Drivers with pickups and SUVs rely on tow hitches to pull a motor home, car trailer for work or play and other reasons. Big trucks use tow hitches to connect the trailer to the tractor. Both, to varying degrees, place inordinate pressure on the tow-hitch. This means the tow hitch has to withstand this pressure without disconnecting. When it does, a catastrophic accident in which a trailer or other towed object will be on the loose results. In addition, other drivers may make unsafe maneuvers to avoid hitting the runaway trailer. This has led to thousands of injuries in the past, many dealing with improper truck maintenance and negligence.
Pursue Justice with a Tow Hitch Failure Accident Lawyer
Los Angeles truck accident law firm of David Azizi has practiced personal injury law for over 22 years. He brings legal acumen and a dogged determination to win to the table. His clients’ well-being is of great importance to him, and he understands they want transparency and justice. If you were injured in a truck or car accident in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, need to file a wrongful death lawsuit or have suffered a traumatic injury, David is the person to turn to. The legal ranking company Super Lawyers calls him one of the top personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles year after year. His clients agree with this accolade as he wins 98 percent of his cases. Call (800) 991-5292 for a free case evaluation. David will let you know your options going forward and give you an estimate of what your case is worth.
Tow Hitch Defects Cause Trucks to Collide With Cars
When a consumer purchases a product, whether online or in a retail establishment, he or she has the right to expect it to be safe and able to do the job for which it is intended. This is true of trailer hitches. If the product fails, there is a good chance that serious injuries or death will result. It is important to fight back if a manufacturer puts a defective product on the market. The defect may be in the design of the product or its manufacture. Either way, the company is responsible for the financial cost of damages it inflicts.
Tow hitch defects occur due to:
- Flawed design: The locking device may disengage due to a faulty design.
- Substandard component material: If the materials that make up the tow hitch are inferior, the hitch may break when under pressure.
- Failed or lacking support chains: Support chains are important to secure the trailer if the tow hitch disengages. If the tow chains are lacking or fail, this will lead to an accident.
- Failed lights: When the electrical components that link the trailer lights or blinkers fail, it will be impossible to alert others to a problem.
- Defective trailer tongue: This is a significant problem for many drivers.
Example of a Tow Hitch Defect
In May 2015, 162,000 trailer hitches sold at U-Haul stores were recalled due to a defect. This was due to weak steel that made the hitch break apart. Curt Manufacturing between 2014 and 2015 constructed the hitches. The U-Haul Power Tow brand was sold exclusively by U-Haul, either online or in their establishments. These hitches should be able to tow 7,500 pounds but broke as they reached this level. Shandong Jiyang Machinery, a supplier for Curt Manufacturing, changed the way it cleaned the steel. Curt Manufacturing said this was done during the hot-rolling process. This change, according to Curt Manufacturing, weakened the steel. The company said it will notify customers if their hitch is defective and replace it for free. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that no injuries or deaths were reported.
Safe Towing Practices
A driver needs to understand the type of hitch that he or she needs and the weight-bearing capacity of their vehicle before starting out. It is equally important to know which type of hitch is needed for the cargo that is being hauled as well as the towing vehicle. The most common hitch types are:
- Gooseneck hitch (fifth-wheel trailer hitch): The connection between the vehicle and the trailer is at the center of the truck’s rear.
- Weight-bearing hitch: This carries all the trailer’s weight.
Weight distributing hitch: This type distributes the weight along the axles. It is used with special hardware.
Know Your Trailer’s Weight
The trailer’s weight is an important element in maintaining safety when taking a hitched trailer on the road. The trailer weight rating provided by the manufacturer only measures the weight when the trailer is empty. The driver needs to calculate the weight of the cargo to get a true reading of the load that is being hauled. When this is not done properly, the accident risk increases proportionally. The trailer hitch is also rated for the amount of weight it can support. If it fails to do that, the hitch is probably defective. Your attorney will be able to determine this.
Operators or owners of vehicles that haul trailers of any kind should use safety chains. They are connected from the trailer tongue to the towing vehicle. Two safety chains are usually required and are attached to a chain retainer. These hauling chains prevent a trailer from detaching completely and can prevent many accidents due to defective or inadequate hitches. While the safety chains cannot make up for the perils inherent in defective tow hitches, they can prevent a runaway trailer by giving you the chance to reach a safe stopping location if the hitch disengages.
Setting Up Safety Chains
The following steps need to be followed to set up safety chains:
- Hook the safety chains to the vehicle.
- Make certain the chains are fastened appropriately and stop at regular intervals to check on their status.
- The chains need to be crisscrossed under the coupler and hitch with adequate slack for turning. This also keeps the tongue up if the hitch starts to disengage.
- Make sure the chains and fastening hooks do not show signs of wear and tear. If they do, replace them before setting out.
- Never fasten the chains to the hitch unless there are specific loops made for this purpose.
The safety chains should never drag on the pavement.
Tow Hitches and Semi-Truck Accidents in Los Angeles
As with other vehicles hauling a trailer, a tow hitch can fail, causing catastrophic accidents. This can be due to inadequate driver training, defective design or improper installation. It is also related to defective couplers, rusted parts, defective locking mechanism, cargo that is poorly distributed, cargo that is over the weight limit, hitch defects, lack of safety chains, speeding, inclement weather or bad brakes.
Legal Implications of Tow Hitch Failure
A truck driver and the trucking company can be held liable for tow hitch failure. For instance, routine maintenance is necessary to make sure the tow hitch is in working order. If daily inspection by the driver is faulty or lacking, a rusty hitch may go unnoticed. This also reflects back on the trucking company that is required to train the driver, supervise his or her actions and make sure drivers are following protocol to make inspections and document problems in the truck’s logbook. Drivers must also be trained to load the cargo appropriately and to make sure the weight limit is not exceeded. If the problems are not addressed or fixed, then both parties may be considered liable for the financial loss associated with the accident.
In other cases, the tow hitch may be defective. The injured parties can hold the manufacturer to be strictly liable for the accident. In California, this means that negligence does not need to be proven. Rather, the design or manufacturing defect needs to be shown. In addition, it must be shown that the defect caused the accident, which had financial consequences.
Another problem that can cause a trailer hitch to disengage is poorly designed or maintained roads. You attorney may be able to show that because of road conditions and despite taking all the necessary precautions, the hitch failed. In such cases, a government agency in charge of road conditions may be sued.
Free Case Review with a Los Angeles Truck Lawyer for Defective Tow Hitches
If you have been injured by a runaway trailer for any reason, including defective hitches, those that have not been maintained or installed properly or due to overloaded cargo, call the law firm of David Azizi at (800) 991-5292. David will fight to reclaim your damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation costs, mental anguish and pain and suffering. Such damages are not limited to current financial loss but also to the loss you may face in the future. Set up a free case evaluation with David to find out more.