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Underride Trucking Accidents


Underride Accidents are among the most fatal kind of accident on the road. If your loved one was injured or killed in a trucking accident, we can help.

There’s one thing that truck drivers need to do one critical thing – and that is to be safe. They have to be safe because trucks – 80,000 semi trucks, are dangerous if misused, unsafe or carelessly driven. Trucks share the road with smaller folks, such as pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, cars, pickup trucks or minivans and when accidents happen – they are more often than not, horrific and devastating.

The legal issues surrounding Ontario truck accidents are complicated, and proving liability can be difficult at times. Although Ontario’s no-fault laws provide generous medical and rehabilitation benefits for those seriously injured – it is never nearly enough for a person who suffers catastrophic brain trauma, paralysis or for a family who lost an income earner and someone who contributed to household bills and the raising of kids.

Over the years, we have dealt with many different types of trucking accidents, such as rear-end trucking accidents, jackknife trucking accidents, head on collision trucking accidents, accidents involving stopped trucks, trucking accidents involving shifting, unsecured or fallen cargo and fatigues drivers.

Underride accidents are one of the most devastating trucking accidents: a vehicle – such as a car – slams into the rear or side of a tractor-trailer and gets sucked underneath, where many of its safety features are rendered worthless. More often than not, the top of the car may be sheared off; in most cases, the occupants are decapitated.

Common Underride Trucking Accident Questions

  1. What is an Underride Trucking Accident?

    A semi-truck is made up of a cab and trailer. An underride trucking accident is when a smaller vehicle, such as a car or motorcycle crashes into the rear or side of the trailer and slides underneath, often sheering the roof off. Underride accidents more often than not, result in wrongful death.

  2. Are there different types of underride trucking accidents?

    Yes, there are side underride collisions and rear under ride collisions. Side underride collisions normally happen when a semi-truck is attempting to turn or make a u-turn, and a smaller vehicle crashes underneath the trailer. Rear end underride accidents are when a smaller vehicle runs into the rear of a semi-trailer.

  3. Why do underride trucking accidents happen?

    There are lots of reasons why underride accidents happen, such as a slow moving truck, trucks making illegal turns, u-turns, is backing across traffic, the trailer is not properly lit, the colors of the trailer are inconspicuous, the trailer did not have proper reflector tape or marker lights, the trailer's reflective tape or marker lights were dirty, the truck was stopped without proper surrounding markers or cones.

  4. Who is liable in a trucking accident?

    In Ontario, if the driver was an employee, then both the driver and employer will be liable for causing a trucking accident. If the driver was an independent contractor, then the driver alone will be liable, unless someone else owns the truck he/she was driving. In that case, both the driver and owner will be responsible.

  5. Can a truck driver be sued for causing a trucking accident?

    If you're injured or you have lost a loved one you can can sue the driver, the employer and the owner of the truck to help compensate for your losses. It's best to speak with a trucking accident specialist as soon as possible, before insurance companies get involved.

  6. Can I sue a dump truck driver for causing a trucking accident?

    If you or your loved one has suffered serious injuries, or if your loved one has died, you can sue the driver or the dump truck, the owner of the dump truck and the employer for compensation.

  7. Can I sue for wrongful death in a trucking accident?

    If your loved one has been killed in a trucking accident, you can absolutely file suit for wrongful death in Ontario. You would be entitled to different heads of compensation, i.e. both economic and non-economic. For example, you can sue for the loss of your loved one, particularly the loss of companionship – as well as his or her loss of income.

  8. Is speaking to a trucking accident lawyer free?

    At our firm, our trucking accident lawyers never charge upfront fee, nor do we charge consultation fees. If you chose to retain us, we never ask our clients for money, under any circumstance.

  9. How much can I claim for pain and suffering in a trucking accident?

    If you've been seriously hurt in an Ontario trucking accident, you will be entitled up to approximately $399,000 in pain and suffering.

The Terror of Underride Trucking Accidents

What happens when a motorcycle or car crashes into the back or side of a semi-truck is horrific and very real. When this happens, the entire front half of the car (sometimes the entire car – and most definitely a motorcycle) is swallowed underneath the trailer, as well as the passengers…and most never survive. For the motorist, the first point of impact is with the rear/side of the truck is their windshield and then the person’s body.

The substantial height difference between a car and a truck (often up to 4 feet) presents the increased risk of an underride accident, and in some cases the height of a car may only reach the height of the trailer’s wheels. This offers plenty of space for a car to become crushed underneath, and does not provide any of the protection a car’s safety features are designed to promote because there is nothing for the bumper to collide with on impact. For example, the front and rear of a car are designed to absorb as much of the impact as possible in a typical motor vehicle collision, but in the case of an underride, there is nothing to absorb or prevent the car from traveling further under the trailer.

