Tractor-trailers and other commercial trucks can weigh up to 80,000 when carrying a load, and with that significant weight comes added risk if the vehicle wrecks. Those who operate tractor-trailers are required to hold a commercial driver’s license because heavier vehicles need to abide by state and federal regulations and additional requirements. Although drivers need a special license for operating heavy trucks, truck drivers still make mistakes and can cause devastating accidents.
Additionally, people often rent trailers and hook them up to the back of their passenger vehicles. Those who rent trailers often don’t know how to transport a trailer safely, leading to substantial traffic accidents. Runaway trailer accidents are incredibly common and can cause serious or even fatal injuries to unsuspecting victims on the road.
If you or a loved one are injured because of a runaway trailer accident, you need to seek compensation for vehicle damages and personal injuries. A runaway traffic accident can leave victims temporarily or permanently impaired, forcing them to take time away from work. Filing a personal injury claim also enables you to recover compensation for any wages you may have lost because of your runaway trailer accident.
In the event that you’re injured because of someone’s negligence in Michigan, contact the offices of Lee Steinberg Law Firm. We’ve helped numerous Detroit and other Michigan residents recover the damages they deserved from serious truck accidents. We’ve helped people recover compensation for vehicle damages, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and more. Call our main office at 800-533-3733, or schedule a free case evaluation by clicking here.
What is a Runaway Trailer Accident?
Truck accidents are considered runaway trailer accidents under two circumstances. When a trailer doesn’t operate at the same speed as the truck, the trailer becomes out of control and can strike other vehicles on the road. An accident is also considered a runaway trailer accident when the trailer detaches from the truck and causes an accident.
Unfortunately, runaway trailer accidents are common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, around 50,000 towing accidents occur every year, and a big reason for that high number is driver ignorance. One study conducted by a major United States insurance company found that 70% of those operating tractor-trailers don’t know how to safely tow cargo. Additionally, those who rent trailers often don’t know how to hook them up properly, and they receive very little instruction from rental companies.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 50,000 trailer accidents resulted from passenger vehicles towing trailers, and 21,000 injuries occurred because of those accidents.
A loose trailer can result in devastating or even fatal injuries because the detached trailer usually hits other vehicles at high speeds.
What Causes a Runaway Trailer Accident
There are many different causes of runaway trailer accidents including:
- Speeding: If a driver speeds while carrying a trailer, their trailer may become detached if they need to make a sudden stop or if they’re traversing harsh road conditions. A driver hauling a trailer needs to take their trailer’s weight into account so that they can operate their vehicle at a safe speed.
- Sudden Turns: Sudden turns can cause trucks to jackknife, which then results in the trailer detaching. Drivers need to consider their trailer’s size and weight when turning so that they can do so cautiously.
- Fatigued Driving: Commercial truck drivers often operate their vehicles for long spans of time, making them tired and hurting their ability to operate their trucks safely. Additionally, trucking companies often pressure drivers to continue transporting freight even when they’re tired. A driver may also suffer from chronic tiredness if they have a sleep disorder or are on certain types of medications.
- Steep Declines: A steep decline can cause a truck to lose its trailer.
- Rusted Parts: If the truck or trailer contains rusted parts, the area in which the vehicle and trailer connect may fail and become detached.
- Manufacturing Flaw: If the mechanism that attaches the trailer to the vehicle is poorly designed, the trailer could detach from the vehicle.
- Brake Failure: Trailer brakes are designed to work in conjunction with the hauling truck’s brakes, but if the trailer’s brakes fail to function, the trailer may not slow down when braking and become detached in the process.
- Trailer Overload: If a trucking company or individual overloads a trailer with too much weight, the connection between the truck and trailer can break. Overloading your trailer increases your likelihood of brake failure.
- Bad Road Conditions: Poorly maintained roads and slick roads can cause a trailer to become detached.
- Improper Loading: If someone loads a trailer improperly and fails to secure the load, the cargo could shift in transit. The cargo’s loose weight can cause the trailer to detach.
