Florida truck accidents can inflict catastrophic injuries, devastating families and imposing enormous costs on society as a whole. While debate is bubbling about driverless truck technology and other futuristic advances that might help us come close to ending truck accidents altogether, those visions are a long way from reality. Furthermore, there are some simple and far more cost effective ways to make trucks safer now. One of those, proposed by federal lawmakers earlier this year, is a mandate to install tractor-trailer side underride guards.
Consumer Reports noted in a recent article that such low-tech upgrade could save hundreds of lives annually by preventing smaller passenger vehicles from ending up partially or completely underneath the truck. It essentially works like a metal bumper, hanging from the sides and rear of the trailer so cars won’t get smashed underneath in the event of a truck accident.
In 2016, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported there were 250 deaths resulting from a vehicle smashing into the rear of a tractor-trailer and 305 that involved hitting a large truck from the side. Testing by that agency showed a side underride guard was effective in blocking a passenger vehicle from becoming wedged under the side of the truck when the vehicles were traveling at 40 mph. When side underride guards on trucks are strong, they can slash the risk of serious injury in approximately three-fourths of all cases. Many are calling for legislative action to make this a required feature on all large trucks in the U.S.
Currently, rear side guards are already required, but a number of truck safety experts opine they should be much stronger. Currently awaiting Congressional review is the bipartisan Stop Underrides Act of 2017, proposing to strengthen rear underride guards, require side underride guards on new trucks and retrofit them onto older trucks, with an industry standard review conducted every five years.
Orlando truck accident lawyers support these measures, having seen firsthand the immense damage these collisions can cause.
Side underride guards were also at issue in a recent federal case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. According to court records, a 19-year-old woman and her infant son in Kentucky were involved in a serious trucking accident. The mother suffered severe brain damage when her vehicle was pulled unerneath the side of the 18-wheeler. A lawsuit was filed against a number of defendants, with most of those matters now resolved. The issue before the federal court involved the sole remaining defendant, the truck’s manufacturer. The trial court, in vetting plaintiff’s expert witness, barred testimony pertaining to the alternative design theory she purported would have prevented or at least mitigated plaintiff’s injuries. The design in question is one called the telescoping side guard, which unlike a regular side guard that stays in a fixed position expands automatically in a crash to close the space around the truck’s sliding rear-axle. The trial court ruled this testimony unreliable, as such as design had never been built or tested on trucks actually on the road. The appellate court affirmed.
Although the outcome was disappointing for this plaintiff, it’s instructive for future cases.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Wilden v. Laury Transportation, LLC, Aug. 23, 2018, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
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