Truck Accidents

Underride Truck Accident Lawyer

An underride accident occurs when most of the car drives under the rear or side of a trailer.

Underride Truck Accidents are Usually Preventable

Truck Drivers and Motor Carriers are trained to Prevent Underride Accidents.

Why do they blame the car driver?

Underride truck accidents often resulted in the death of car drivers until rear underride guards were mandated.  Side underride accidents continue to result in many deaths.  Semi Trucks are required to have rear underride guards. The rear underride guard is the metal that extends from the rear of the trailer down the height of a passenger car’s bumper.  This is a relatively inexpensive safety feature that was tragically brought into law after Jayne Mansfield, a blonde Hollywood bombshell was killed.  She was a passenger in a car that slid under the rear of a semi truck.  She was killed instantly along with the other adults in the car.  Her young children, including Mariska Hargitay, the star of Law and Order SVU survived with minor injuries.  She still has a scar on her face from this truck crash.   This tragic loss of life resulted in legislation mandating the use of rear underride guards.  It is a tragedy that side-underride guards are not currently required.  Advocates for trucking safety lament that it took the death of Hollywood star in 1967 led to the 1998 rear underride guard mandate.  The side underride guards are relatively inexpensive to install and efforts to require their use are currently being opposed by the trucking industry.  The underride truck accident lawyer at Patterson Law is available to discuss your case.

The most common underride accidents involve cars running into the back of slow-moving tractor trailers, tractor trailers that stopped on the side of the road and tractor trailers that are pulling onto a roadway. Tractor trailers are very large and usually visible but at night visibility is often limited to lighting, reflective striping and warning devices such as cones or triangles.

Driver reaction and perception is a science that explains why these crashes occur. The total stopping time for a driver faced with a hazard is the total of:

  • The time to perceive/recognize the hazard
  • The time that involved in the decision process as to the proper reaction
  • The time it takes to apply the brakes, plus
  • The time and distance for the vehicle to stop.

Due to the specific lighting conditions and surrounding conditions at the time of an underride crash the time it takes for a driver to recognize and perceive a hazard may be difficult to estimate. This portion of a driver’s reaction time involves detecting a light or a reflection and they are identifying that light or reflection as something that requires evasive actions such as braking.

Flashers, well maintained reflective tape and warning devices make detection of roadway hazards for drivers easy.

Failing to properly place warning devices, activate flashers, maintain reflective striping and making unsafe maneuvers hampers the detection and identification process.

Imagine a tractor with a long flat bed stopped on the side of a large highway at night. The driver decides to make a U-Turn traveling across multiple lanes of traffic. The tractor’s headlights are shining away from approaching traffic and the large flatbed trailer is at a significant angle during most of the U-turn. The reflective white and red safety is reflecting the light from approaching cars to the side of the road until the trailer is perpendicular to approaching traffic. An approaching car sees a couple of small lights that appear to be floating in the roadway, yet the flatbed trailer is so high that the taillights of a car a couple hundred yards ahead are still visible. The approaching motorist interprets this data as indicating that the next vehicle in his travel lane is a couple of hundred yards away and traveling at speed. As the motorist nears the truck the trailer becomes perpendicular. Now the motorist’s headlights hit the reflective striping and the light shines directly back to the driver. The driver is now too close to stop and the trailer is blocking all lanes of travel. The driver slams on his brakes crashing into the trailer. The top of the car is nearly sheered off by the impact.

An accident reconstruction team arrives at day light. Photographs are taken showing an enormous truck across a flat wide roadway with no obstructions. The police conclude that driver inattention on the part of the car driver was the cause of the crash. Cases like this often require the retention of accident reconstructionist with conspicuity experts. A conspicuity expert can assess what a driver under the same circumstances on the night of the accident observed.

The red and white reflective tape on trucks is only 50% as effective if it is dirty and it fails to warn approaching traffic unless the headlights strike the reflective tape at or near a perpendicular angle.

The United States does not have enough Truck Parking

Trucks often Park on roadway shoulders endangering the public.

A common underride case occurs where a vehicle strikes a stopped truck on or near the roadway. This often results in a passenger becoming wedged under the rear bumper of the truck. The federal motor carrier safety regulations recognize that stopped trucks on the highway or should pose a danger to the driving public. The regulations applicable to motor carriers and commercial truck drivers are designed to minimize and hopefully present these crashes.  The underride truck accident lawyer at Patterson Law is familiar with the applicable mandates for underrides, industry standards and the regulations designed to prevent underride truck accidents from occurring. A commercial truck driver is supposed to take the following steps when parking on a highway or shoulder:

  • Immediately activate the trucks flashers, except during the day.
  • As soon as possible but within 10 minutes place one traffic warning device (flare or fluorescent triangle) on the side of the traffic approximately 10 feet from the rear of the truck.
  • Then place a second traffic warning device about 100 feet from the rear of the truck in the center of the shoulder or travel lane where the truck is stopped.
  • A third warning device is to be placed away from traffic.
  • If the truck stopped where there are hills or other obstructions the safety devices are required to be placed further back to alert unsuspecting traffic.
  • Likewise, if a truck is stopped on the travel portion of a divided or one-way road the last of the three traffic warning devices needs to be placed 200 feet from the rear of the truck.

A careful analysis of the location of the stopped truck and local laws is required to determine if the stopping of the truck at the location was safe or legally permitted. The weather conditions at the time the truck was stopped must also be analyzed. A truck, if possible, should not stop on a shoulder of a highway when there is icy conditions or heavy fog.
Underride crashes produce devastating injuries and often fatalities. The people involved in these accidents are often unable to timely seek legal help. It is incumbent on their family members and loved ones to reach out to an underride truck accident lawyer before critical evidence has been lost or destroyed.

After frantically searching online for an attorney to help my 26-yr. old son with an auto accident case (in which my son was injured), I came across George Patterson and decided to contact him. George immediately set up an appointment to meet with me and my son to discuss his case. My son and I were very impressed with George and decided to hire him to handle the case. Throughout my son's case George was very professional, patient, knowledgeable, and reliable. He consistently kept my son informed about the status of his case and answered questions, as needed. George made us feel that he truly cared which was very important to us. We sincerely appreciated George's professionalism, as well as his genuine kindness. My son and I will recommend George Patterson to anyone seeking an excellent attorney!

Client that struck an illegally parked truck at night.

Car drivers do not intentionally run into the backs or sides of large commercial trucks. There is almost always an explanation as to why this occurred. That explanation is often that the motor carrier or the truck driver failed to follow the detailed instructions contained in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act Regulations and industry standards.

George Patterson, Board Certified Truck Accident Attorney by the National Board of Trial Advocacy

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George Patterson is a Top 10 Truck Accident Attorney by The National Trial Lawyers.

The underride truck accident lawyer at Patterson Law serves clients in Prince George's, Montgomery, Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Howard, Anne Arundel, Queen Anne's and Baltimore Counties. Our clients are from Silver Spring, Upper Marlboro, Bowie, Forestville, Prince Frederick, Leonardtown, Annapolis, Edgewater, Rockville, Mayo, Bethesda, Germantown, Olney, Beltsville, Deale, Bethesda, Severna Park, Largo, Landover, Oxon Hill, La Plata, Waldorf, Crofton, Columbia and Riverdale.

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If you or a loved one struck the rear or side of a flat bed truck or tractor trailer please contact the underride truck accident attorneys at Patterson Law for a free consultation. Patterson law has offices in Annapolis and Bowie that are both conveniently located off Route 50. Call 301-888-4878 to schedule your appointment.

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