- Driving Under the Influence: If someone operates their vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may fail to transport their trailer safely and cause a runaway trailer wreck.
- Failing to Abide by Federal or State Regulations: Many state and federal truck regulations are in place to protect the public. Tractor-trailer operators are required to undergo a certain number of hours of training, and their vehicles also need to be compliant with state and federal regulations. Improper training or vehicle maintenance can lead to serious runaway trailer accidents.
Injuries After a Runaway Trailer Accident
A truck carrying a full trailer often weighs around 80,000 pounds while a standard passenger vehicle only weighs 4,000 pounds on average. With that significant amount of weight comes a significant risk if the trailer detaches from the truck. Trailers often become detached while trucks are at high speeds, leading to the loose trailer barreling toward other drivers with life-threatening momentum. Some injuries that you could suffer from in a runaway trailer accident include:
- Fractured or broken bones
- Nerve damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Losing a limb
- Back and neck injuries
- Spinal cord injuries, which could lead to paralysis
- Soft tissue damage
- Emotional trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder
- Serious burns
What Should I Do After a Runaway Trailer Accident?
If you experience a runaway trailer accident, you need to take immediate action to ensure your safety and support your claim. After suffering from an accident, you need to:
- Check yourself and your passengers for injuries.
- Make sure you and/or your vehicle won’t suffer further damage from oncoming traffic. You should move your car out of the way of traffic if possible, but more importantly, you need to make sure that you’re out of danger.
- Call 911 if you or your passengers have sustained serious injuries.
- Call the police and wait for them to arrive.
- If you’re able, collect evidence at the scene that could support your case, including eye-witness testimonies and pictures of the accident. You should also record everything you remember about the accident.
- Contact your insurance company.
- Receive medical attention even if it doesn’t seem like you’ve sustained serious injuries. You may suffer from delayed onset injuries, so it’s important to receive medical attention even when you’re not suffering from any serious symptoms at first. If you delay your medical treatment after an accident, you could hurt your claim.
- Contact a truck accident attorney to help you with your case.
Determining Liability in Runaway Trailer Accidents
Different parties can be held liable in runaway trailer accidents. The majority of runaway trailer accidents occur because of truck driver negligence. Most drivers know how to navigate their vehicles safely in different road conditions and in challenging weather, but some drivers operate their vehicles unsafely and break traffic laws and trucker regulations. If a driver breaks the law or drives their vehicle unsafely, they’ll likely be held accountable if they cause a runaway trailer accident. They could also be held liable if they were aware that their truck needed maintenance, and the maintenance issue caused the wreck.
There are also cases in which the trucking company could be held liable for the runaway trailer accident. The company may supply a driver with defective or dangerous equipment, like a trailer with defective brakes. If a trucking company knowingly has their drivers operate unsafe equipment or if they fail to maintain their trailers and trucks, they could be held liable for a runaway trailer accident. Additionally, trucking companies are often held liable for the actions of their employees, so if an employee operates their vehicle negligently, the trucking company can sometimes be found liable.
In some situations, a municipality may be found at fault for runaway trailer accidents. City and state agencies are responsible for keeping roads and highways safe, and if they fail to address potential hazards, such as debris, potholes, or fallen trees, in a timely manner, they could be held liable if bad road conditions cause an accident.
Contact a Michigan Truck Accident Attorney
In the event that you experience a runaway trailer accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you shouldn’t have to pay out of pocket for your injuries and vehicle damage. If you file a claim against the person or entity that was at fault for your wreck, you can recover compensation for vehicle damages, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, loss of consortium, and more.
You need expert legal support to help you with your claim. For expert legal support in Michigan, contact the Lee Steinberg Law Firm. We’ve helped numerous Detroit and other Michigan residents receive the compensation they deserved from negligent truck drivers, trucking companies, and government agencies. Call our office at 800-533-3733, or click here to schedule a free case evaluation.