Fatal Underride Accidents in North Carolina

truckA fatal wreck happened recently on I-40. A 53-year-old man was driving a Nissan Altima when he ran into the back of a commercial box truck and was killed. At around the same time, the police were working on a different wreck in the same area on the interstate highway, resulting in backed up traffic. The box truck was probably slowing to a stop because of this traffic, and the decedent was unable to stop in time and ran under the truck. It is believed that speed and distractedness were factors in the truck accident.

Underride collisions happen when a passenger vehicle runs into the back of a truck or trailer and runs under the truck, which sometimes takes the roof off the car and kills the occupants. Sometimes the collision is the result of a car driver’s inattention. However, it could also be the result of a lack of a safety guard, a poorly designed safety guard, missing reflective tape, or obscured reflectors.

The FMCSA requires guards for trucks and trailers that were made after 1998, but those made before that date need not be fitted with a guard. When an underride collision doesn’t cause death, it may cause catastrophic injuries, such as traumatic brain injury.

If a loved one’s death in an underride collision is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of somebody else, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative of the decedent’s estate can file the claim to seek damages on behalf of the estate and surviving family members. Sometimes the decedent has an estate plan and has already named a personal representative, but in other cases, a personal representative can be appointed by the court. Often, a surviving spouse, parent, or adult child serves as a personal representative.

The personal representative will most likely need to establish another person’s negligence after a wrongful death caused by an underride. Negligence requires proof by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff that he failed to meet and that this failure caused the plaintiff’s injury or death.

For example, if a tractor-trailer stopped suddenly on a dark highway, and its reflectors were obscured, and as a result the plaintiff couldn’t stop in time and died in an underride accident, the failure to have proper reflectors and the sudden actions by the tractor-trailer might implicate the negligence of the driver or trucking company.

Sometimes, defectively designed guards that were installed to prevent underride accidents give rise to product liability claims. It may be possible to hold the manufacturer strictly liable for a defective guard that results in the untimely death of your loved one.

If you can establish liability, the damages you can recover may include pain and suffering experienced by the decedent before he died, medical expenses including hospitalization or surgery, funeral and burial expenses, lost wages, loss of the decedent’s services and protection, and loss of society and companionship.

When damages are awarded, they will first be used to repay the estate for the costs of bringing suit and the attorneys’ fees and costs. They will then be used to pay any medical, funeral, and burial bills. After that, the beneficiaries divide the remainder.

If you were hurt or a loved one was killed in a truck accident, the experienced attorneys of Maurer Law may be able to help you recover compensation. Contact us at 919-229-8359 or via our online form.

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