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Michigan Personal Injury Lawyers Rallying for Change in Dangerous Truck Underride Standards

September 16, 2008 by Steven M. Gursten

As Michigan lawyers handling truck accidents, our truck accident lawyers have litigated several truck underride crashes. Underride truck accident cases are usually catastrophic, as most involve cars smashing at high speeds into the rear or sides of large semi trucks or tractor-trailers.

Recently, my friend Ken Shigley, an excellent Atlanta truck accident lawyer, spoke on this subject. Ken stepped in to speak for Allan J. Kam, who consults on federal motor carrier safety issues around the country, at an advanced seminar on litigating truck accident crashes. The presentation was shocking. It showed how politicians and the trucking industry have conspired to oppose inexpensive safety changes that have led to thousands of semi truck accident wrongful deaths and catastrophic serious injuries from underride accidents over the past 40 years.

Government and Trucking Industry Keeping Truck Underride Safety Standards Light

Shigley painted a disturbing picture, especially taking into account hundreds of truck underride collisions that occur every year. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) identified underride truck accidents as a major safety problem and proposed safety standards as far back as 1967. These safety standards, many of which have been in effect in Europe and Asia for years, would have prevented many unnecessary injuries and wrongful deaths. But it wasn’t until 1996 that some significantly weaker safety standards were finally enacted.

The battle over truck underride guards tells the story:
* In 1967, the NHTSA proposed rulemaking for truck underride guards, aiming make truck accidents less catastrophic.
* In 1969, the NHTSA proposed requiring a rear under guard to block vehicles from sliding underneath large tractor-trailers. The proposal was opposed by the trucking industry.
* In 1970, the NHTSA tried again, but with lower standards. Again, the industry opposed any new truck safety rules.
* In 1977, new calls were made for truck underride protection, due in part, to information showing the number of cars rear-ending the back-ends of large trucks was as high as 40,000, resulting in 300 wrongful deaths and nearly 9,000 personal injuries a year.
* In 1996, a much weaker truck underride safety rule was finally implemented.

Watch the video below to see startling truck underride accidents and safety precautions.

More Victims of Truck Underride Crashes Due to Weak Safety Standards

Sadly, thousands of people have been killed or seriously injured because of this 40-year delay. And more than a decade later, more people will continue to be hurt or wrongfully killed in serious truck underride crashes, because the safety standards are still too lenient.

Personal injury lawyers representing families of people seriously injured and killed in these underride truck accidents typically face great challenges in the courtroom proving that existing truck safety standards are actually minimum standards, which are watered down and the result of compromise. Nevertheless, these lawyers have played an important role as one of the only forces for change, while the trucking industry and regulators have resisted the need to make safety standards tougher.

What will it take for the government and trucking industry to do the right thing and enact higher safety standards to protect the public from truck underride accidents? For now, personal injury lawyers will just have to keep fighting for their clients and rallying for legislative change.

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3 Replies to “Michigan Personal Injury Lawyers Rallying for Change in Dangerous Truck Underride Standards”

  1. The leniency of Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for large trucks and the influence of the industry on agency rulemaking are illustrated in the sad history of NHTSA’s activity on truck underride protection. NHTSA began its efforts in the area of underride protection over 40 years ago, but was only able to issue a rather lenient Federal motor vehicle safety standard (FMVSS) in 1996, with an effective date in 1998. For much of the nearly 30 years between NHTSA’s initial rulemaking notice and the issuance of its final rule, the industry opposed the agency’s regulatory proposals. NHTSA finally issued a rather lenient rear underride guard requirement, but no requirement for any side underride guard whatsoever.

    For more details about NHTSA’s regulation of the trucking industry, you might want to read my article, “Debunking NHTSA myths in trucking litigation,” in the February 2007 issue of TRIAL.

  2. Thanks for mentioning my presentation, even though all I did was “channel” Allan Kam and throw in the video. I’ll be speaking about insurance in trucking cases at the AAJ Interstate Trucking Litigation Group seminar in Chicago on October 3rd.

  3. This article sadly shows how lobbyists and government hinder the health and well being of our citizens.

    Why can other countries get things that make perfect sense in motion quickly?

    Also someone is paying for these inadequacies; the insurance rates affect this as well.

    As a fleet operator, I am all for safety of both my employees and the public that my vehicles are in close proximity of.

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