Runaway Trailer Injury Lawyers | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

When a trailer breaks loose from its vehicle and subsequently causes an accident,  These accidents are more common than you might expect and have lead to thousands of injuries across the country and in Philadelphia. Our firm is a proven resource for victims of these all-too-common wrecks. Our runaway trailer injury lawyers have the knowledge and resources to handle your catastrophic injury or wrongful death claim. Our lawyers are based in Virginia and North Carolina and handle trailer injury cases throughout the eastern United States with co-counsel as necessary. Attorneys with our firm have handled injury litigation in most of the eastern United States.

Runaway Trailer Accidents are Quite Common

There have been multiple studies over the years that have all highlighted that runaway trailer accidents are common events on the road. A study conducted by a national insurance company determined that 70 percent of trailer owners did not know the safe and appropriate way to tow their cargo. The study also discovered that people who rented trailers were often given little-to-no instruction on how to hook up a trailer to a hitch, or how to properly and safely use towing equipment. 


 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that over 50,000 trailer accidents involved passenger vehicles towing trailers. A reported 21,000 injuries were suffered in those incidents. When a trailer unhitches from its towing vehicle, a 3,000+ pound missile is launched, speeding out of control, and catastrophic injury or wrongful death are likely consequences. 

Common Causes of Runaway Trailers

Trailers can come unhitched from their tow for several different reasons. Sometimes, there is a defect in one of the components of the hitch or mount, or corrosion, cracks, and rust have weakened and broken parts. There have been numerous complaints about vehicles in which weld sites of trailer hitches or at pin boxes have cracked or weakened, making towing extremely dangerous. Many other times, a trailer is not properly secured to a hitch with, for example, the coupling not fitting properly over the ball, safety chains not being used, the load not being distributed evenly on the trailer, towing over the maximum allowable load for the trailer and hitch equipment used, and incorrect fasteners or hardware being used. According to NHTSA, there are an estimated 50,000 towing accidents each and every year.  Trailers become unhitched from various types of vehicles including semi-trucks, pickup trucks, SUVS, moving vans. Some of the most common reasons for these accidents include the following:

  • Speeding – drivers often forget that they should generally drive slower when they are hauling another vehicle or device behind them.
  • Steep declines – steep declines pose a particular problem when a person is towing another object behind their vehicle.
  • Sudden turns – sudden turns can cause the weight of the vehicle to shift and may result in a trailer becoming detached from the hauling vehicle.
  • Overloaded trailers – Often trailers are loaded beyond their weight capacity in an attempt by drivers from having to make multiple trips. However, this poses a problem for trailers as this can cause them to become unhinged from their towing vehicle.
  • Rusted components – A rusted component may mean that a vehicle that is being hauled will become detached because the metal components have been weakened.
  • Manufacturing or design defect – in order to attach an object to another vehicle there needs to be an apparatus, which is responsible for holding the vehicles together. When this object is not designed properly, then it can cause the vehicle to come unhinged and cause a runaway trailer.

Other reasons may include:

  • Operator behavior (driving too fast, or recklessly)
  • Mechanical failure
  • Failure to post proper warnings
  • Uninspected damage
  • Improper repairs
  • Metallurgical or component failures
  • Lack of proper maintenance
  • Loose cables
  • Lack of or improper safety chains
  • Improper operation
  • Improper training of operator
  • Rusted belts
  • Improper belting security
  • Lack of safety harness
  • Failure of safety locks
  • Poor lighting
  • Electrical shorts
  • Switch failures
  • Abrupt stop/start of trailer
  • Violation of applicable state codes concerning weight requirements

Holding the Negligent Party Responsible for Your Harms and Losses

When there has been a runaway trailer accident and you or a loved one was seriously harmed, you have the right to pursue a personal injury claim to seek financial restitution for your harms and losses. Determining who is responsible for the accident can often be difficult since there may be multiple parties liable for the accident including: 

  • The vehicle operator – Driver errors are a leading cause of most runaway trailer accidents and drivers are the most obvious person for filing a case against. However, the vehicle operate is not always solely liable, and it is important to examine who else may have been involved in the accident.
  • The Hitch Manufactures – when a product is improperly designed or has a flaw, then this may lead to an accident. In the case of a runaway trailer the hitch, or the device that connects the vehicle to the trailer, is often examined to determine if it malfunctioned or if it was properly installed.
  • The Trucking Company or Cargo Loaders – Often drivers, particularly commercial drivers do not have much authority or even interaction with the materials that are in their truck. Often times, a vehicle that is being towed is too heavy for the hitch or the attached vehicle. The excess weight can cause a trailer to sway, or place unacceptable stress on a trailer hitch and connecting components.

Working with an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with all different types of parties that may be involved can help you recover for your injuries much faster.

Personal Injury Lawyers Ready to Work For You 

Since 1985, our legal team has represented thousands of folks injured in serious accidents, including runaway trailer accidents. Our law firm takes a specific interest in exposing dangers posed by the lack of standards for trailer hitch manufacture and the lack of enforcement of existing laws governing trailer use. If you have suffered a serious injury in any type of trailer-related vehicle crash, contact us by phone at (833) 997-1774 or by filling out a quick contact form on this page. Our firm offers free, confidential case reviews.