Lawsuits From Pickup Trailer Towing Accidents Hitting Businesses Hard
Overloaded trailers, poorly educated drivers and improperly-equipped trucks not taken lightly by juries; millions of dollars being awarded plaintiffs
by Bruce W. Smith
Business owners seldom take a look at the pickups in their fleet other than filling them with fuel and making sure they are maintained.
They toss their employees the keys and send them on their way to get the jobs at hand done in a timely and efficient manner.
In the landscaping, road building, aggregates and heavy construction business that usually means towing a trailer loaded with equipment, tools, or materials.
Such laissez faire attitudes could spell serious problems for your company and place vehicle drivers and passengers at undo risk.
The issue stems from improperly-equipped pickups and trailer hook-ups.
All vehicles have their towing limitation, including pickups and SUVs. Those tow ratings are set by the vehicle manufacturer at the time the vehicle is built.
Those towing limits can’t be changed with aftermarket parts or accessories, or any other modifications.
When it comes to towing trailers, exceeding or disregarding the vehicle manufacturer’s towing guidelines, setup and limitations places the vehicle driver and company at great risk from both injury and liability.
Adhering to the vehicle manufacturer’s towing guidelines is serious business. Failing to do so can (and does) result in consequences most business owners would rather avoid as the examples below, from Walters, Balido & Crain, L.L.P. in Dallas, illustrate.
Be safe. Be smart. Make sure your pickups are properly equipped for the trailers they are towing — and the drivers follow the proper towing setup procedures.
It’s much more than dropping the trailer on the hitch ball.
PICKUP TRAILER ACCIDENT LAWSUIT SETTLEMENTS
1. DeHoyos v. Millennium Resources, LP. (Reagan County, Texas, 2007)
An employee of man Millennium Resources was driving a company pickup truck towing 7,600 pounds of drilling pipe in the course and scope of his employment. The trailer began swaying and he was unable to stop. He lost control of the trailer and the truck overturned, killing the driver.
The driver’s family then sued the company that he worked for, Millennium Resources. The Plaintifs alleged that the company loaded the driver’s trailer with too much weight and that they did not instruct him in the proper way to load the trailer. The case settled out of court for $945,000.
2. Martinez v. Wade (Ellis County, Texas 2008)
A man was driving a pickup truck in the course and scope of his business with Celadon Trucking. He changed lanes but was unable to pull his trailer back into his lane in a timely manner. His vehicle collided with another vehicle operated by two other individuals who were badly injured and sued the driver and his company.
The jury found that the pickup truck and trailer were not properly equipped to carry the load. The jury awarded the Plaintiffs $1.3 Million and found the Defendant to be grossly negligent.
3. Burkhart v. Loftin and Dacon (Harris County, Texas, 2010)
A lady was driving next to a truck whose trailer was loaded improperly. The truck / trailer was owned and operated by Infrasource Dacon, LLC. The trailer hit a bump and part of the trailer’s load came loose. A 300-pound insulator rolled onto the lady’s vehicle. She was injured and the jury awarded her $290,000.
4. Kaiser v. Down to Earth Landscaping, Inc. (Ocean County, New Jersey, 2011)
A landscaping company’s trailer de-coupled from the truck towing it due to a faulty trailer hitch and other safety cables and precautions. The trailer then collided with a 58-year old woman and did substantial medical damage. The jury awarded $2.7 million.
5. Perry v. Diffee Ford Lincoln Mercury (Colorado State Court, 2009)
Truck was hauling a trailer that was too heavy and on improper tires. The trailer came loose and killed a man in oncoming traffic. The man’s family sued the truck / trailer company and recovered $2.25 million.
6. Dearybury v. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (Florida 2013)
An FWCC employee was trailering a 31-foot boat in the Florida Keys behind an SUV when the driver lost control and hit an oncoming vehicle head-on. The Florida Highway Patrol found the combined weight of the boat and trailer totaled 10,420 lbs., while the maximum towing capacity for the trailer hitch was 6,000 lbs. The maximum towing capacity for the FWCC vehicle itself was only 8,000 lbs.
The FHP conceded the negligent operation of the FWCC truck caused this collision which saw the death of two innocent people. The jury awarded one of the victims $1.3 million. More lawsuits related to this accident are still pending.