Trailer Manufacturers can be held liable for Deaths from Collision with cars because they do not have proper lighting or proper undercarriage protection.
Seven people died after a car that was running from the U.S. Border Patrol crashed early Thursday morning, June 26, 2020 in Downtown El Paso.The deadly crash happened at 2:17 a.m. on West Paisano Drive by West San Antonio Avenue near Union Depot. There were 10 people in a gray Chevrolet Cruze that crashed with a tractor trailer that was near an El Paso business. The car was eastbound on Paisano Drive when it crossed the center of the road and crashed into a parked trailer used for storage at a business. Deaths from hitting hitting trailers is not that uncommon. In fact, there was recently a 42 million dollar verdict (!8 million against the trailer manufacturer) in a New Mexico Court when a car collided with trailer and killed the driver. The trailer manufacturer was held liable because the trailer did not have a side underride guard that could have kept the car from getting lodged underneath that trailer. Rearguards are required by law but often don’t hold up in accidents.
Side guards are designed to prevent vehicles from sliding underneath the side of an 18-wheeler in an accident. Right now, side guards are not required on trailers, despite the trucking industry acknowledging a that many deaths of people every year inside underride accidents.
It is clear in this case that the driver of the accident was negligent (maybe even criminally) for the deaths, that does not necessarily let off the trailer manufacturers or the negligence of anyone who was responsible for leaving a trailer parked on the road. Trailer guards, like seatbelts, are designed and put in place to protect people even if they are negligent for the accidents. Much like motorcycle helmets are designed to protect riders even if they are fault for the accident, the helmets still have to do their job and protect the riders. In fact, even if the occupants were illegal (which seems likely considering they were running from the border patrol) they have rights under Texas law and their illegality does not protect negligent parties from a claim for damages, if such claim exists. The same is true for trailer guards. Of course at this time we do not know if trailer guards were in place or if the trailer was improperly or illegally parked or maintained, but this death reminds us all that we need to have safe trailers on the roadway. Also, truck and trailer manufactures are governed by the Federal Motor Carrier Act which requires certain lighting and reflectors and rules regarding parking on the side of the road. The city of El Paso, Texas requires that there be sufficient Truck Trailer Parking pursuant to Article III Section 20.14.160. Also the State of Texas Transportation Code Section 545.307 does not allow for trailers to be parked on roadway after 10:00 PM in certain areas.
Again, the full facts are not know, but it seems likely that now that the border has been nearly completely shut down to to daily Visitors from Mexico due to the Coronavirus (Covid 19), people in Mexico may be more desperate to try and cross illegally. UPDATE: The news reported this weekend that the Border Patrol twice stopped chasing the suspects because of the high speed and that 3 of the 10 people were illegal aliens, but that the car continued at high speed despite the chase being stopped. There is still no news as to why the trailer was parked on the street.
I recently settled a death case where a vehicle went under the trailer and I know the death and destruction such an accident can have.