Tow Hitch Accidents

Tow Hitch Accidents

When a vehicle is hauling a motor home, boat or other large items, trailer hitch accidents can occur and cause catastrophic injuries or fatalities. Hitch failure can have several causes, including driver inexperience, defective parts, or improper installation. Hitches have been recalled because of defects, including the 2015 and 2016 Jeep Renegades. The problem? Assemblies for trailer hitches require three fasteners per side, and some of the Renegades had only one. This potentially caused the tow bar to separate, along with whatever was being towed. Whether it is driver negligence or company neglect, the result is the same. The failure of a hitch can cause the trailer, vehicle, or other equipment being towed to come loose and cause a severe accident.

How Common Are Towing Accidents?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 50,000 accidents involving towing happen every year. These accidents cause hundreds of fatalities and thousands of serious injuries, and a number of these are trailer hitch accidents.

Negligence in Tow Hitch Accidents

It isn’t unusual around Sacramento and the rest of California to see a vehicle towing a motor home, boat or trailer loaded with ATVs or bicycles. However, most of the people hauling these trailers or boats are not professionals. Incorrectly attaching a hitch can have devastating consequences. California has strict towing laws meant to protect others on the roadways and prevent trailer hitch accidents. These laws include:

  • California Vehicle Code 21655b: Motorists who are towing something behind their vehicle must use a designated lane and only use the lane to the left when passing.
  • Passengers are not allowed inside trailers, boats or other items being towed except for those granted exceptions, according to California Vehicle Code 21712. This is because when trailer hitch accidents occur, individuals inside can suffer serious injuries.
  • Hitches, couplers, drawbars, and other connections must be attached securely and be able to handle the weight being hauled.
  • California Vehicle Code 22406 states that vehicles that are towing may not go faster than 55 mph.
  • Motor vehicles under 4000 pounds may not tow more than 6000 pounds. This increases the risk of trailer hitch accidents.
  • Trailers that weigh more than 1,500 pounds must have brakes on a minimum of two wheels.
Causes of Trailer Hitch Accidents

Trailer hitch accidents can happen for several reasons. However, all of them have negligence as the cause. Some of the more common reasons a trailer becomes detached from a passenger vehicle or truck are:

  • Defective manufacturing or poor design can lead to an accident. Faulty locking mechanisms can contribute to trailer hitch accidents.
  • Defects in the vehicle itself or trailer being hauled can cause a hitch to come loose.
  • Safety chains that connect the vehicle and trailer can be undersized and result in trailer hitch accidents.
  • Towing a heavier than recommended weight than the hitch is rated for can cause a trailer to detach from the tow vehicle.
  • Not attaching the trailer brakes correctly or having defective trailer brakes can cause a rear-end collision. This, in turn, can cause the trailer to detach.
  • Safety chain failure or improper attachment can cause stress on the hitch, leading to a detachment.
  • Failure to secure the locking mechanism on the hitch correctly can cause it to lose the trailer.

The video below shows how positioning the trailers incorrectly can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles.

Who Can Be Held Liable for a Faulty Trailer Hitch?

There are three different categories in which liability can occur in a faulty trailer hitch. Under product liability law in California, the injured person does not have to prove negligence, only that the hitch was defective, it was used in the way in which it was intended, and an injury occurred. Defects can appear in the following categories:

  • Design: A trailer hitch design that is defective, such as the one on Jeep Renegades, is proven by showing that the manufacturer could have used a safer one but failed to do so.
  • Manufacturing: Flaws during the manufacturing process can lead to a weakened hitch that cannot perform as intended. This is shown by comparing a hitch with a manufacturing flaw with one that is manufactured correctly.
  • Labeling: Defective Labeling may omit danger warnings or instructions. Failure to provide adequate labeling can lead to an accident if the hitch is misconnected or used in a way it shouldn’t.
Other Liability in Trailer Hitch Accidents

Additional parties may also be negligent in a trailer hitch accident and be held responsible for collision injuries or fatalities. They could include:

  • The driver of the motor vehicle or truck: Most runaway trailer collisions are caused by driver error. Ways in which a driver may be at fault include failure to maintain the car or trailer and its components, an improperly secured load or other negligent actions, including speeding, distracted driving or others.
  • Bad road maintenance: Government entities such as the county or state are required to properly maintain roadways. Roads that are poorly designed or contain hazardous conditions such as potholes can lead to trailer hitch accidents. In these cases, an injured person may file a claim against that government agency to recover damages.
  • Cargo: Unbalanced or overweight loads on a trailer can lead to a detached trailer hitch because of the stress placed on the coupling. In these cases, the owner of the vehicle pulling the load may be held liable for accident injuries.
How a Seasoned Lawyer Can Help

The last thing a motorist expects to see on the roadway is a trailer barreling toward them. However, this happens multiple times each year and causes severe injuries and fatalities. An experienced lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve to pay your lost wages, medical bills, and other losses. If you were injured in a trailer hitch accident, call right away before evidence has been lost or covered up. 

We immediately send out investigators to talk to witnesses and check the police report for inaccuracies, but it doesn’t stop there. Our investigators look for signs of road damage, video cameras that may have captured the incident and perform accident reconstruction along with other techniques to gather evidence. Once it is gathered together, our lawyers go to work to prepare a strong case to use in negotiating with the insurance company or to present in civil court.

Trailer Hitch Accident Lawyer

I’m Ed Smith, a trailer hitch accident lawyer. A runaway trailer can cause devastating injuries or the loss of a loved one. If this has happened to you, I have free and friendly advice that I can offer you when you call me at (916) 921-6400. The toll-free number for those outside the area code is (800) 404-5400. An online contact form is also available.

I am a proud member of:

Since 1982, I’ve helped numerous Northern Californians to obtain compensation for accident injuries. Some areas I practice in are any type of traffic accident, wrongful deaths, and traumatic injuries.

Go to the following links to look over client reviews and cases handled in the past by my law firm:

Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

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