Every year, a staggering number of commercial truck accidents occur in California, including in cities like Bakersfield. Situated along major highways like I-5 and State Route 99, the county seat of Kern County sees plenty of commercial traffic transporting goods across the state, including the petrochemical and agricultural products the region produces.
With that commercial traffic comes the risk of severe wrecks like override and underride truck accidents, in which a large semi truck runs over the top of a smaller passenger vehicle.
These collisions are uniquely dangerous because of the considerable size difference between commercial trucks and passenger cars, and the lack of widespread safety measures to prevent overrides and underrides. They often leave victims with painful injuries, lost income, and totaled vehicles.
To make matters worse, trucking companies and their insurers are quick to blame these victims for their injuries in an effort to avoid significant payouts that undermine their profits. It often takes the help of an experienced truck accident attorney to recover the money victims need to ensure their financial security.
What Are Override and Underride Truck Accidents?
Override and underride accidents involve large commercial trucks colliding with smaller vehicles, though they differ based on how that collision occurs.
In an override accident, a large truck strikes a smaller vehicle from behind, running onto and over the smaller car. Override truck accidents commonly occur when truck drivers follow too closely behind smaller vehicles or drive too fast for road conditions. The massive size and weight of the truck often crush the smaller vehicle, severely injuring its occupants.
In an underride accident, a smaller vehicle runs into the side or rear end of a large truck and slips beneath the truck’s trailer. Many underride truck accidents result from truck drivers cutting too closely in front of smaller cars, failing to yield the right of way, or making sudden turns or lane changes.
The hard edge of the truck’s frame can shear the top off of the smaller vehicle, while its tires can crush the smaller vehicle beneath it. Like override accidents, these collisions often result in catastrophic injuries to those in the smaller vehicle.
Preventing Override and Underride Truck Accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) imposes several federal regulations to reduce the risk of override and underride truck accidents in the U.S.
For instance, the FMCSA has:
- Rear impact guard requirements. Since January 1998, all commercial truck manufacturers have had to install rear impact guards (RIGs) on trailers and semi-trailers with gross vehicle weight ratings of 10,000 pounds or more. These devices extend past the edges of trailers and semi-trailers, making it harder for smaller vehicles to slide underneath.
- Braking system requirements. All commercial trucks must have braking systems capable of stopping and holding them in place when necessary. Reliable brakes are critical safety features that significantly reduce the risk of overrides.
- Hours of service requirements. All commercial drivers are subject to hours of service (HOS) requirements, which limit the amount of time drivers can spend on duty or behind the wheel during a given day or workweek. HOS regulations aim to reduce drowsy driving and prevent over/under truck accidents caused by fatigue.
Truck drivers and trucking companies must follow these regulations carefully and commit to safe driving practices to reduce the risk of override and underride accidents. The trucking industry can also invest in new technologies and safety features, such as rearview cameras and collision avoidance systems, to keep our streets safer.
How Do Override and Underride Truck Accidents Occur?
Despite safety campaigns, federal and state laws, and other preventative measures, override and underride accidents still happen all too often.
Common causes truck accidents in Bakersfield include:
- Distracted driving. When truck drivers focus on text messages, phone calls, or other distractions instead of the road, they are more likely to overlook other nearby vehicles and run them over.
- Impaired driving. Truck drivers who are drunk, high, or even severely fatigued have trouble with depth perception, reaction time, and critical thinking, increasing their risk of causing over/under truck accidents.
- Improper lane changes. If a truck driver fails to check their blind spots or signal their intent before changing lanes, other motorists can’t anticipate their actions, potentially causing them to become trapped beneath the truck.
- Speeding. Exceeding posted speed limits or driving too fast for conditions gives truck drivers less room for error and increases their chances of losing control, plowing into other vehicles, and running over the top of them.
- Tailgating. When truck drivers intentionally tailgate other vehicles or accidentally follow too closely for conditions, they risk losing sight of smaller vehicles in their frontward blind spots and causing override accidents.
- Failure to yield. A truck driver who runs a red light, blows past a stop sign, or otherwise fails to yield the right of way at an intersection might collide with a smaller vehicle traveling in another direction.
- Mechanical defects. Mechanical defects, which can arise due to manufacturing problems or a lack of proper truck maintenance, are another common cause of override and underride truck accidents. When trucks have faulty brakes, tires, or steering systems, drivers might be unable to take the necessary actions to avoid over/under collisions.
- Poor road conditions. Poor road conditions, such as icy roads or large potholes, reduce a truck driver’s ability to maintain control of their vehicle and increase the risk of override and underride accidents due to loss of control.
Override and Underride Truck Accident Statistics
- One study of U.S. crash data estimates that underride collisions occur in half of all fatal truck accidents.
- Of all underride truck accidents included in the study, 57 percent involved a collision with the front of the truck, 22 percent involved the rear of the truck, and 20 percent involved the side of the truck.
- Another study found that more than 20 percent of all front underride crashes might have been survivable had the smaller vehicle not slipped beneath the truck.
