The Dangers of Runaway Commercial Trailers Concern NJ Truck Accident Lawyer
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that over 95% of fatalities resulting from commercial truck accidents actually involved the occupants of passenger vehicles. While these figures include all types of large truck collisions, many of the fatalities came from runaway trailer accidents. The liability for a runaway trailer can depend on the circumstances that caused the failure. An NJ truck accident lawyer can help if you have been involved in this type of accident.
How Commercial Trailers Connect to Tractors
Many of the commercial vehicles that have had issues with runaway trailers have what is called a fifth-wheel coupling. The term derives from the old horse carriages that used a front axle assembly to allow the unit to pivot, which made it possible to increase the angle when turning. This is ideal for transporting extremely heavy loads. In fact, commercial trailers often transport loads that are up to 45,000 pounds. The fifth-wheel coupling, which allows the tractor to couple and uncouple from the trailer, is also called the kingpin hitch.
The brakes on the trailer are supplied by air pressure, which is connected by air lines. There is also an electrical line that has parts that can erode or malfunction from use over time. The air lines are connected by glad hands to the coupling devices at the rear end of the tractor cab. If there are problems with any of these devices, the trailer might disconnect. This is why truck drivers are trained to pass examinations that test their knowledge of how to connect and disconnect the tractor from the trailer safely. However, there are certain conditions that might cause the trailer to disconnect even if the truck driver performed all of the safety tests correctly.
Why a Trailer Might Disconnect From a Tractor
If there is an undetected problem, any part of the coupling system could lead to a disconnection. Since the cost of truck repairs and maintenance is very high, many trucking companies try to avoid paying repair or maintenance costs. They might continue to force a driver to dispatch even if the truck isn’t compliant with regulatory standards. The driver will have less liability if the company exercises all of the control over this situation. However, the exact details of each case will be different. That’s why hiring a truck accident lawyer can have such a major effect on the outcome of a personal injury case. For most runaway trailer-related lawsuits, negligence can be traced back to one of two areas: the pre-trip inspection or faulty mechanical parts.
Pre-trip inspections: Regulatory laws require drivers to conduct pre-trip inspections to ensure that all of the components of a truck are in good working order. Part of the inspection process should involve looking at the trailer connection. However, there are trucking companies that may pressure drivers to continue operating a vehicle even after an inspection reveals a problem. In this case, the liability will be with the company. This is especially true if the driver can prove that the problem was reported.
Faulty mechanical parts: Some collisions might occur if one or some of the critical parts malfunctioned. For example, the air lines that connect the tractor and the trailer must be tightly coupled to keep the trailer connected at all times. If the trailer disconnects, the problem becomes identifying exactly what went wrong. If the manufacturer supplied faulty parts that were installed and handled correctly, the trailer might still uncouple from the tractor. However, this problem is unlikely to be detected during the pre-trip inspection. If the trucking company purchased faulty parts in good faith, the manufacturer could be liable for the accident.
Liability for Runaway Trailers
To understand how complicated the liability for a runaway trailer can become, it’s helpful to learn how the tractor and trailer are connected. The first thing to understand is that a runaway trailer is an unusual event, and this indicates that something went wrong. This also suggests blame, or liability, for the damages. The trailer and tractor connection should be checked before every single trip.
If the pre-trip inspection is done correctly, the trailer will remain attached to the tractor no matter how fast the truck is traveling down the highway. Once the trailer disconnects, it’s too late to stop the catastrophic damage from happening. The next step is to get medical attention to any victims of the accident. Compensation for the damages comes from the legal system, and this is why it’s imperative to establish the link between the responsible party and the actual collision.
Real Road Hazards
The dangers of a runaway trailer are real, and the results are often catastrophic for individuals. If a trailer disconnects from the tractor at any point, everyone nearby will be placed at extreme risk. This is why there are strict protocols for how the trailer and tractor should be inspected prior to each trip. This includes a brake test that ensures the air lines connecting the tractor and trailer were functioning properly before the truck is placed into motion. Drivers who fail to perform these required inspections and tests could be liable if the trailer separates from the tractor. The trucking company will often take up some of this liability as well because they are responsible for the actions of the driver.
Collecting Evidence With Help From an NJ Truck Accident Lawyer
If you want to file a personal injury claim regarding a runaway trailer incident, you’ll need to collect evidence. This is where a truck accident law firm comes in. Each part of the truck that is involved in the collision should be inspected to ascertain the condition of the parts at the time of the collision. For example, if the manufacturer sold faulty glad hands, the air line test might still function even though the connection isn’t secure.
This is something that a driver could reasonably miss on a pre-trip inspection. Therefore, it’s important to avoid drawing premature conclusions about the distribution of fault for the accident. However, it’s also imperative that the victims are able to get access to the necessary medical treatment immediately following the accident. With help from a truck accident law firm, a victim can focus on recovery while the legal team works toward negotiating a fair settlement.
RAM Law NJ Truck Accident Lawyer Fights for Victims’ Rights
Our legal team represents the interests of victims involved in trucking accidents. We understand that many different issues are happening at the same time, and time is always imperative for mounting an effective legal case. If you hire us, we’ll work hard to help you recover lost wages, medical expenses and other forms of applicable compensation.
To deflect blame, trucking companies often utilize aggressive legal representation. This is why it’s important to have a strong and experienced legal team to advocate for your rights. If you need a truck accident lawyer, contact RAM Law as soon as possible after the accident. We maintain two offices for your convenience. Call the New Brunswick office at (732) 247-3600, or contact our Somerville location at (908) 448-2560.