Types of Trucking Underride Accidents

There are three main types of underride trucking accidents. These include rear-end accidents, side impact collisions, and offset collisions.

Rear-end Underride Trucking accidents: Rear end underride trucking accidents happen when a passenger vehicle or motorcycle runs into the rear or a semi-truck’s trailer. Rear end trucking accident happen for a multitude of potential issues. If a truck driver must stop suddenly and a car is following too close, the car may not have time to stop before it slides under the trailer.

This often occurs when trucks are merging too slow or are parked on the side of the road. It may also occur if a truck is stopping at a traffic light and the car behind it does not see the light coming up, and therefore does not anticipate the stop. Rear underride trucking accidents also happen when parked trucks are poorly marked (i.e. the failure to use marker triangles – or they are placed to close to the truck) the truck has dim or dirty taillights, or a truck fails to use it’s emergncy flashers.

Another reason why rear-underride accident happens is if the truck is driving too slow – or is slow to accelerate into busy traffic. This can also happen if the truck is overweight. Motorists on roadways with 90 km/hr speed limits do not expect to meet a truck traveling at 15 km/hr.

Side Underride Trucking Accidents: Side underride trucking accidents happen when a truck makes a turn or manoeuvre which blocks the roadway – and the passenger car or motorcycle strikes the truck from the side and slides under the left or right side of the trailer. These collisions are usually fatal. Many underride accidents happen when a trailer is backing up, or backing in to an area off of the roadway. Oftentimes, weather conditions or poor lighting may be a factor. Other factors can be the lack of or dirty reflective taping on the side of the trailer.


In low light or bad weather there can be conspicuity issues – such as the ability of the trailer to blend into the surroundings so that the approaching driver does not recognize the trailer across the roadway and instead believes he is seeing the bridge or overpass that is normally in that area.

According to Transport Canada, 22% of fatal collisions between cars and trucks occur at the side of the truck. This may happen when a truck is merging, as a car may be in the truck’s blind spot or the truck driver may overestimate how much space they have to switch lanes. On local roads, it could occur when the truck driver is making a turn or when the truck jackknifes. Side underride crashes often happen during low-light or low-sun angle conditions.

Offset collisions: An offset underride collision occurs when a car collides with the truck from an angle, such as at the back corner. The metal corner of the truck can quickly penetrate the compartments of the car, puncturing the driver or passenger.

Underride Trucking Accident Prevention

The key to preventing quite a number of underride accidents on our roadways are to place shields and bars on the back and sides of semi-truck trailers – which can reduce the chances of cars getting swallowed underneath the trucks and getting crushed.

Many large commercial trucks have underride guards installed that prevent cars from sliding underneath the trailer in the event of an accident. However, not every truck has them installed, and even when these guards are in place, they are usually only located on the back of the truck and do not account for the possibility of side underrides.

In Canada, rear underride guard testing started in 1997 after research showed that underride rear crashes resulted in many cross-country fatalities over the previous years – particularly with smaller cars like Chevrolet Cavaliers and Honda Civics traveling with speed as slow as 45 km/hr. Transport Canada reported that incidence of serious injury or death could be reduced significantly if rear underride guards were stiffer and lower than they traditionally where over the previous decades. In Canada, Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) for underride guards (CMVSS No. 223, “Rear impact guards,”) became effective in 2007. The CMVSS No. 223 requirements are intended to provide rear impact guards with sufficient strength and energy absorption capability to protect occupants of compact and subcompact passenger cars impacting the rear of trailers at 56 km/hr. The Canadian Transportation Equipment Association responded by creating rear underride bars at minimal cost – which was found to have reduced the number or rear impact fatalities by 25% to 40%.

The problem, however, is that rear underride guards get abused over the years, often with them ending up coming loose, bent or crumpled on they get damaged on loading docks or they are not repaired after previous accidents. As strong as they are, they often end up with bent ends or crumpled center pieces.

Side underride guards, however, are not mandatory by law in either Canada or the US. There have of course been arguments for and against side underride guards. On the one hand most motorists would probably not die by hitting the back or side of another car going under 50 km/hr when properly seat-belted – but 80-90% of underride crashes are fatal, even when the impacting motorist is traveling 50 km/hr. Conversely, it’s been argued that in some situations, motorists may strike the side guards and be deflected or bounce off into another lane of traffic and end up crashing with another vehicle or with the road/sidewalk surface. It’s also been said that side underguards could impede or inhibit firefighter rescue efforts or can make the maintenance and mechanical inspections more difficult.

