truck underride accident

September 13, 2023

Truck Underride Accident: Causes, Consequences, and Legal Options

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Truck underride accidents are among the most catastrophic and devastating types of vehicular collisions. When a smaller vehicle, such as a car or motorcycle, crashes into the rear or side of a larger truck and slides underneath it, the result is often termed an “underride crash.” The sheer size and weight disparity between the two vehicles can lead to severe, if not fatal, consequences for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. This type of accident is particularly concerning because of the heightened risk of injury, especially to the head and neck region. As road safety continues to be a paramount concern for drivers, passengers, and regulatory bodies alike, understanding the intricacies of truck underride accidents becomes essential. This article delves into the causes, consequences, and legal options surrounding these harrowing incidents, shedding light on the importance of prevention and the rights of victims.

What’s a Truck Underride Crash?

A truck underride crash is a specific type of vehicular accident that occurs when a smaller vehicle, typically a passenger car, collides with a larger truck or trailer and ends up sliding or being forced underneath it. The design of most passenger vehicles means that their front end is much lower than the rear or side of a truck. In the event of a collision, instead of the car’s safety features (like airbags or crumple zones) absorbing the impact, the top part of the car, especially the windshield and roof, bear the brunt of the crash.

The dangers of an underride crash are evident. When a car goes underneath a truck, the first point of impact is usually the car’s windshield, directly in line with the occupants’ heads. This can lead to severe head and neck injuries, often proving fatal even at relatively low speeds. The design of the truck, with its elevated chassis, doesn’t offer much resistance to the car, allowing it to slide underneath easily.

While many factors can contribute to such accidents, including poor visibility, lack of proper signage on the truck, or sudden braking, the outcome is often the same: a devastating crash with a high potential for severe injuries or fatalities. As such, understanding the dynamics of truck underride crashes and the preventive measures in place becomes crucial for both truck operators and other road users.

The Prevalence: How Many Truck Underride Accidents Occur Annually?

Truck underride accidents, while not the most common type of vehicular collision, are undeniably among the most lethal. According to recent statistics, thousands of underride crashes occur in the United States each year, with a significant percentage resulting in fatalities. The exact number can vary based on the source of the data and the specific criteria used to define an underride crash. However, what remains consistent across studies is the alarming rate of severe injuries and deaths associated with these accidents.

Several factors contribute to the occurrence of underride crashes:

  • Poor Visibility: Trucks, especially those without proper reflective markings or lighting, can be challenging to see, especially at night or in adverse weather conditions.
  • Sudden Stops: If a truck stops suddenly, vehicles behind might not have enough time to react, leading to potential underride scenarios.
  • Blind Spots: Large trucks have significant blind spots where smaller vehicles can easily disappear from the truck driver’s view.
  • Lack of Underride Guards: Not all trucks are equipped with effective underride guards, which are designed to prevent smaller vehicles from sliding underneath.

It’s worth noting that while many underride accidents occur at high speeds on highways, they can also happen at lower speeds in urban settings. The impact, regardless of speed, can be devastating due to the nature of the collision.

Efforts are ongoing to reduce the number of underride crashes, with regulatory bodies pushing for stricter safety standards and the mandatory installation of underride guards on all trucks. However, until such measures are universally adopted, the risk remains.

Understanding Underride Protection

Underride protection, often referred to as “underride guards,” is a safety feature designed specifically to prevent underride crashes. These are structures attached to the rear, and sometimes the sides, of large trucks and trailers. Their primary function is to stop smaller vehicles from sliding underneath the truck in the event of a collision.

Here’s a closer look at the components and benefits of underride protection:

  • Rear Underride Guards: These are the most common type of underride protection. They are metal barriers that hang down from the back of a truck or trailer. In the event of a rear-end collision, they provide a barrier that the car can crash into, preventing it from going underneath the truck.
  • Side Underride Guards: While not as common as rear guards, side guards are gaining attention due to the number of side underride crashes. These guards run along the side of the truck, preventing cars from sliding underneath in side-impact collisions.
  • Benefits of Underride Protection:
    • Reduced Severity of Crashes: With effective underride guards in place, the force of a collision is more likely to be absorbed by the car’s safety features, such as airbags and crumple zones, rather than the occupants.
    • Prevention of Fatalities: By preventing a car from sliding underneath a truck, underride guards can significantly reduce the risk of fatal head and neck injuries.
    • Increased Awareness: The presence of underride guards can also serve as a visual reminder for drivers to maintain a safe distance from trucks.

Despite the clear benefits, not all trucks are equipped with these guards, and not all existing guards meet the highest safety standards. Advocacy groups and regulatory bodies continue to push for stricter regulations to ensure that all trucks are fitted with effective underride protection, aiming to reduce the number of tragic accidents on the roads.

