Truck Underride Accidents

If you’re in an accident with a tractor-trailer, there is a good chance injuries will be involved. One of the most dangerous types is a truck underride accident, where the smaller vehicle slides under the rear or side of the trailer. These are extremely serious accidents that often come with devastating consequences.

Depending on the case of the truck underride accident, you or your loved one could be entitled to compensation for your injuries. If the truck driver or company was at fault, Nix Patterson’s underride truck accident attorneys could help you receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost earnings, pain and suffering, etc.

What Is an Underride Truck Accident?

An underride truck accident occurs when a smaller vehicle slides under a large truck’s trailer. These severe accidents can happen at the side or rear of the truck, and federal law requires trailers to be equipped with a rear safety device to prevent such incidents. Truck safety advocates have called for years for sturdier underride safety devices on the backs of truck trailers, and they have been strengthened recently.

The causes of underride crashes are complex, and sometimes the smaller vehicle driver is at fault. In other cases, the truck driver is at fault. But there is little doubt that improved truck rear and side guards could prevent many serious injuries and deaths.

Why Are Underride Truck Crashes So Dangerous?

Underride crashes are hazardous for smaller vehicles because of the disparity in vehicle height. The point of impact for a typical underride accident is the windshield or hood of the smaller vehicle, so frontal airbags may not deploy in a crash. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report determined that severe or fatal neck or head injuries are common in underride crashes.

Rear underride guards are required on all tractor-trailers in the United States.

In recent months, the Department of Transportation has conducted stakeholder discussions about adding underride guards on the sides of trailers. However, intense industry pushback against the new side guards has scuttled the discussions for now.

Types of Truck Underride Accidents

There are two significant types of truck underride accidents. The first is a rear underride collision, where the passenger vehicle slams into the rear of the trailer and slides underneath it.

The second type of truck underride accident is a side collision. This usually happens when the trucker crosses an intersection, turns onto a street, or makes a U-turn. Oncoming vehicles may not see the truck in time and slide under the trailer. Many side underride accidents happen at night in limited visibility.

Underride accidents where the car slides under the rear or side of the truck can happen for the following reasons:

  • Improper crossing, backing, or U-turns: When a big rig moves across traffic, the trucker must be sure that other drivers can see and avoid the truck. If the truck driver is not careful, the trailer could block the road, and a car could slide under the side.
  • Sudden stopping or driving too slowly: If a truck stops suddenly on a highway or drives too slowly, oncoming drivers may lack sufficient time to slow down. Sometimes the truck driver will suddenly apply the brakes with a light load.
  • Secondary crashes: When a big rig jackknifes or hits another vehicle, the stopped trailer can become a life-endangering obstacle on the road. To increase visibility, truckers must use hazard lights, flares, and similar devices.
  • Illegal parking: Trucks are frequently illegally parked on highway shoulders or ramps. If it is dark and an oncoming driver doesn’t see the truck in time, there can be a catastrophic rear underride accident.

How Common Are Underride Truck Accidents?

Underride accidents are becoming more common, with hundreds of Americans being injured or even killed every year. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently concluded that more than 400 Americans died in underride crashes in 2021 alone, but some safety advocates claim the actual number of fatalities is higher.

Fortunately, the number of rear-end accidents with severe or fatal injuries has declined since rear guards were installed in the 1960s. But as of now, side guards are still not required nationwide. Unfortunately, trucking companies are known to employ powerful lobbyists to discourage national politicians from passing side guard requirements.

Who Is Liable for a Truck Underride Accident?

Dangerous driving and maneuvers are often the causes of side and rear underride accidents. A dangerous crash can happen when a truck makes an illegal U-turn, backs across traffic, slows down suddenly, drives too slow, or switches lanes in front of smaller vehicles.

In other accidents, the truck manufacturer is to blame. The NHTSA has rules that require rear underride guards to withstand an impact of 35 MPH. Also, law enforcement often conducts national surprise roadside checks to check if trailers are equipped with properly functioning underride guards. If the part fails or is incorrectly installed, the trucking company or manufacturer may be liable in a lawsuit.

Your Nix Patterson truck accident attorney will investigate your truck underride accident. Our attorneys will fight for every dollar if the trucker, trucking company, or another entity is responsible for your damages.

The insurance company will fight your claim aggressively even when the trucker or employer is clearly at fault. That’s when having a tenacious truck accident litigator is so critical.

Common Truck Underride Accident Injuries

When a car slams into a truck from the rear or side, it will usually suffer severe damage. Many cars are totaled in underride crashes, often leading to severe injuries for drivers and passengers. Death is common, usually because the point of impact is the upper chest and head. Unfortunately, some underride accidents cause decapitation. People who survive a rear or side underride accident can have many injuries:

  • Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Spinal injury, including paralysis
  • Organ loss or damage
  • Disfigurement
  • Severe lacerations and scarring

When the truck underride accident doesn’t kill the victim, it can leave them with lifelong injuries. These incidents are also emotionally traumatic, and going through the long recovery process can be challenging, partly because the defendant may not be evident at first glance. The trucker could be at fault, but many other entities, such as the trucking company, trailer company, vehicle manufacturer, or maintenance mechanic, could be liable.

If you or a loved one were seriously injured in an underride accident, Our Nix Patterson accident attorneys will investigate the cause. We also will determine which person or entity is at fault and hold them accountable.

Contact an Experienced Truck Underride Accident Attorney

If a truck underride accident severely injured you or a loved one, you could receive compensation in a civil lawsuit. A truck underride accident attorney with extensive catastrophic injury experience can review the incident and determine if you have a strong case.

Our truck accident injury team is ready to help with your case, so please contact us today. The initial injury case consultation is complimentary. We only are paid if we obtain compensation for you.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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