Cargo trucks are the backbone of the Virginia economy and vital to keeping store shelves stocked. They also come with inherent dangers due to their size and weight, which are often made worse by negligent behavior. The risk of death or catastrophic injuries for survivors goes up significantly during underride accidents where a vehicle collides with the rear or side of a big rig. Here’s what you need to know before contacting a truck accident lawyer if you’ve been hurt in a truck underride accident.
Common Causes of Truck Underride Accidents in Virginia
While many trucks on Virginia highways have underride guards at the rear of the vehicle, fewer of them are equipped with safety guards on the sides. While they are helpful in certain situations, guards on either the back or sides don’t always completely stop a vehicle from getting wedged beneath the truck. A vehicle that collides with a semi may break through the guard entirely if it hits at an angle or if the accident takes place at high speed.
Underride crashes where a vehicle slams into the back or side of a tractor-trailer are usually caused by one of these contributing factors:
Common Contributing Factors in Underride Accidents
- Broken or malfunctioning brake lights
- Damaged or improperly maintained underride guards
- Distracted driving
- Excessive or sudden braking
- Lack of reflective tape
- Lack of legally required underride guards
- Faulty vehicle parts
- Illegal U-turns
- Making right or left turns without leaving enough room for oncoming traffic
- Parking the truck in areas of low visibility
- Poor weather conditions
- Tired driving, which in cases of truck underride accidents may involve logbook violations
Understanding the root cause of the accident is an important step in establishing liability in a personal injury or wrongful death case. You might immediately assume the driver of the cargo truck is at fault. While that may be the case, it’s also possible for other parties to bear responsibility for your injury. The at-fault party responsible for the accident could be:
Possible At-Fault Parties Responsible for an Underride Accident
- A different driver on the road if someone hit you or the truck first and initiated the crash
- The driver of the truck, if that person’s negligent behavior caused the underride collision
- The trucking company for lax hiring and training practices, or for failing to properly install and maintain underride guards
- The manufacturer of a faulty truck part, such as bad brakes or ineffective underride guards
Establishing liability is critical to recovering damages, which are likely to be devastating in this sort of accident. The force of an underride crash often shatters the windshield and strips the roof of the vehicle, and in some cases can even destroy the side doors.
Both the driver of the smaller vehicle and any passengers are put in extreme danger. Sadly, these crashes are frequently deadly because the driver’s head may collide directly with the truck if the underride guards fail. Wounds are typically much more serious than just cuts and bruises.
Possible Injuries in a Truck Underride Collision
- Bone fractures in arms, legs, chest, neck, or back
- Disfigurement and scarring
- Internal wounds such as organ damage
- Long-term or even permanent disability
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue damage
- Traumatic brain injury (TBI)
- Wrongful death
From mobility issues caused by serious fractures to cognitive problems brought on by a traumatic brain injury, an underride crash is likely to interfere with your ability to earn a living and can radically change your day-to-day life.
What to Do Next After an Underride Accident
Due to the likelihood of catastrophic injuries, you may not be able to stay at the scene and could be taken by ambulance to the emergency room. If that isn’t the case, it’s important to gather information that will be useful later when dealing with insurance or bringing a lawsuit against the negligent party. If you aren’t immediately taken to the hospital, be sure to report the accident to law enforcement, take photographs of the truck and your vehicle, and acquire contact details for other drivers who witnessed the crash.
The two most important steps come next. First, you must see a doctor immediately, even if you miraculously escape an underride crash without obvious wounds. You may have suffered internal injuries that could lead to serious health issues or even death if they aren’t caught quickly.
After addressing your medical needs, the next step is to work with an experienced truck accident attorney who can thoroughly investigate the accident. With an attorney at your side, the trucking company’s insurance is more likely to pay what you are actually owed. Your lawyer can also help file a personal injury lawsuit against that at-fault party if you were hurt in the crash, or bring a wrongful death suit if a loved one died from their injuries.
Potential Compensation After a Truck Underride Accident
- Bills for any medical costs you incurred due to the injury, such as the ER visit, hospital stay, etc.
- Funeral costs in underride crashes involving a wrongful death
- Future medical costs if you are expected to need additional surgeries, medication, or physical therapy
- Income lost while recovering, as well as loss of earning potential if the injury prevents you from returning to your job
- Non-economic damages that don’t have an immediate price tag attached, like pain, suffering, and lost quality of life
- Out-of-pocket costs while seeking treatment for your injury