truck side guard

Why Mandating Trailer Truck Side Underride Guards Should Matter to You?

By JW Law

Last year a driver of a Tesla Model S was tragically killed when his car rammed into the side of a tractor-trailer. The car- which was reportedly traveling at 80 MPH in an autopilot mode- was sheared off when it went underneath a truck. This high profile accident fired up a debate on self-driving car technology. However, there is another part to this horrific accident that is not addressed as much; a more pressing transportation safety issue – deaths caused by side underride collision.

According to official figures, each year roughly 200 motorists are killed when their cars plow into the sides of big-rig trailers that have high ground clearance. CBS North Carolina measured this uncovered space between the road and the bottom of a trailer to about 42 inches, which just happens to match the height where most people sit in a vehicle. In an accident, these motorists fall into the exposed area between the front and the rear wheels and suffer fatal crushing.

But many of these gruesome underride deaths can be significantly reduced, according to a new research conducted by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an auto safety group funded by insurers.

The institute conducted crash tests on trailer trucks with and without side guards. The research showed that a well-built guard could prevent vulnerable road users -pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and motorists from being run over by a large truck’s rear wheels in a side-impact collision.

“It prevented the car from going underneath, and consequently the airbags and seat belts were able to protect the driver dummy in those crash tests,” said David Zuby, who is the chief research officer for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


Video Courtesy: IIHS 
Side guards can work by covering the exposed area and shielding the victims from getting swept beneath the truck’s rear wheels, but as of now, they are not mandated by federal law. For years the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required large trucks to have rear underride guard, but not along the sides.

Why are side guards not mandated?

“The (trucking) industry has always argued that it would be too expensive to install side guards, but many of the same truck and trailer manufacturers are already building and installing these guards in their trucks in the UK and Europe,” explained Lawrence Simon, who heads Javerbaum Wurgaft’s Trucking Litigation Department. “This is the same industry that resisted rear underride guards for many years. The well publicized crash involving Jayne Mansfield made the public think about rear underride, and call for change. The time is now for side underride guards.”

Simon is also a frequent lecturer and contributor on trucking issues throughout the United States, and has investigated and researched side underride systems that are in place in the UK and Europe and being developed in Canada.

In the absence of a federal rule, individual cities including New York, Boston, and Seattle, have made it mandatory to outfit municipally-owned and/or contracted trucks with side guards as part of their Vision Zero initiatives to eliminate crash deaths and injuries.

If you or somebody you love was seriously injured or killed in a gruesome side underride accident, you will need help from an attorney. Our trucking accident lawyers have decades of experience in investigating the causes of truck accidents and who is responsible. We will be with you every step of the way as you go through this ordeal, to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.

[Read Related: Two big steps forward for safety, and ten big steps backwards ???]

Uber/Lyft accidents

What You Need to Know Before Taking Your Next Uber/Lyft Ride

By JW Law

There’s no doubt that ride share (e-hail) companies like Uber and Lyft have helped change the way we get around. Having the ability to seamlessly request a ride right at your fingertips is a game changer. The fact that it’s cheaper and convenient has afforded these Transportation Network Companies (TNC) unprecedented popularity and growth around the world in a very short time. In New Jersey alone, ride sharing companies are generating millions of trips each year.

However, this 21st Century transportation renaissance is not without controversy. As the number of people using for-hire car service increases, so do accidents. In New York City alone crashes involving for-hire vehicles have tripled over the last two years from 534 in July 2014 to 1,672 in June 2016. The higher number is perhaps attributable to the relative lack of regulation around the ride sharing companies. To cut down auto accidents and to make e-hail rides safer, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, signed a bill regulating these companies.

The statute, known as the “Transportation Network Company Safety and Regulatory Act,” establishes statewide standards for driver eligibility, background checks, and insurance coverage.

In addition to imposing stricter background checks for prospective TNC drivers, the new law mandates ride sharing companies to carry $1.5 million of liability coverage.
The law that went into effect May 1 requires that the company or its driver or a combination of both provide insurance coverage, including at least $1.5 million in coverage for uninsured or under insured drivers. “Where there was no regulation as to how much insurance ride share vehicles were required to carry, the new law now mandates that all such vehicles, while transporting passengers or on their way to picking up a passenger, must possess enough coverage to protect those passengers, as well as the public at large.” explained attorney Jeffrey Rizika, who is chair of the Auto Committee for the New Jersey Association for Justice (NJAJ), the largest trial lawyer organization in NJ and whose practice includes automobile, truck, and bus litigation.

Although this new law does not include coverage for direct payment of a passenger’s medical bills, “if the person does not have health insurance of their own, the $1.5 million of coverage each for liability and uninsured/under-insured motorist claims more than helps to cover any outstanding medical bills incurred as a result of another’s negligence.” said Rizika.

Uber/Lyft accidents

New York recently passed a similar legislation. The New York’s bill provides for liability and under-insured motorist coverage of $1.25 million, slightly less than New Jersey’s $1.5 million of coverage, for when a passenger is being transported. However, the $1.25 million New York coverage also applies when the Uber or Lyft driver is roaming and waiting for a call from a potential passenger, while the New Jersey statute only provides $50,000/100,000 of liability coverage in this scenario.

“The New York and New Jersey bills have taken steps to protect the safety of ride share passengers and to provide them with responsible insurance coverage if they become the victim of auto negligence” said attorney Lawrence Simon, who is the co-chair of the Ride share Litigation Group of the American Association For Justice (AAJ), the country’s largest trial lawyer organization. However, there are still areas for improvement that will hopefully be addressed in future legislation. For instance, neither state requires ride share companies to perform criminal background checks on their drivers. Additionally, coverage for pedestrians, drivers and occupants of other vehicles will only be available if the ride share vehicle can be identified as a ride share vehicle. Neither state’s new laws require the posting of Uber, Lyft or other ride share provider signage on the vehicle.

Both Rizika and Simon are partners at Javerbaum Wurgaft Hicks Kahn Wikstrom & Sinins, P.C. and active members of AAJ and NJAJ, the latter of which was very active in promoting the insurance component included in the New Jersey bill.

If you are injured by a ride share vehicle or while a passenger in a ride share vehicle, please contact us as soon as possible after your accident.

[Read Related: Protect Yourself Against Hit and Run and Uninsured Drivers]