Runaway Trailer/Negligent Hitch Accidents

car with a boat

Have you ever traveled down the road and noticed how many cars are hitched to a trailer - right here in Maryland? Or if you have ever traveled the roads near the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries - you have probably noticed many cars hitched to a trailer or some sort.  In Maryland, boating is incredibly popular; therefore, it is very common to even see boats hitched to both cars and trucks on the roadways.

The problem is that these trailers are not hitched by professionals. Runaway trailers and negligent hitch accidents occur because people; without any training or experience are the ones hitching their boats or trailer to their vehicle and/or transporting their cars, trailers, horses, and so forth.

Hitch Accidents/Failures

Hitch and towing accidents data is pretty surprising. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that around 50,000 hitch accidents occur every year. About 21,000 injuries were reported as caused by negligent towing or a faulty hitch. In the same year, an additional 450 fatalities were reported. Of course, many of these accidents occurred because people do not learn and/or trained to drive with a hitch attached to their vehicle.

These accidents are so common because there are a million different reasons why hitches fail. Our lawyers have seen all kinds of these cases. And just because someone drives a pickup truck or a vehicle designed to tow a trailer, they are not necessarily more secure. Hitching accidents can occur in really any type of vehicle from a station wagon to a semi-truck. These types of accident are typically caused by some of the following reasons: manufacturing defect; rust; defective trailer coupler; excessive speed; failure to use safety chains; overweight cargo; and faulty brakes.

Who Is On The Hook?

If a trailer comes loose and causes an accident, it might seem clear who is at fault. The driver of the vehicle towing the trailer right? Maybe. But sometimes the answer, once you start digging, can be more complex. Liability for hitch accidents often involves other parties; who may or may not be responsible, depending on the circumstances.

  1. The Driver of the Vehicle: Of course, there are cases where the driver of the towing vehicle is responsible for the accident. These cases crop up when the driver fails to maintain the towed vehicle mechanically, improperly secures cargo, or just does a bad job of attaching the trailer hitch. Showing that the other driver failed to properly secure the hitch is really the key thing here. Sure, this sounds pretty straightforward, but hitches are often complicated mechanical devices. This means that a Plaintiff must show that the driver failed to do what a reasonable person would have done when securing the hitch.
  2. Hitch Manufacturer: Hitches are products, and products can fail. When a hitch fails due to a manufacturing or design defect, the hitch manufacturer may be legally at fault. The logic behind this is pretty straightforward: if the driver was not negligent and the accident boils down to a faulty product, the manufacturer of the product should be held accountable.
  3. Cargo Loaders: While this is more so the case with commercial trucking, cargo loaders can be held accountable if a vehicle is loaded beyond its maximum capacity. Excess weight places stress on the components of a vehicle, which can cause an accident.
Why Should I Bring a Claim?

If you or a loved one was involved in a negligent hitch accident, chances are you suffered injuries. In fact, common injuries include: brain injury, facial fractures/lacerations, broken bones, and spinal cord injury. Runaway trailers can lead to fatal injuries too, especially when they involve pedestrians.

Hiring an attorney is a way to ensure that you are compensated for any costs associated with those injuries. An attorney can seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering on your behalf. Considering how preventable these accidents are, it is important to hold those who cause injury accountable for their negligence.

Sample Cases

The following settlements are excerpts from actual cases involving runaway trailers or negligent hitch accidents. These are interesting and helpful in understanding settlement value. But do not read too much into them either. Each case really is unique.

  • 2014, Florida: $900,000 Settlement – A husband and wife were riding their motorcycle behind a Ford F-450 pickup, with a trailer in tow. The trailer was secured by a pin that had the tendency to rattle out when the truck was in motion. Suddenly, the trailer breaks loose from the truck, colliding with the couple on the motorcycle. They lose control of their bike and fall to the pavement. An ambulance transports them to a local ER, where the husband is diagnosed with several bone fractures and muscle tears. Luckily, the wife escapes with only road rash. The husband undergoes surgery to repair the damage, but will have pain for the rest of his life. They bring suit against the company who operated the pickup truck and trailer, who settles for $900,000 on the third day of trial.
  • 2011, Alabama: $127,500 Settlement – A UPS driver is operating a semi-truck on the highway. Suddenly, the truck’s trailer detaches, causing the truck to swerve and shake violently. During the violent swerving, the driver sustains injuries to his back, neck and shoulders. The driver sues UPS alleging that the accident caused permanent injuries. Medical examinations reveal that the driver has actually suffered 8% body impairment due to his neck injuries. The parties agree to settle the case prior to trial for $127,500.
  • 2011, North Carolina: $12,000 Settlement – When hooking up his employer’s trailer to his vehicle, a man forgets to use safety chains. While driving on the highway, sparks start to fly out of the bottom of the trailer, causing it to detach. The trailer crosses the median and strikes one other vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle claims that he suffered serious back and neck injuries, prompting him to sue the other driver and his employer. The Defendants argued that the man did not seek treatment until two weeks after the accident. The parties settle prior to trial for $12,000.
Hiring a Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured in a runaway trailer/negligent hitch case as a result of someone's negligence, contact Miller & Zois. Call 800-553-8082 or get a free consultation online.

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If you are hurt in a serious accident or are the victim of medical malpractice, contact our team of lawyers to discuss your case.
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