Truck Tow Hitch Failure Accidents

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Indiana Tractor Trailer Accident

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Truck Tow Hitch Failure Accidents

Tractor-trailers, also known as big rigs, semi-trucks or 18-wheelers, cross Indiana’s roadways daily. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry. Notably, the FMCSA permits a fully loaded tractor-trailer to weigh up to 80,000 pounds. Comparatively,  passenger cars only weigh between 2,000 and 3,500 pounds.

Therefore, is it any surprise that truck tow hitch failure accidents occur in Indiana?

What Happens in a Truck Tow Hitch Failure Accident?

In the first place, the tow hitch attaches the trailer in a tractor-trailer to the back of the tractor, or cab. An engine powers the cab. Meanwhile, trailers do not have engines. Therefore, the cab simply tows the trailer. As a result, if the tow hitch fails, the trailer can uncouple from the cab. Then the trailer continues down the road by itself. Unfortunately, the trailer can now hit other vehicles, bike riders and pedestrians.

What Causes Truck Tow Hitch Failure Accidents?

There are several reasons truck tow hitches, also called trailer hitches, fail:

Driver error is a common cause of truck tow hitch failure accidents. For instance, a truck driver is speeding and brakes because of an obstruction. Consequently, the stress placed on the hitch could cause it to fail.

Similarly, if a driver is speeding on a curved exit ramp, the cargo’s weight can shift. That causes the trailer to sway. As a result, the swaying motion also places stress on the hitch, causing it to fail.

Lastly, the driver must inspect his truck before taking it on the road. Unfortunately, if the driver does not notice the wear and tear or rust on a hitch, the hitch can fail.

Defective design of the hitch or its parts

The manufacturer of the hitch may have defectively designed the hitch and its components. For this reason, such defective manufacturing can cause a truck tow hitch failure.

Improper installation of the hitch

A truck owner or dealer could improperly install the hitch. Consequently, its later failure could cause a serious accident.

Cargo improperly secured or overweight

Cargo that is not properly secured or which is overweight causes trailer hitch failure. Namely, if the shipping company did not correctly secure the cargo, the trailer’s center of gravity could shift during a sharp turn. As a result, the trailer can sway, thus putting significant stress on the trailer hitch.

Lack of safety chains

Federal trucking regulations require that trucks with tow hitches also have safety chains. The safety chains act as a “back-up” if the tow hitch fails. However, often the trucking company improperly installs the safety chains. Additionally, trucking companies may use safety chains which are not strong enough, given the weight of the cargo. As a result, if the trailer hitch fails, the chains cannot keep the trailer connected to the cab

Failure to regularly inspect trailer hitches

In the first place, truck companies must regularly inspect their trucks. In addition, truck drivers must inspect the trucks before taking them on the road. Sometimes, the truck company and the driver do not notice a worn or rusty tow hitch. As a result, a truck tow hitch failure accident can happen.

Does This Sound Like Your Accident?

As an illustration, picture a Toyota Camry driving on an Indiana highway in the middle of the afternoon. It is a sunny day. The Camry passes a tractor-trailer in the slow lane going 60 miles per hour. Suddenly, the trailer veers to the left, into the Camry’s lane.

The cab has uncoupled from the trailer. As a result, the cab no longer controls the trailer’s direction.


The trailer pushes the Camry to the left, into the fast lane. The Camry is rear-ended by a faster car in the left lane.  At the same time, the uncoupled trailer continues to the left. Then the trailer crashes into the divider. It comes to a stop after 60-70 yards of sliding against the divider.

Several drivers ultimately collided and were injured.

Meanwhile, the side of the trailer riding the divider opened like a tin can. As a result, the trailer’s cargo spilled on both sides of the highway.

Who Can be Held Liable in a Truck Trailer-Hitch Failure Accident?

In the scenario described above, injured parties can hold several people/companies liable for the accident:

  • The driver-did the driver inspect the tow hitch before leaving the truck yard? Drivers are supposed to inspect their trucks before leaving on their route. In the event that the hitch was rusty or otherwise in poor condition, the driver should have notified his supervisors
  • The truck owner-did the company properly train its drivers to inspect their trucks before beginning the trip? Additionally, did the company regularly maintain and inspect its fleet of trucks, including the trailer hitches?
  • Was there a manufacturing or design defect in the hitch or its parts? If so, the parties injured in the accident can sue hitch manufacturer
  • Was the hitch properly installed on the truck? If not, we can hold the dealer who sold the truck liable
  • The shipping company-if the shipping company improperly loaded the cargo, it could cause the truck to lose its center of gravity. That could make the trailer sway. As a result, the swaying could stress the hitch. Likewise, if the shipping company overloaded the truck, the excess weight could stress the hitch, causing it to fail

Experienced Indiana Truck Tow Hitch Failure Accident Lawyer

In case a truck tow hitch failure accident caused you an injury, you need an experienced Indiana truck tow hitch failure accident attorney. As can be seen, an accident involving a trailer hitch failure is complicated. In reality, more complicated than passenger car accidents. Consequently, we will investigate the accident and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Contact us at our Hammond office at 219-200-2000 or online at for a free consultation.

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