Articles Posted in Under-Ride Accidents

A federal appellate court recently issued an opinion in a personal injury case that was appealed by a plaintiff after the district court excluded the plaintiff’s expert witness testimony. The case is important for New Mexico personal injury plaintiffs, because the Daubert standard employed by the court in this case is the same standard that is used in New Mexico personal injury cases.

The Facts of the Case

The case stems from a 2013 accident in which a young woman and her infant son were involved in a crash with a tractor-trailer that was manufactured by the defendant. The plaintiff sustained severe debilitating brain injuries as a result of the accident and filed a product liability lawsuit against the defendant. The police report indicated that the tractor-trailer was turning on the highway when the woman struck the left side of the trailer. The trailer did not have a side underride guard.

The Case’s Procedural History

The woman’s legal guardian and the infant’s legal guardian filed a lawsuit that was ultimately moved to federal court. Several of the claims were resolved, leaving only a products liability claim against the manufacturer of the trailer. The claim that they were basing their lawsuit on was “crashworthiness” of the trailer. Specifically, that the design of the underride guard installed on the truck was defective, and that there was an alternative design that would have likely prevented the plaintiff’s injuries.

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Periodically, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducts studies involving accidents that occur on U.S. highways. The NTSB is a federal agency that was created to promote safety standards for trucks and other vehicles transporting goods across state lines. The NTSB tracks accidents, injuries, and their causes in an attempt to develop new safety standards to decrease the frequency of accidents in the future.

The most recent study conducted by the NTSB indicates that there are over eight million single-unit trucks registered in the U.S. that travel over 110 billion miles each year. Even though these vehicles only amount to about 3% of registered motor vehicles, they account for about 9% of all fatal accidents. These startling numbers show the true hazard to all drivers and passengers these trucks pose. Ultimately, the study revealed that there are many areas in which safety improvements are needed, such as ones to prevent underride accidents.

One important conclusion of the most recent study was that many fatalities are caused due to underride accidents. Interestingly, this is due in large part to the fact that many single-unit trucks are excluded from many safety rules that apply to tractor-trailers. As a result, these vehicles do not meet the safety standards for improved underride guards, which can prevent a significant number of deaths and injuries.

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Trucks have the capacity to cause a significant amount of damage when they are involved in an accident. Just their sheer size should be enough to caution drivers to keep a safe distance when sharing the road with a large truck. However, unfortunately, even the most cautious drivers sometimes end up as victims in a truck accident.

One common cause of trucking accidents is related to the lack of an effective underride guard on a truck. An underride accident is basically when a vehicle gets wedged underneath a truck because the truck runs over the vehicle. Trucks should have underride guards on both the front and the back of the vehicle to protect against this kind of accident, but some do not. An underride guard is a steel frame that is fixed to the back of a truck. The guard is intended to act as a barrier so that a car will not go underneath a truck in the event of a rear-end collision. Underride accidents are often fatal and are most often caused by sudden braking by the truck driver, malfunctioning brake lights on the truck, or inclement weather.

After a series of deadly accidents, federal regulators mandated that a study be done to quantify and pinpoint the reason that underride guards fail and to determine whether regulations should be implemented regarding underride guards. As a result of the study, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a new rule that requires truckers to maintain a stronger grade of steel on their guards. Their research suggests that a better designed underride guard could help prevent fatalities.

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Truck accidents have the potential to result in massive property damage, serious injury, and even death, due to the magnitude of the trucks and the subsequent havoc that is caused when vehicles of this size are involved in an accident. There are many causes of truck accidents, and even with stringent safety regulations and driver training these accidents continue to occur.

One common type of truck accident is called an under-ride accident. There are several studies that have found that under-ride accidents have the highest likelihood of causing a fatality.

An under-ride accident occurs when a smaller vehicle somehow ends up underneath a larger truck, often an 18-wheeler. The reason these accidents occur is because often the bottom of a truck is roughly 45 inches above the ground, whereas a standard passenger sedan is about 30 inches above the ground. When a sedan crashes into the rear of a truck, the car can become stuck underneath the trailer. This can also occur when a truck crashes into the sedan, and the truck engulfs the car underneath the front of the truck. Unfortunately, this type of accident often results in major damage, such as a fire or explosion, and it almost always results in serious injury or death to those in the car.

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