Underride Accidents: Understanding the Risk of Trucks Parked On the Roadside

car crashed into a semi

It’s a common sight on highways across America, especially in the evenings as truck drivers pull off to the side of the road to sleep for the night. The line of 18-wheelers parked along the shoulder, often without their lights on.

Unfortunately, trucks stopped on the side of the road is also one of the most common - but least understood - causes of highway death by decapitation.

When semi-trucks park on the roadside, in the emergency lane, or are stopped in traffic, other drivers are at risk of serious injury or wrongful death due to a condition known as underride.

Underride occurs when a passenger vehicle collides with a truck or semi-trailer and the vehicle runs under the truck. In some cases, the roof of the passenger vehicle is sheared off and the occupants are seriously injured or even killed. These are some of the most serious accidents on the road, and they result in more than 300 people being killed in the United States every year.

Accident Injury or Death When Truck is Parked on the Side of the Road

People who see an underride injury or death may think that the driver of the passenger car was at fault. But this is often not the case. The truck driver and even the trucking company often bear some responsibility when a big rig is parked on the side of the road and an accident occurs. Managers of trucking companies must examine the risks of underride accidents and implement sound practices such as good trip planning, regular vehicle inspections, and appropriate maintenance to avoid them.

In fact, trucking companies should mandate that drivers not park along the roadside except in cases of emergency. And if they must stop due to an emergency, there are safety precautions that truck drivers and trucking companies can take to reduce the risk of injury or death due to an underride.

How to Prevent Underride Accidents

Trucks that park on the side of the road, especially at night, should use hazard flashers, markers, and other warning devices. Drivers should be trained to contact dispatchers when they must stop at the side of the road, and dispatchers should know how to minimize the risk of an injury if a truck must stop on the side of the road due to a breakdown or other roadside emergency.

There are also actions that truck drivers can take to minimize the risk of an underride accident, including:

  • Turning on flashing hazard lights immediately, and leaving them on while stopped
  • Setting out warning devices (flares or reflective triangles)
  • Keeping marker lights on after dark
  • Avoiding parking on curves or the downside of hills
  • Parking as far off the roadway as possible
  • Setting parking brakes when stopped
  • Notifying your employer as soon as possible to arrange for roadside assistance

Accident Reconstruction Experts Use Safety Standards to Establish Fault

When trucks park on the roadside, whether because of a breakdown or at night, they often violate safety standards. As a result, this means that the truck driver and even the trucking company often bear at least some responsibility for causing the underride accident.

Truck drivers and trucking companies must recognize that it is foreseeable that other drivers will occasionally leave the lane of travel. This means that the risk of cars departing from the lane of travel is a foreseeable risk that truck drivers must account for.

If someone you love was catastrophically injured or killed in an underride accident, you need to work with an experienced trucking accident attorney who will thoroughly investigate your case, including the reasons the truck was stopped on the side of the road and the actions the truck driver took to prevent a collision. An experienced trucking accident injury lawyer will often work with an accident reconstruction expert to investigate the causes of an underride accident and hold the responsible parties accountable.

An accident reconstruction expert may start by reviewing the cell phone records and a medical autopsy of the victim to rule out distracted driving or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol on the part of the driver of the passenger vehicle.

There are also issues of highway design that should be considered. The shoulder of the road is not designed for parking. Rather, it is intended as a “clear zone” or a “recovery zone” that is “available for safe use by errant vehicles.” When a truck driver parks on the shoulder of the road, he is blocking the clear zone and creating a hazard for motorists who may depart from the lane of travel.

Robenalt Law: Holding Trucking Companies Responsible for Underride Accidents

Trucks parked in the clear zone pose a greater hazard than cars that are parked in the same area. If a car collides with a vehicle that is roughly the same size, the collision is unlikely to result in catastrophic injuries or death. But when a car collides with an 80,000-pound semi-truck, the results are almost always catastrophic. Because the trailers of a semi-truck are higher off the ground than the bumper of a passenger car, the passenger can is likely to have the roof sheared off, and the people inside are likely to be seriously injured, and even decapitated and killed.

If someone you love was injured or killed in a collision with a semi-truck or 18-wheeler, you may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Past and future medical treatment
  • Lost wages
  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral and burial expenses

The trucking accident injury lawyers at Robenalt Law have the resources, experience, and expertise to get the compensation that you and your family deserve. Our lawyers frequently work with accident reconstruction experts to analyze the cause of a crash and explain why it occurred. While we recognize that no amount of money can make up the loss that you suffered, financial compensation can help pay for the costs of medical care and treatment, lost wages, psychological trauma caused by the accident, funeral and burial expenses, loss of consortium, and losses experienced by the spouse, parents, and children of a loved one, and more.

Our trucking accident injury lawyers will fight for the compensation that your family deserves. We invite you to learn why people choose us, to get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and to contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

Tom Robenalt started his litigation career representing trucking companies and other corporate defendants and insurance companies at a large firm in Cleveland. For the past 25 years, he has used that experience to help people who have been catastrophically injured or killed in trucking accidents.

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