The CDC reports that one out of every three long-haul truck drivers has been involved in a serious truck accident. Even though truck driver errors account for many of these, other things like hitch failures are to blame.
These mechanical devices attach to the back of the truck cab and connect it to the trailer. Fifth-wheel couplings attach to commercial trucks. These have horseshoe-shaped locking mechanisms to keep a trailer’s pin in place. They can disconnect or break when not appropriately secured.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports an average of 50,000 hitch failures yearly in the U.S. The causal factors can be divided into three main categories: defective hitches, poor installation, and driver error. Here are examples of each:
- Design defects
- Electrical malfunctions
- Faulty locking mechanism
- Rusted hitch parts
- Using the wrong hitch parts for the cab and trailer
- Not using safety chains
- Overloaded cargo
- Using the wrong safety chains
- Taking turns too fast
A truck hitch failure accident can be more likely to occur when the driver is under the influence, fatigued, or not experienced. Poor weather conditions and traffic emergencies like a sudden slowdown at a construction site can also overtax a hitch.
How Is Liability Determined for a Truck Accident?
As with all truck accidents, strong evidence is needed to prove liability. The first source will be the police report written at the accident scene, which is a good starting point. Getting copies of the truck driver’s commercial driving license, truck ownership documents, and insurance information is also crucial.
Photos from the scene are also essential, but it might not be possible for a claimant to take those when rushed to a hospital. Some might be snapped by others involved or eyewitnesses, but it is often best to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer. Evidence disappears quickly from scenes, so getting there quickly can be helpful. Photos of weather conditions, skid marks, and damage to the truck can strengthen a case when taken at the scene.
Medical records are also vital information, so save everything. Follow the doctor’s orders and attend all the appointments or the insurance company or defendant might question the seriousness of the injuries. However, a truck accident lawyer can dig deeper when gathering evidence for hitch failure claims. Truck drivers, companies, and vendors must maintain work logs; one might have critical information for a case. Another option is using an expert witness specializing in truck hitch accidents.
Who Is Responsible for Truck Hitch Failure Accidents?
The answer to this varies depending on who owns and operates the truck. If a trucker is an owner/operator, they might install the hitch and attach the trailer – they are also responsible for driving safely. A trucking company might be responsible for the installation, too. Aside from those parties, a cargo company or maintenance vendor might manage and maintain the hitch.
When a problem is identified, responsible parties should repair or replace the hitch before clearing the vehicle to be driven. Considering all this, it is easy to see how complicated it can be to determine liability in a truck hitch failure accident.
Truck Hitch Laws in Ohio
Your lawyer will also be involved with examining the hitch for evidence. In Ohio, full trailers must have tow bars with locks that prevent hitches from separating, and mounted hitches must be reinforced. That tow bar cannot extend more than 15 feet from cab to trailer, and if there is a cable, rope, or chain, it must be marked with a white cloth or flag.
There are also regulations for fifth-wheel coupling devices. These have to be designed to keep cabs and trailers in straight, even lines. If either is swerving and moving out of sync with the other, there is likely a problem with that device. When a fifth wheel is not used, there must be cables or stay chains.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Personal Injury Claim?
The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim in Ohio is two years from the accident date. That might seem like a long time, but legal processes take time, so starting as soon as possible is best.
How Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Help Me?
Your truck accident lawyer can help with your insurance claim and negotiate a settlement in your best interests. When an agreement cannot be reached, you and your lawyer might decide to take it to court. The possible recoverable damages include medical expenses, lost wages, permanent impairment, property damage, pain and suffering, and more.
Contact Wolterman Law Office to Speak With a Cincinnati Truck Accident Lawyer Who Has Experience With Truck Hitch Failure Accidents
If you were injured in a truck accident and need legal help, contact a Cincinnati truck accident lawyer at Wolterman Law Office. Call us at 513-488-1135 or complete our online form to schedule a free consultation. Located in Loveland, Ohio, we serve clients in Hamilton County, Fairfield, Norwood, and Forest Park.