The family of a Florida man who was killed in an underride crash with a flat-bed truck last November has filed a lawsuit alleging the truck’s rear underride guard was improperly installed and prone to fail in an accident.

Arshia Poursartip, 39, of Boynton Beach was driving behind a flat-bed truck that had stopped at a red light on Boynton Beach Blvd. Mr. Poursartip tried to stop, but his car hydroplaned and spun out into the back of the truck, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Instead of bouncing off the underride guard, the device gave way, allowing the flatbed truck to rip through Mr. Poursartip’s vehicle. The truck tore through the passenger side of the car, ripped off the headrests, and struck Mr. Poursartip. He was killed instantly.

Mr. Poursartip’s family filed the lawsuit in Palm Beach County Circuit Court. Named as defendants are the manufacturer of the underride guard, the dealership that sold it, the company that installed it, and the trucking company that equipped its truck with it.

“Had the underride guard been properly installed, instead of with these cheap Chinese bolts, my guy would be alive today,” the family’s lawyer said, according to the Palm Beach Post.

Mr. Poursartip is one of about 300 people who died last year in underride collisions with large commercial trucks. Underrides occur when cars and other passenger vehicles collide with a tractor-trailer. Underride crashes render the smaller vehicle’s safety features practically useless. Even at low speeds, these collisions can shear off the tops of vehicles and dismember their occupants.

The only laws governing underride protections in the U.S. are measures requiring tractor-trailers, flatbed trucks, and other commercial vehicles to be equipped with rear guards. Although rear underride guards have been mandated since 1953, regulations ensuring the strength, effectiveness, and integrity of these guards are weak.

The Palm Beach Post points to a Government Accounting Office (GAO) report that noted an alarming number of faulty rear guards on commercial trucks. Of 10,000 trucks that were pulled over and inspected, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance leading the study found problems with 900 guards. More than 55% of those subpar guards were cracked, broken or missing.

In other words, thousands of commercial trucks on the roads and highways today have rear underride guards that offer no meaningful protection against these horrific crashes.

Exacerbating this problem is the lack of training police receive to consider the role of rear underride guards in crashes. According to the Palm Beach Post, the lawyer representing Mr. Poursartip’s family says the Boynton Beach police officer only looked at who was at fault in the crash without considering the condition of the truck’s underride guard.

A bipartisan bill called the Stop Underrides Act was introduced to the House in 2017 but has not passed. The bill was reintroduced in the House in March, but so far no action has been taken. If passed, the measures would require truck owners and operators to install side and front underride guards on commercial trucks and set higher standards for rear guard strength. The bill would also require regular inspections of the guards to ensure they provide adequate protection.

Chris Glover, the managing attorney for our Atlanta office, has experience handling vehicle accident cases involving 18-wheelers, heavy trucks and other commercial vehicles. He would be happy to talk with you about a case involving truck accidents including serious injuries and deaths as a result of underride crashes.

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