Underride Trucking Accidents often Lead to Fatality and Serious Injury

In almost all underride accidents, motorists do not survive. Given that an underride accident involves a car being crushed underneath a heavy commercial truck, severe and catastrophic injuries can occur. Some of the serious and major injuries a victim may experience from an underride accident include (but are not limited to):

Sadly, this is also one of the most common types of trucking accidents that can lead to death as the occupants of the vehicle can become crushed or even decapitated. If a loved one has been tragically taken from you due to a trucking underride accident, you can file a wrongful death claim to seek compensation and hold the negligent driver liable for your family’s devastating loss.

What can I claim in a wrongful death trucking accident? How will my family be protected?

There is nothing more devastating loss than the unexpected death of a loved one in a trucking accident. Sudden death is a contradiction to everything that is known to be true in life. Losing a loved one to sudden and unexpected death is a disruption in natural law and order of life. It is a heartbreak like no other.

In the US, wrongful death claims are framed as “survivor claims.” In Ontario, the law unfortunately does not permit damages for grief, sorrow or mental anguish suffered by reason of the injuries or death a loved one. Rather, wrongful death claims made by hamilton trucking accident lawyers are framed under the Family Law Act. Damages that are claimable in wrongful death cases take the form of both economic and non-economic damages.

In terms of non-economic damages,  the mere fact that a relative has passed away does not, of itself, establish a right to compensation—it merely provides the right to make the claim. To succeed in that claim, there must be actual loss of care, companionship and guidance which flows from the deceased to the claimant.

When families unexpectedly lose a loved one, there is no question of the enormous grief and mental anguish suffered. But losses of this kind are non-compensable. Sadly, details of the quality of family life and the relationship of the family members do not in themselves form a basis of recovery under the Family Law Act. They are significant only in so far as they furnish an evidentiary foundation for assessing compensation for the loss of care, guidance or companionship that will likely be suffered by reasons of the death. As wrongful death trucking lawyers, we must ensure this assessment is made in as objective and unemotional a manner as possible.

While there is not a specific formula to determine the quantum of damages to be awarded for the loss of care, guidance and companionship, a number of factors have been taken into consideration by the courts including:

  • The age, mental and physical condition of the claimant – for example, in one seminal case (Fulcher v. Near) the Judge held that the younger the child, the greater the loss.
  • Whether the deceased lived with the claimants and if not, the frequency of visits
  • The intimacy and quality of the claimant’s relationship with the deceased.
  • Whether or not the claimant is emotionally self-sufficient, whether or not claimants who are children have married, and whether or not spouses who are claimants have remarried.
  • The joint life expectancy of the claimant and the deceased, or the probable length of time the relationship might be expected to continue.

In wrongful death trucking cases, the surviving family members are also entitled to bring a claim for economic losses, such as the wage losses of the the deceased when the surviving spouse can no longer benefit from shared family income. If it can be shown that a dependent earned income or would have earned income, then surviving family members are entitled to advance a claim for the loss of that income.

Also, there will no doubt be expenses in relation to future housekeeping and home maintenance or “handyman” services that your spouse or loved one performed, which are now lost and can be claimed in a lawsuit for damages.

Lastly, if a surviving family member is no longer able to work – which is related to the loss of a loved one – be it for medical or psychological reasons – then loss of wages for that surviving family member can be claimed as a direct loss (as opposed to a dependency loss), as can future health care expenses.

Determining Fault in a Trucking Accident in Ontario

In trucking accident cases – fault or liability, and who responds to claims for compensation can be shared either amongst owner-operators (independent contractor driver) and/or the trucking employer. If the driver is an independent contractor then the driver’s insurance policy will respond to the claim. If the driver is an employee, then the truck trucker’s employer will also be found vicariously liable pursuant to Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act.

If you or your loved one has been hurt in a serious trucking accident, we can help.

Matt Lalande has been assisting victims of severe trucking accidents since 2003, and understands the specific circumstances that can complicate a trucking injury claim. He has handled cases for underride accidents, jackknife accidents, rollovers, pileups, and more, helping victims secure the compensation they deserve to recover and move on with their lives as best they can given the circumstances. 

Book a free consultation with us to tell us about your case. Talking to us is always free, and we will never ask for up front charges or pressure you to retain our firm after we meet. We only represent victims, never insurance companies, and will not charge you unless and until you win your case.

Schedule a call back using our online contact form or call us at 905-333-8888. If you are outside of Hamilton, we are happily able to serve clients across Ontario and can be reached toll-free at 1-844-LALANDE (1-844-525-2633).



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