Representing the spouse or parents of a deceased tractor-trailer underride victim is the most heart-breaking aspect of my work as a truck accident lawyer. Wrongful death claims are always difficult on grieving families but when the deceased has been crushed beneath a heavy truck, or killed−a result of a sheared occupant compartment, well… the breadth of sorrow and sting felt by surviving family members is especially acute. While harms sustained in collisions with heavy trucks and fully loaded semis will always produce serious injuries and death, the number of fatalities could be reduced and would be reduced, according to Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), if side underride guards were mandatory safety equipment on commercial heavy vehicles.
After Hollywood actress Jayne Mansfield’s tragic rear underride death and the near-death of her three children in 1967, the public cried out for regulations requiring rear and side bumper guards on semi tractor-trailers. It wasn’t until 1998, thirty-one years after Mansfield, her lawyer and driver were killed, when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) exerted their authority mandating only the installation of rear underride bumpers on heavy trucks and semi tractor-trailers. Today, the rear bumper, skirt or underride guard is more commonly known to truck accident lawyers as the “Mansfield bar.”
We are a consumer society and the trucking of merchandise and materials fulfills the growing commerce needs of consumers and businesses. While railroads are used primarily to haul goods long distances, heavy trucks and commercial semi tractor-trailers take up the slack, dominating commercial transportation in America today.
Regrettably, heavy truck rear underride guards are lagging in structural integrity and cave when struck with enough force, like that of an automobile traveling only 35 miles per hour. Certain truck manufacturers are satisfied with meeting the minimal legal standards of underride guards. But responsible truck manufacturers have taken the concept of road safety the extra mile by manufacturing bumpers engineered to reduce road fatalities. In 2017, Five North American semi-trailer manufacturers were presented with the Toughguard Award by the IIHS. The five recipients of this award include Vanguard National Trailer Corp., Great Dane LLC, Stoughton Trailers LLC, Manac Inc., and Wabash National Corporation.
To date, side underride guards have yet to be required as standard safety equipment. In their video, Understanding Underride, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is actively testing well-engineered rear and side underride bumpers, with the objective that the NHTSA will announce enhanced rear guard safety regulations and craft a new national mandate regulating side underride guards as standard safety equipment on heavy trucks and semi tractor-trailers.
Experienced Truck Accident Lawyer
In January of 2018, a bipartisan bill began moving through congress that would require side guards be fitted on trailers and front guards on trucks. As an experienced truck accident lawyer who has represented the surviving family members of rear and side underride collisions, I have hope that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety will prevail in their effort to update national safety standards.
If you, or someone you know, has been hurt or fatally injured in a side or rear slide under collision with a heavy truck or tractor trailer, protect your rights by contacting an experienced truck accident lawyer or plaintiff’s law firm such as the Personal Injury Lawyer Indianapolis, IN locals turn to before the defendant insurance company contacts you.
Thanks to authors at The Ward & Ward Law Firm for their insight into Personal Injury Law.