Liability for Underride Collisions: Filing a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim

Underride collisions involving passenger vehicles and semi-trucks often result in tragedy due to the size discrepancy between the two vehicles. If you or someone you love has been involved in this type of accident, it's crucial that you take steps to protect the rights to compensation.

Semi-Truck Underride Collisions Explained

An underride collision is a type of traffic accident that occurs when a passenger vehicle collides with a semi-truck and runs under the truck. Underride collisions can be classified as rear or side underride collisions.

Rear underride collisions happen when a passenger vehicle runs into the rear end of a truck or semi-trailer. This type of accident can be caused by all of the normal factors associated with rear-end accidents, as well as trucks that are parked on the side of the road, slowing for a railroad crossing, slowing to exit the road, or moving slowly to prepare to enter the road. Since semi-trucks take a long time to accelerate and decelerate, their speeds are often misjudged by the drivers of other passenger vehicles. A truck’s dirty, malfunctioning or broken taillights, failure to use emergency flashes when traveling at slow speeds, the failure to signal when turning, or failure to properly use reflective triangles when parked on or near the road can also be contributing factors.

Side underride collisions most often happen at night or during low-visibility conditions. The truck driver is typically trying to cross or turn on a street or highway and isn't seen by the oncoming driver until it's too late to avoid a collision. The passenger vehicle then slides under the side of the trailer. Evidence suggests side underride collisions most often occur when the truck is painted a very dark color or has dirty or malfunctioning trailer lights.  Another type of underride collision is caused when a truck is changing lanes and the driver does not observe the smaller vehicle along the side of the truck when changing lanes.

Types of Underride Collision Injuries

Underride collisions account for roughly 25 percent of the fatalities in traffic accidents involving semi-trucks. While fatalities in most types of traffic accidents increase as speed increases, underride collisions are often fatal regardless of speed.

Crashes that don't result in death often leave victims with permanent disabilities, such as amputation of limbs or paralysis due to spinal cord injuries. In these cases, victims will require ongoing medical care and support for lost income.

Liability for Underride Collisions

Determining liability for underride collisions can be tricky. Traditionally, a rear-end collision results in the driver who struck the rear of another vehicle being found at fault. However, underride collisions can be the fault of the truck driver or trucking company in some circumstances. For example:

  • The brake lights on the trailer weren't working.
  • The rear underride guards required by law were missing or defective.
  • The driver stopped short or cut off the other vehicle.

Drivers who were going too fast, following too closely, texting while driving, or impaired will likely be found partially at fault for the collision. However, they are still entitled to compensation for their injuries. California is one of several states operating under a pure comparative negligence theory of liability, which gives defendants liability for whatever their percentage of fault maybe in excess of no fault. For example, if you are found to be 70 percent at fault for an accident and awarded $100,000, you'd receive $30,000—the original $100,000 award minus the 70 percent that represents your fault in the accident.

Even though a partially at fault driver can't collect full reimbursement for damages, the settlement can help alleviate some of the financial distress associated with the accident.

Seeking Compensation

Victims of underride collisions can seek compensation for their medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In the event of a fatal accident, the victim's surviving spouse, domestic partner, adult children, or recognized next of kin can file a wrongful death claim. This specialized type of personal injury claim seeks compensation for medical expenses up to the time of death, funeral and burial costs, loss of future earnings to support the family, and the loss of a meaningful relationship with the deceased.

Hiring a skilled attorney is the best way to protect your rights following an underride collision. The Inland Empire Law Group has extensive experience helping California residents in resolving their truck accident personal injury and wrongful death claims. Call today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultations at either our Rancho Cucamonga or Victorville offices.  Call now (909) 481-0100 or toll free at (888) MY-IELAW.