- A third study found that side underride guards could reduce the risk of crash injuries in approximately 75 percent of side-impact truck accidents.
- In a recent ten-year period, underride truck accidents resulted in an average of 219 fatalities annually.
- However, the rate of override and underride truck accident fatalities is likely higher than data suggest because states and localities have different standards for crash reporting. Many report forms lack fields for underride or override data.
- During that ten-year period, approximately 45 percent of all reported underride crash fatalities were from accidents in which the initial impact was with the rear end of the truck. Roughly 32 percent were from accidents involving initial side impacts, and 21 percent were from accidents involving front-end impacts.
Consequences of Over/Under Truck Accidents
When a large truck runs over a smaller vehicle or a smaller vehicle slides beneath a large truck, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are at extreme risk of serious injuries. The truck’s hard steel frame can crumple the hood and roof of the smaller car as it slides beneath the truck. If the collision occurs at a significant enough speed, the truck could even shear off the top of the smaller vehicle, leading to decapitation.
Other types of catastrophic injuries that occur in under/over truck accidents include:
- Head injuries. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), concussions, and skull fractures
- Back and neck injuries. Whiplash, spinal cord injuries, and herniated discs
- Chest injuries. Broken ribs, hernias, internal bleeding, and organ damage
- Arm and shoulder injuries. Broken bones, dislocated joints, and torn tendons
- Leg and foot injuries. Broken bones, ligament tears, and dislocated joints
- Skin injuries. Road rash and burn injuries from fires or caustic chemicals
- Facial injuries. Lacerations, fractures, dental injuries, and permanent scarring
- Eye injuries. Corneal abrasions, eye socket fractures, and vision loss
- Internal injuries. Damage to internal organs like the liver, spleen, and kidneys
- Soft tissue injuries. Soft tissue sprains, strains, contusions, and tears
Furthermore, immediate physical trauma is not the only consequence of under/over truck accidents.
Victims also commonly deal with:
- Long-term health complications. Severe injuries from an override or underride truck accident can have life-long health effects. For instance, a traumatic brain injury could lead to permanent brain damage, and a spinal cord injury could result in partial or total paralysis.
- Costly medical needs. Many override and underride truck accident victims struggle financially as they try to keep up with a constant stream of medical bills. Victims with more serious injuries are even more likely to have expensive, long-term treatment requirements.
- Inability to return to work. An override or underride truck accident can cause injuries so severe that victims cannot return to work for weeks, months, or even longer. As a result, many truck accident victims lose a critical source of income even as their medical bills continue piling up.
- Long-term career implications. The injuries suffered in underride/override truck accidents often develop into long-term impairments. These impairments can leave victims unable to return to their previous lines of work even after they recover as fully as possible.
- Reduced quality of life. A severe truck accident injury affects every facet of the victim’s life, from their relationships with others to their ability to live independently. This precipitous drop in quality of life can lead to psychological and emotional issues like depression, anxiety, and insomnia.
If a Bakersfield override or underride truck accident injured you, these consequences might be all too familiar. However, they also represent losses for which you can demand compensation by filing a truck accident injury claim. You should not have to pay for the consequences of an accident you did not cause, especially when the at-fault parties are deep-pocketed trucking companies and their insurers. The best way to get fair compensation for your claim is to work with a knowledgeable truck accident lawyer.
How a Lawyer Can Help After an Over/Under Truck Accident?
A personal injury lawyer is a valuable ally in the aftermath of a Bakersfield truck accident.
Here are just a few ways a lawyer can protect your legal rights and maximize the value of your injury claim:
- Investigating the accident. An experienced truck accident lawyer knows how to conduct an independent investigation into the wreck and uncover evidence to strengthen your case. This might include examining crash reports, interviewing witnesses, and locating physical evidence. Some of this evidence is likely in the hands of the trucking company, which might conveniently lose it if not threatened with consequences by an attorney’s spoliation letter.
- Identifying liable parties. Many truck accident cases are complex because they involve multiple liable parties, such as the truck driver, the trucking company, and parts manufacturers. A lawyer can identify all of these liable parties, allowing you to seek compensation from all possible sources.
- Accounting for your losses. You can’t recover full and fair compensation for your injuries if you do not know how much your claim is worth. An experienced attorney will know how a truck accident might affect your health, your finances, and your future and prepare your claim accordingly.
- Dealing with insurance companies. Insurance companies like dealing with accident victims who don’t have legal representation because they are easier to intimidate. Your lawyer can handle the insurance companies on your behalf, fighting back against their efforts to minimize your settlement or pressure you into accepting a lowball offer.
- Representing you in court. If the insurer refuses to offer a reasonable settlement, a good lawyer won’t hesitate to take them to court to present your case in front of a judge and jury.
Time is of the essence after a severe underride or override accident. You likely must pay substantial expenses. The sooner you get in touch with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Bakersfield, the sooner they can get to work protecting your rights and pursuing your claim.
Law Offices of Mickey Fine – Bakersfield Office
930 Truxtun Ave, Suite 110
Bakersfield, CA 93301
Phone: (661) 333-3333