Commercial Trailer Hitch Failure Accidents
Trailer hitches allow commercial trucks to haul large loads throughout South Carolina. But if a hitch fails, it could send the trailer flying onto the road and into the path of oncoming motorists. Cargo could also tumble in front of other cars. Both situations have the potential of causing serious and deadly crashes.
People who have been hurt in trailer hitch failure accidents can — and should — seek compensation for their injuries. Truck drivers and trucking companies are legally obligated to ensure that their tractor-trailers are properly attached and in good working order. Manufacturers are also responsible for designing and producing safe hitches. When they fail in those duties, their actions are considered negligent.
Not sure who is to blame for your wreck? An experienced Lancaster truck accident attorney at David Blackwell Law can investigate and identify the at-fault party(s) and hold them accountable for your injuries and other losses. Our goal for you is justice, and we pursue it aggressively for South Carolinians every day.
Find out more by scheduling a free consultation with a truck injury lawyer today. Call or contact David Blackwell Law to schedule yours.
The Dangers of Trailer Hitches
Truck hitches pose a danger to individuals outside of the truck, but also to truck drivers.
A hitch failure could cause the trailer to partially or completely detach from the rig. A partial detachment will put the entire truck off balance and could lead to a jackknife or rollover collision, endangering both the truck driver and other motorists. The trailer also becomes unstable in a partial detachment, making it wobble in and out of its lane. This increases the risk that drivers of other vehicles will be struck in a sideswipe collision.
At high speeds, a fully detached trailer is like a missile, shot suddenly into the cars behind it. The chances of a multi-car accident or head-on collision are high when commercial trailer hitches fail, which often means severe injuries and even death.
Common Causes of Runaway Trailer Accidents
Runaway trailer accidents happen for many reasons. Some of the most common causes include:
- Inexperience: Truckers, truck companies, and cargo loaders should know the rules for properly attaching a trailer to a hitch. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrations (FMCSA) spells out what equipment is required to ensure that the load is towed properly. When commercial motor vehicle workers are untrained or unfamiliar with the rules, the likelihood for hitch failure accidents increases.
- Sudden changes in the truck’s weight or balance: Speeding, steep declines, sudden turns, and other tricky maneuvers can cause improperly stored cargo to shift, putting unexpected strain on the hitch and causing it to break.
- Equipment problems: Malfunctioning tow bars, brakes, couplers and safety chains can cause trailer hitch failures.
- Defective parts: The actual hitch could be defective, but other poorly manufactured parts of the trailer or truck itself could contribute to a hitch failure accident.
- Overloaded trailers: Trailers should never carry more than they can safely handle. Trucks that are overloaded may experience tire blowouts and brake failures, which in turn could damage the hitch.
- Poor maintenance: Trucks need routine maintenance and repairs. Rusted or broken-down mechanisms on the truck or hitch could lead to trailer detachments.
Knowing what caused the trailer hitch to fail is important in order to pinpoint who should be held responsible for your crash. The legal team at David Blackwell Law will conduct a detailed investigation and identify all of the contributing factors that led to the wreck. In some cases, there is more reason and more than one party at fault.
Injuries Caused by Hitch Failure Accidents
Because of their massive size and weight, the force of impact in a trailer hitch failure crash is particularly intense. Common injuries include:
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs): During any type of truck accident, a person’s head can hit objects in the car or be struck by cargo or debris that pierces the vehicle from the outside. Brain injuries can result in lifelong disabilities for accident victims and may prevent them from working and living independently.
- Neck and back injuries: When a trailer crashes into a smaller vehicle, it places an enormous amount of pressure on the victims’ spines. The spine is simply not equipped to withstand such violent force, and the back bones and spinal cord can become seriously damaged. Spinal cord injuries can result in paralysis, herniated discs, and chronic pain for crash victims that can be extremely debilitating.
- Broken bones: A trailer can easily crumple the steel frame of a car, causing multiple complex fractures and potentially lethal trauma to the occupants inside.
- Internal bleeding: When a vehicle slows down suddenly from the impact of a crash, the car stops but the body is still moving at full speed. This can result in blunt force trauma not only to the outer body, but also its internal organs, such as the lungs, heart, liver, and spleen.
- Deep lacerations: As a trailer crashes into a vehicle, the windows and windshield may shatter. Broken glass can cause penetrating injuries and deep lacerations, placing the victim in danger of extreme blood loss, scarring, and disfigurement.
Sadly, many truck hitch failure accidents are fatal. Family members in South Carolina can seek compensation for the loss of a family member in a truck accident through a wrongful death claim. If you’ve lost a loved one, a compassionate truck accident lawyer at David Blackwell Law can help you file a claim against the at-fault party(s).
Who is at Fault for S.C. Hitch and Towing Accidents?
Like in most truck accidents, there are a number of possible defendants. Fault in a hitch and towing accident may lie with the:
- Truck driver: Truckers must understand how to control their rigs, including the hitch and the trailer they are hauling. When they speed, take turns too quickly, or do not drive according to road conditions, it may cause the hitch to fail and they can be held liable.
- Manufacturers: In South Carolina, product manufacturers can be sued for any defective equipment that injures someone else. In addition to the makers of the trailer hitch, the designer or maker of any auto part that failed and caused the accident may be held liable.
- Loading companies: Companies that load cargo onto the truck must do so properly. Trucks should never be overloaded, and the cargo should be appropriately secured so it does not shift during transport.
- Inspection companies: The trucking industry is heavily regulated and regular inspections are required by law. Inspectors must ensure that they thoroughly and properly inspect all parts of a truck, including the hitch. When inspectors fail to do their job properly, accident victims can take legal action against them.
- The trucking company: Trucking companies have a duty to hire experienced and qualified drivers. If the company took shortcuts and did not ensure the driver was fit to get behind the wheel, they can be held responsible for accidents that their drivers cause.
- Government: South Carolina roads are maintained by state and local governments. Trucks traveling on roads that are in poor condition are more prone to trailer detachments. Governments can be held liable for causing a hitch failure accident, but these claims are more difficult and have shorter deadlines to file. It’s important to contact a truck accident attorney right away if you suspect road conditions played a role in your wreck.
How Can David Blackwell Law Help Me?
You deserve full and fair compensation if you were injured in a hitch failure accident. The South Carolina truck accident attorneys at David Blackwell Law will fight for the maximum compensation available to you under the law.
Because truck crashes are always more complicated than the average car accident, your case will likely involve negotiating with multiple insurance companies. This can be confusing, but could also put you in a position of accidentally saying something that could jeopardize your case. Your best chance of recovering money is by trusting your case to one of the experienced truck accident attorneys at David Blackwell Law.
Our law firm has represented clients in Lancaster, Indian Land, Heath Springs, Kershaw, Fort Mill and the surrounding communities for decades. We have the commitment, drive, and resources to push for the results you are owed.
Questions? We’re happy to answer them in a free consultation. Contact us today.