All truck accidents are very likely to cause a great deal of destruction and seriously damaging injuries. However, underride truck crashes and accidents stand head and shoulders above the others as especially dangerous, almost invariably resulting in extremely severe injuries to the occupants of the other vehicle. In many cases, these kinds of truck accidents are fatal because of what is involved in how they play out. Underride truck accidents happen when one vehicle crashes into the rear of a truck and collapses under the trailer or rear end of the truck. Because of the height difference between trucks and most vehicles driven by regular drivers, the head and torso experience the full brunt of the impact with the truck. This is what makes underride accidents so deadly.
Below will be a very detailed guide to underride truck accidents. We will go into what they are, why they happen, what your legal options are if you experience one, and more in this article. If you or a loved one were involved in an underride truck accident, our lawyers can help you get the justice and financial compensation you deserve for such a deadly experience.
If you need legal assistance after an underride accident, do not hesitate to call Rice, Murtha & Psoras’ Maryland truck accident lawyers at (410) 694-7291 for a free case review.
What is an Underride Truck Accident?
An underride truck accident happens when a vehicle impacts the rear area of a commercial truck and crumples underneath the rear of the truck. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines an underride accident as any accident in which one vehicle slides under another due to the height difference between the two vehicles. Because the passenger compartment is so very likely to be crushed and severely damaged in an underride accident, it is highly likely that occupants of the vehicle will suffer incredibly grievous injuries or lose their lives, even with the advantages that modern motor vehicle safety features provide.
Types of Underride Truck Accidents in Maryland
Based on the NHTSA definition and general understanding of underride accidents, you may think that they all have to occur in a certain way. This, however, is not the case. Underride truck accidents can be further broken down into two types: rear underride accidents and side underride accidents.
Rear Underride Accidents
Rear underride accidents are what come to mind when someone refers to an underride truck accident. In these accidents, the smaller vehicle slides under the rear of the truck or trailer and is crushed and damaged by the force of the impact and the weight of the truck.
Side Underride Accidents
Side underride accidents, on the other hand, happen when a truck and another motor vehicle have a side-by-side impact, and the other vehicle slides under the trailer, as in a rear underride accident. These accidents are arguably even more dangerous and deadly than rear underride accidents because cars are generally less protective against side-on impacts than they are against impacts from the front or rear.
Causes of Underride Truck Accidents in Maryland
Truck accidents can happen for all sorts of reasons. However, underride accidents tend to be caused by certain factors and circumstances that make them more likely to happen. Although underride accidents can still occur for reasons other than these factors, our Baltimore truck accident lawyers have compiled a list of common causes of underride truck accidents below.
Truck Driver Speed
One of the more common reasons for underride accidents is the relative speed of each vehicle involved. When people think of speed as a contributing factor to truck accidents, the first thing that comes to mind is probably going over the speed limit. However, in underride accidents, frequently, the culprit is the exact opposite issue. In these cases, a trucker is often driving exceptionally slowly or, more likely still, suddenly stops or drops their speed when the driver behind them does not suspect it. The rear driver, having no time to react to the truck driver’s sudden decision to slow down, is likely to impact the rear of the truck and get badly injured in an underride accident.
Another contributing factor to underride accidents is a lack of visible markings on commercial trucks and their trailers. These markings are generally reflective parts of the trailer so that they stand out in bad weather or low light conditions, but they can also include things like tail lights or anything else that clearly indicates where a truck trailer is located.
Without these warning indicators, it is significantly easier for an unsuspecting motorist to collide with the trailer of a vehicle, potentially causing an underride accident.
“Mansfield Bar” is the name for steel protrusions underneath a truck’s trailer that are there to try and prevent a smaller motor vehicle from sliding under the truck. They are so named because of an incident involving the actress Jayne Mansfield. She was tragically killed in an underride accident when a truck in front of her slowed down in foggy conditions, causing her vehicle to collide with the truck. Her car slid under the trailer, and half of the occupants, including Mansfield, were killed instantly.
The silver lining to this tragic incident is that afterward, underride guards, frequently now called Mansfield bars because of this accident, were recommended nationwide by NHTSA. In Maryland, Mansfield bars are required for tractor-trailer vehicles under Md. Transp. Code Art. § 24-104.2.
Although Mansfield bars will help to prevent the deadliest of underride accidents, you can still get badly injured even if they are present. Moreover, there is no guarantee that each and every truck will follow these rules, so it is still possible to come across a truck on the road without this important safety feature.
