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Accidents involving tractor trailers involve many potential legal issues that are often overlooked by attorneys representing victims and their families. Issues such as the lack of compliance with federal motor carrier regulations designed to protect the public from fatigued drivers, excessive and unsafe payloads, poor truck or trailer maintenance, etc.
Likewise, families are often unaware that injuries or death may have been avoided by underride protection. Many large tractor trailers are almost, but not quite, high enough for a typical passenger car to pass under the trailer. When a collision occurs, this can result in the top half of a vehicle, and the occupants’ upper bodies and heads, colliding with the trailer while the bottom half of the car rides under the trailer. Neither seatbelts nor airbags are of much use in preventing serious injury or death in such accidents. The front of the car doesn’t collide with any portion of the trailer and the impact is absorbed by the windshield and an occupant’s heads and upper torso.
While there are no federal regulations requiring installation of underride guards to design against the consequences of an underride accident, manufacturers and distributors of trailers are not free of the responsibility to sell a reasonably safe product. By failing to design trailers with underride protection, the sellers are placing defective and unreasonably dangerous products on U.S. highways. In Texas, a jury recently awarded $ 38.5 million for designing a truck without underride protection when one woman was killed and another sustained brain injuries in such an accident. Neither the jury nor the court allowed the manufacturer to evade liability by hiding behind the lack of government regulations requiring underride guards.