continue moving until it emerges from the other side. Researchers suggest that underride accidents are undercounted, so knowing the actual number is hard. While Virginia’s crash report manual instructs investigators to make note of underride crashes, not all states do the same. And a recent ProPublica and FRONTLINE investigation found that the government knew that it was not accurately counting these crashes.

Causes of Underride Truck Crashes

The main types of underride crashes are side and rear underride. Side underride collisions happen when a vehicle slides under the gap between truck wheels from the side, while rear crashes occur when a car hits a truck from behind. Underride collisions have varied causes; a driver may not see a large truck ahead on the road and not have time to brake. Other times, drivers underestimate how long a large truck takes to move when crossing an intersection or completing a U-turn. They may assume that the truck will clear the road quicker than it does, leading them to hit the tractor-trailer. Large trucks also take a long time to come to a complete stop. If you’re driving behind a truck driver who brakes suddenly, you may not have enough time to stop before your car hits the truck.

Distracted drivers are more likely to be involved in underride crashes. You may miss the large truck ahead if your eyes are not on the road. Sometimes, a driver has no control over an underride accident. Slippery roads caused by rain or snow are dangerous because drivers can lose control of their vehicles and spin uncontrollably. These cars can slide under trucks and cause underride collisions. At times, the truck driver is to blame for the crash. If a large truck driver runs a red light or stop sign, the vehicle with the right-of-way will almost certainly hit the truck. The cause of an accident may be hard to determine, but a Virginia truck accident lawyer can help.

The Government’s Role In Reducing Underride Collisions

There’s ample evidence that the federal government has known about the risk of underride crashes but declined to implement any changes due to pressure from the trucking industry. Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) implemented a rule updating its standards for rear underride guards after years of pressure from truck accident victims, but the change was criticized as too lax by safety advocates. Trucks aren’t legally required to have side guards, which are made of steel bars and tubes and can stop a car from running underneath the vehicle. The Department of Transportation has discussed overhauling underride requirements for decades, but nothing has happened.

In the meantime, hundreds of people are killed yearly in underride crashes — many of them through no fault of their own. It only takes one truck operator driving irresponsibly to cause unimaginable tragedy and loved ones of the deceased may choose to file a Virginia Wrongful Death lawsuit. Survivors of underride crashes are often left with devastating injuries. Organ damage, paralysis, and amputations are all possible outcomes. Recovery can take months or even years, while crash victims may face mental health effects for the rest of their lives. 

Why You Need A Virginia Trucking Accident Attorney

You should contact a Virginia trucking accident attorney if you’ve been involved in an underride crash. Your focus after an accident is on adjusting to normal life, and you may not even consider legal action. But truck drivers and trucking companies have been held accountable for underride accidents in the past, and there’s a chance that you’ll be able to recover damages for your suffering. Our team at Curcio Law has a track record of successful Virginia truck accident litigation. Trucking companies know the danger of underride crashes but do not take precautions to avoid them. We can potentially help you get compensated for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, reduced earning capacity, wrongful death, and more. Call or text us at 703-836-3366 or schedule a free consultation online.

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