Override vs. Underride: The Key Differences

While both override and underride crashes involve large trucks and smaller vehicles, they occur under different circumstances and present distinct challenges. Understanding the differences between these two types of accidents is crucial for road safety awareness and prevention.

Override Accidents

  • Definition: An override accident happens when a larger vehicle, such as a truck, runs over a smaller vehicle in front of it. This can occur if the truck is unable to stop in time or if the smaller vehicle suddenly stops or slows down.
  • Dangers: In an override crash, the smaller vehicle can be crushed or severely damaged by the weight and momentum of the truck. Occupants of the smaller vehicle face a high risk of injury due to the force of the impact and the potential for the truck to roll over the car.
  • Common Causes: Distracted driving, brake failures, poor visibility, and tailgating are some of the typical causes of override accidents.

Underride Accidents

  • Definition: As previously discussed, an underride accident occurs when a smaller vehicle collides with a truck and slides or is forced underneath it.
  • Dangers: The primary danger in underride crashes is the potential for the top of the smaller vehicle, especially the windshield and roof, to make direct contact with the truck, leading to severe head and neck injuries.
  • Common Causes: Sudden stops by trucks, lack of proper signage or lighting on trucks, and blind spots are among the leading causes of underride accidents.

Comparative Analysis

While both types of accidents can result in severe injuries or fatalities, they present different challenges in terms of prevention. For instance, underride crashes can be mitigated with the installation of effective underride guards, while override accidents require a combination of safe driving practices, regular vehicle maintenance, and advanced braking systems.

Both override and underride accidents underscore the importance of road safety awareness, especially when sharing the road with large trucks. Drivers of smaller vehicles should always maintain a safe distance, avoid blind spots, and be vigilant about the movements of larger vehicles around them.

Experiencing a truck underride accident can be a traumatic event, both physically and emotionally. Beyond the immediate medical concerns, victims often face a myriad of challenges, including financial burdens, loss of income, and long-term rehabilitation. In such trying times, understanding one’s legal rights and options can provide a semblance of relief and a path to justice.

Seeking Compensation

  • Medical Expenses: Victims can seek compensation for immediate medical bills, ongoing treatments, surgeries, and any future medical needs related to the accident.
  • Lost Wages: If the accident results in the victim being unable to work, either temporarily or permanently, compensation for lost wages and potential future earnings can be pursued.
  • Pain and Suffering: This encompasses the physical pain, emotional distress, and trauma experienced due to the accident. While it’s challenging to put a monetary value on such experiences, they are a significant part of compensation claims.

Determining Liability

  • Truck Driver: If the truck driver’s negligence, such as distracted driving or failing to maintain the vehicle properly, led to the accident, they could be held liable.
  • Trucking Company: The company might be held responsible if they failed to ensure their vehicles had proper underride protection or if they did not adhere to safety regulations and standards.
  • Manufacturers: If a defect in the truck or the car contributed to the accident, the manufacturer could be held accountable.

Legal Representation

Navigating the complexities of personal injury law can be daunting, especially when dealing with large trucking companies and their insurance providers. This is where legal representation becomes invaluable. A law firm experienced in truck underride accidents, like Callender Bowlin, can provide professional guidance, ensuring victims receive the compensation they deserve.


What exactly is a truck underride accident?

A truck underride accident occurs when a smaller vehicle, such as a car, collides with a larger truck or trailer and ends up sliding or being forced underneath it. This type of collision often results in severe injuries due to the car’s roof and windshield making direct contact with the truck.

How do underride guards work?

Underride guards are safety structures attached to the rear and sometimes the sides of trucks and trailers. They act as barriers to prevent smaller vehicles from sliding underneath the truck during a collision, thereby reducing the severity of the crash and potential injuries.

Are trucking companies required to have underride guards on their vehicles?

While many countries and regions have regulations that mandate the installation of rear underride guards on trucks, the requirements can vary. Some places also advocate for side underride guards, but they are not universally required. It’s essential to check local regulations to understand specific requirements.

What should I do immediately after being involved in a truck underride accident?

First and foremost, seek medical attention, even if you feel fine. Some injuries may not manifest immediately. Once you’re safe, gather evidence from the accident scene, including photographs and witness statements. It’s also advisable to contact law enforcement to file an official report and consult with a legal expert familiar with such accidents.

Can I seek compensation if I’m involved in an underride accident?

Yes, victims of truck underride accidents can seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. It’s crucial to consult with a legal expert, like those at “Callender Bowlin,” to understand your rights and navigate the legal process effectively.


Truck underride accidents are a stark reminder of the vulnerabilities we face on the road. While preventive measures and safety regulations play a crucial role, accidents can still occur. In such situations, it’s essential to know your rights and the legal avenues available. If you or a loved one has been a victim of a truck underride accident, don’t hesitate to seek legal counsel. Callender Bowlin is here to assist, ensuring you get the justice and compensation you deserve. For advice and representation, contact us at (713) 364-1128.