Underride Truck Accident Statistics in Maryland
It is difficult to get truly accurate statistics about underride truck accidents in Maryland for a number of reasons. NHTSA receives data from all states about their truck accidents, including the number of those underride accidents and, within that number, which underride accidents were fatal. However, the data that NHTSA gets from every state, including Maryland, is not necessarily accurate. This is because responding offers who report the accidents do not necessarily know or use the safe definition of “underride accident” that NHTSA uses, so some accidents that can be considered underride accidents may not be reported as such. Accordingly, NHTSA believes that the frequency of underride accidents is underreported in their data sets.
That being said, some data about underride statistics can be gleaned from NHTSA’s data and findings. Some of the most recent truck-specific data from 2021 indicates that in 2020, there were approximately 4,965 people killed in truck accidents in the United States. Of those fatalities, 32% involved an impact to the front of the killed driver’s vehicle. While some of those front impacts are doubtless from head-on collisions or other types of accidents, this would indicate that at least some of those accidents would include an impact with the rear of the truck, which could turn into an underride accident.
Injuries from Maryland Underride Truck Accidents
Injuries from underride accidents are almost universally serious. Some of the aftermaths of underride accidents are truly grisly, with injured occupants having to be cut out of their vehicles with the so-called “jaws of life.” Our Towson truck accident lawyers delve into some of the injuries that could happen in an underride accident below.
Broken bones are common in all truck accidents, and underride accidents are no exception. In addition to the common fare of broken arms and legs, underride accidents have a strong propensity to impact a person’s upper body, so it is also very likely that someone in an underride accident can get broken ribs, damage to the spinal column, or a fractured skull.
An underride accident can also result in neurological damage because of damage to the spinal column or spinal cord or because of a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Such damage could cause chronic pain, loss of sensation in parts of the body, or, in the case of serious injuries, the loss of basic functions like speaking or fine motor skills.
High-impact forces can cause bleeding inside the body without breaking the skin. Internal bleeding and hemorrhaging can result in bruise-like discoloration of the skin. It is incredibly dangerous if left untreated and can lead to serious medical complications or death. Moreover, victims of accidents -even particularly traumatic ones like underride accidents – may not know that they are bleeding internally, so they may not seek treatment for that issue.
A traumatic amputation is when a limb is separated from the body suddenly and violently, as opposed to an amputation carried out in a medical setting to remove an infected limb or body part damaged beyond repair.
Traumatic amputation does not require a sharp object in order to happen. Anything hurled against the human body with enough speed and force has a chance to rip off a limb. Unfortunately, the impact of an underride accident is more than sufficient to impart such forces.
Traumatic amputations are especially dangerous because they often lead to an enormous amount of blood loss. In a medical setting, the process is controlled and carried out by medical professionals. Not so in an underride accident. A traumatic amputation can easily be fatal without appropriate and speedy medical care.
It is unsettling to think about, but decapitation – the separation of the head from the body – is a very real possibility in an underride truck accident. This can happen when the rear or side of the truck trailer careens through the passenger cabin and hits an occupant squarely in the head/neck area. The risk of this happening increases when the metal used in the trailer or Mansfield bars has warped and become sharp because of the impact forces of the accident.
Needless to say, decapitation is 100% fatal and can be irreparably traumatizing for any other occupants of the vehicle who have to witness such a thing.
Types of Lawsuits You Can File After a Maryland Underride Truck Accident
Depending on how your particular underride accident plays out, you will be filing one of two kinds of lawsuits after an underride accident in Maryland. You will be filing either a personal injury lawsuit to get compensation for your own injuries or you will be filing a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a loved one who has lost their life in an underride accident. Our Waldorf truck accident lawyers are able to help you with either type of case, and we’ve provided a brief overview of each kind of lawsuit below.
Personal Injury Underride Truck Accident Lawsuits
If you are suing for injuries to you or a loved one, you are filing a personal injury lawsuit. In these lawsuits, you need to prove that another party was negligent and that their negligence caused your injuries.
Wrongful Death Underride Truck Accident Lawsuits
The sad reality is that many underride accidents are fatal, even with the presence of safety vehicles in both trucks and other motor vehicles. If you are suing on behalf of a deceased loved one who died in an underride accident, you will be filing a wrongful death lawsuit. It is important to remember that there are special rules for filing a wrongful death claim. For example, only spouses, children, and parents of the deceased can file a wrongful death lawsuit, so talk to our lawyers if you feel that this applies to you.
Speak to Our Maryland Underride Truck Crash Lawyers Today
If you need assistance preparing a truck accident lawsuit for an underride accident, call our Howard County truck accident lawyers today at Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 694-7291 for a free review of your case.