The Largest Underride Accident Verdict Ever
The law requires that large commercial trucks have underride guards on the backs of their vehicles. These underride guards prevent a smaller car from having its windshield crushed beneath the back of the truck. While this is a required piece of technology for the backs of trucks, there is no regulation that says that underride guards have to be on the sides of trucks.
Nonetheless, when an accident occurs that involves a car becoming wedged underneath a tractor-trailer, plaintiffs have been successful arguing that the trucking company had a remedy available that could have prevented the accident and failed to employ it. Thus, even in situations where a driver may have been primarily at fault, trucking companies are left paying multi-million-dollar settlements to accident victims. It’s enough to make you wonder why every commercial truck doesn’t have a side underride guard to prevent these sorts of accidents.
Now, trucking companies will have a new reason to install side underride guards: One of them just got hit with a $42 million verdict for a death that could have been easily prevented with available technology.
Sixteen-year-old Riley Hein’s car careened off an embankment and found itself wedged beneath a tractor-trailer. The truck driver dragged the car for a half mile before it caught on fire. In August of 2019, a New Mexico jury awarded his parents $42 million in their lawsuit against Barkandhi Express and Utility, the trucking company that owned the truck underneath which Riley died.
During the litigation process, information came to light concerning how hard trucking companies fought to prevent legislation that would have required side underride guards on all vehicles. Their efforts are still successful, even as more of these types of lawsuits are finding their way into U.S. courts. Now, Riley’s father, Eric Hein, is now fighting for legislation that would prevent such accidents from ever occurring.
That’s not to say that trucking companies don’t already have plenty of incentive to install underride guards on their trailers. Not only does it prevent accidents that could lead to $42-million-dollar verdicts, but there are also likely insurance advantages to fitting vehicles with this technology as well. Still, trucking companies are bemoaning the costs associated with fitting all of their trucks with side underride guards. But the costs of not doing so are much higher.
Instead of using their money to fit their trucks with underride guards, the trucking industry chose to spend their money in another way: They sought to develop civil defense strategies to underride lawsuits. So far, it appears that money has been wasted.
Meanwhile, legislation is slowly moving its way through Congress that would make side underride guards mandatory on all commercial trailers. Eric Heim is one very vocal voice in favor of the measure.
Talk to a Houston, TX Trucking Accident Attorney
If you’ve been injured in a commercial trucking accident, the Houston truck accident attorneys at Livingston & Flowers can help you recover damages related to your medical expenses, missed time from work, and reduced quality of life. Talk to us today to schedule a free consultation.