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Trailer-Puller Charged in Driver Death

Personal Injury Blog Post
January 11, 2010

A Rockford, Michigan man whose trailer came unhooked and killed an oncoming driver is now facing criminal charges.

On October 28, 2009, a van was pulling a utility trailer in Cannon Township. The trailer came loose and hit an oncoming car’s windshield, killing the driver and severely injuring her passenger.

Police said it appeared the steel pin holding the ball mount to the van’s hitch came loose, allowing the trailer that was hauling salvage metal to break free from the van. No safety chains were being used by the driver of the van. After the trailer was inspected by the Sheriff Department, it was found to not be road worthy. Varnum has handled numerous civil cases involving vehicles hauling trailers. The law firm investigates all levels of the mechanical, safety and legal issues for each and every case.

It is important that drivers hauling trailers not only have the knowledge of how to properly hookup and use the trailer, but also know the dangers of what could happen without the proper hookup and lack of safety precautions.

Trailer hitchThere are several types of trailer hookups to vehicles. In the matter mentioned above, the driver was using a ball mount hitch hookup. The driver not only failed to take safety precautions by using chains to secure the trailer to the vehicle in the event the hitch came loose, the driver also failed to make sure the pin that holds the ball mount to the van’s hitch was safely secured.

Michigan law requires that a trailer towed or drawn by a vehicle must be attached to the vehicle with forms of coupling devices so that the movement of the towed or drawn trailer does not deviate more than three inches to either side of the path of the towing vehicle. The trailer must also be connected to the towing vehicle by suitable safety chains or devices, one on each side of the coupling and at the extreme outer edge of the vehicle. Each safety chain or device and connection must be of sufficient strength to haul the trailer when fully loaded.

Trailer hitch with safety chainsSafety chains should be crossed-over on each side of the trailer to the hookup on the vehicle. The left side chain on the trailer should be hooked to the right side of the vehicle and the right side chain on the trailer should be hooked to the left side of the vehicle.

Varnum has successfully litigated cases involving vehicle-trailer collisions. In 2009, the law firm obtained a 1.05 million dollar settlement in a case involving a pickup truck that was hauling a trailer full of salvaged steel. The poorly secured and overloaded trailer unhitched from the truck, and the trailer crushed the passenger side of a vehicle, trapping the victims inside and causing very serious injuries

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