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Guardrail Standards May Be Inadequate to Prevent Semi-Truck Underride Accidents

March 18, 2013

A collision last week involving a Corvette that slammed into the rear of a large moving truck made national news because the driver managed to walk away without injury despite the top of the Corvette being ripped away in the crash.

The driver managed to duck down as the Corvette drove underneath the semi-trailer. The man was lucky to have survived because the entire top part of the vehicle was literally torn from the sports car when it traveled so far under the tractor-trailer that it almost hit the axle of the moving truck.

Semi-truck underride accidents occur when a car collides with the back or side of a large truck and proceeds to continue under the truck rather than being stopped by the body of the big-rig. While federal law requires certain newer large trucks to be equipped with underride guards that meet specified standards, side guards are not required. Semi-truck underride accidents may result in severe injuries including severe head trauma or decapitation.

This horrifying California collision follows the release of a report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that indicates industry standards for trailer guards designed to prevent such accidents may be too lax. According to the IIHS study, the guardrails may fail when only a portion of the rear-end of the truck is struck rather than when the impact is squarely in the center of the guard.

The study involved driving passenger cars traveling at 35 mph into parked semi-trucks manufactured by eight different companies. The guardrails performed well in collisions where the car crashed head-on in the middle of the guardrails. All eight guardrails passed this portion of the strength testing. When the vehicle squarely hit only half of the guardrail (i.e. half of the back of the large truck), all but one of the guardrails successfully prevented the car from continuing under the semi-truck.

Unfortunately, the rails did not perform well when the vehicle hit only thirty percent of the trailer’s width. All but one of the guardrails permitted the car to plow underneath the semi-truck crumpling the roof of the vehicle. In some cases, the rail failed completely and provided no protection at all to vehicle occupants. The one guard that did not fail was equipped with brackets mounted close to the sides of the trailer so they provided more strength. Based on the results of the crash testing, the IIHS has called for new standards to be imposed on large truck manufacturers.

Truck drivers and commercial carriers have a duty to exercise reasonable care when operating semi-trucks to avoid foreseeable injury to others on the road. One aspect of this duty is to ensure that the commercial trucks they operate are properly fitted with safety equipment and comply with safety regulations. A trucking company can be liable for failure to employ reasonable safety measures based on its knowledge of safe trucking industry practices as well as applicable safety standards.

If you or someone you love dies in a Georgia semi-truck accident, our experienced Georgia truck accident attorneys provide diligent representation to personal injury victims. Montlick and Associates is available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Truck Accidents

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All information provided by our blogs is general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Consult a Montlick attorney for details about your unique situation.