The family of a Texas woman killed in a commercial trailer accident has filed a lawsuit alleging the company that manufactured the truck failed to take a basic safety precaution that could have saved her life.
In Dodgen et al. v. PJ Trailers Manufacturing Inc., plaintiffs allege that had the trucking company installed underride guards on the side of the truck, as well as conspicuous side markings, the crash could have been avoided entirely.
The law does not require side underride guards, but the National Transportation Safety Board has been issuing warnings about this safety hazard since 1968. Most recently, the NTSB released a safety recommendation in the spring of 2014, suggesting the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require underride side guards for all vehicles that weigh over 10,000 pounds.
The product liability lawsuit alleges the manufacturer knew that by failing to install underride guards and bright side markings, it was putting those in passenger vehicles at high risk for major head trauma and possibly decapitation. This outcome is common in cases where a passenger vehicle collides with a trailer and slides underneath the floor of the trailer.
The truck crash that gave rise to this case happened in the summer of 2014. The complaint alleges decedent was traveling to work around 6 a.m. It was still dark outside, and she was traveling about 35 mph. As she approached an intersection, a 40-foot-long trailer pulled out from a driveway and into the middle of the road. Because there were no reflectors on the vehicle, decedent could not have seen the flatbed trailer in front of her. In fact, evidence revealed she didn’t even brake until it was too late to stop her small passenger vehicle from sliding straight underneath it.
The bottom of the trailer tore off the roof of her vehicle, and she suffered severe brain injury as a result. The 54-year-old was transported to a nearby hospital, but she did not ever regain consciousness. She died more than four months later as a result of her injuries.
A study published in 2012 in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention examined more than 200 crashes in which passenger vehicles made impact with the side of large trucks. What they found was that in nearly 70 percent of these cases, the most severe injuries were obtained by the occupants of the passenger vehicles. Further, they found that side underride guards could have markedly reduced the severity of passenger vehicle occupant injuries in more than half of those cases, including most of the 49 cases in which someone died as a result of the crash.
Although the underride guards aren’t mandated by law, defendant in this case has had numerous previous citations for violations of other federal requirements. Some of those included exposing workers to unnecessary hazards.
In this case, even though decedent never awoke from her coma, because she survived more than a month after the crash, her official cause of death is no longer considered the truck accident.
Contact our Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.
Family Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Trailer Manufacturer After Deadly Crash, Aug. 27, 2015, By Meagan Flynn, The Houston Press
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