February 22, 2008
LOS ANGELES CAR ACCIDENT CAUSED BY RUNAWAY TRAILER THAT CAME DETACHED FROM A TRUCK RESULTS IN WRONGFUL DEATH
Common tow-trailers that are hitched to the back of passenger cars, SUVs, and trucks pose extremely hazardous risks when not secured properly. In Los Angeles, an unsecured trailer that came unhitched on the Sierra Highway caused the wrongful death of a man. When the trailer broke lose from the Chevy Suburban that was towing it, the driver of a Ford Expedition driving behind had to serve unexpectedly to avoid hitting it. Tragically, the SUV swerved across the median and slammed directly into an oncoming Dodge pickup, killing the driver of the truck instantly. The cause of the runaway trailer was a worn latch in the locking device. The widow of the man and their children were only able to recover $312,500 from their wrongful death suit.
A little known fact is that runaway trailers are responsible for a sizeable number of harmful accidents across the country. Trailers are used for a variety of purposes such as hauling household appliances, cars, boats, gardening materials, etc. When not used for commercial purposes, these trailers are often owned by individuals who are not properly trained to properly connect and secure them the towing vehicle. A study conducted by Master Lock found that most owners of trailers lacked basic safety and handling knowledge of the towing devices. In addition, more than half failed to attach safety chains to their trailers.
The risk of runaway trailers grows even greater, considering the lack of state and federal regulations governing private trailers and hauling devices. While some states require the use of safety chains, the safety requirements and regulations are not uniform or widespread. Although the California Highway Patrol posts very rudimentary towing and hauling guidelines on its website, there exists no formal training program or requirement for individuals prior to using a tow-trailer.
The remedies that can be sought after an accident involving a runaway trailer are, for the most part, limited to common law claims such as negligence, wrongful death, pain & suffering, etc. However, there seems to be a growing recognition of the dangers involved with towing. The state of Washington recently implemented a law that criminalizes the failure to secure a load when it results in bodily injury. The law, named “Maria’s Law,” was inspired by a tragic accident where debris from a U-Haul truck flew into the windshield of a woman driving behind the truck, causing her permanent blindness and disfigurement.
Tips for Safe Towing
Preparing a Trailer• Hook up the electric cable for trailer lights and make sure to check that the lights work.
• Tie the load down securely if you are using an open trailer,.
• You will need to look at your owner's manual to check the maximum weight the vehicle can safely tow. A general rule is to make sure that the vehicle is heavier than the trailer.
• Organize slightly more of the weight in the front half to ensure stability when loading the trailer,. When a trailer has been loaded correctly, approximately 10% of its total weight will be sitting on the trailer tongue.
• If you have a trailer with electric brakes, make sure the battery for the emergency breakaway system is charged and that the power cable is attached.
• Confirm before you leave that your tires are in good condition and are inflated the proper amount.
Towing a trailer• If you are in a situation where the trailer sways, hold the wheel straight and do not apply the brakes on the tow vehicle. If you brake or steer to counter the swaying, it can lead to loss of control of your vehicle. Stop when it is safe to do so and be sure the trailer is loaded properly.
• When towing a trailer, be sure to drive slowly, especially down hills. Avoid sudden stops and lane changes whenever possible.
• Avoid towing in windy, wet, or icy conditions.
If you or a family member has been involved in a truck accident, you could be eligible for compensation. If you have been injured as the result of a collision with a truck, which was not your fault or if a family member has been killed through a truck accident, you should contact a lawyer. If the accident occurred in California, please call us at Greenberg & Rudman LLC for a free and private consultation. We are experienced attorneys who can help guide you at this difficult time.