Only a short time ago 32 year old Jeremy Michael Cox, a volunteer firefighter, and his 3 year old daughter, Isabel Rose Cox, lost their lives after a trailer detached from the pickup truck that was towing it, traveled across 3 lanes of traffic, and slammed into Cox’s SUV. A policeman at the scene reported that it did not appear as though the trailer had been attached properly to the truck.
Unfortunately, stories like Jeremy Cox’s happen all too frequently. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that over 53,000 serious trailer accidents involving passenger vehicles towing trailers occurred in 2007 resulting in over 450 deaths and 21,000 injuries. When a trailer unhitches from its towing vehicle, a 3,000+ pound missile is launched, speeding out of control, and catastrophic injury or wrongful death are likely consequences. In an industry that is already highly unregulated, practically no regulations exist for trailers that are less than 3,000 lbs, including homemade trailer hitches.
Trailers can come unhitched from their tow for several different reasons. Sometimes, there is a defect in one of the components of the hitch or mount, or corrosion, cracks, and rust have weakened and broken parts. There have been numerous complaints about vehicles in which weld sites of trailer hitches or at pin boxes have cracked or weakened, making towing extremely dangerous. Many other times, a trailer is not properly secured to a hitch with, for example, the coupling not fitting properly over the ball, safety chains not being used, the load not being distributed evenly on the trailer, towing over the maximum allowable load for the trailer and hitch equipment used, and incorrect fasteners or hardware being used.
Other reasons a trailer may unhitch include:
- Operator behavior (driving too fast, or recklessly)
- Mechanical failure
- Failure to post proper warnings
- Uninspected damage
- Improper repairs
- Metallurgical or component failures
- Lack of proper maintenance
- Loose cables
- Lack of or improper safety chains
- Improper operation
- Improper training of operator
- Rusted belts
- Improper belting security
- Lack of safety harness
- Failure of safety locks
- Poor lighting
- Electrical shorts
- Switch failures
- Abrupt stop/start of trailer
- Violation of applicable state codes concerning weight requirements
A study done by a national insurance company determined that 70% of trailer owners did not know the fully correct way to tow their cargo. The study also determined that people who rented trailers were often given inadequate instruction about hooking up a trailer to a hitch, or how to properly and safely use towing equipment.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed because of a runaway or defective trailer hitch, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries. Our lawyers have investigated many claims of unhitched trailers and have found that carelessness on the part of the tow driver, equipment or car manufacturer, or person who installed the hitch caused terrible accidents and serious injuries. We have also found that in many cases, tow trailers have obvious safety violations relating to lighting, braking, inspection and safeguards required to prevent catastrophic injuries and deaths. The experienced trailer accident lawyers of Reiff & Bily have worked with investigators and experts to determine how these accidents occur, and who is responsible. When an innocent victim is catastrophically injured because of someone else’s negligence, the Philadelphia truck accident lawyers at Reiff & Bily are committed to seeking justice. Our clients have been awarded millions in damages due to our commitment for justice and our 30 years of experience in the field.