Hitched Trailer Accidents

Author: Malcolm P. McConnell, III, Richmond Virginia Medical Malpractice Attorney

Thousands of people every day use trailer hitches to tow everything from recreational vehicles (RV’s) to livestock trailers. If drivers hitch their trailers properly and drive safely, then accidents involving hitched trailers are unlikely. Unfortunately, some drivers fail to follow proper hitching precautions, either negligently or intentionally. An improperly hitched trailer is more likely to become detached from the towing vehicle. After a trailer becomes detached from its towing vehicle, it becomes an uncontrolled “missile on the highway.”

Current estimates place the number of deaths caused by improperly hitched trailers at between 300 and 450 a year[1] [2],  and the number of people injured in such incidents at approximately 23,000[3]. State legislatures, having recently become aware of the dangers presented by improperly hitched trailers, have started passing laws to establish regulations governing hitching devices.

In 2010, Virginia codified requirements for towing hitched trailers. Virginia Code § 46.2-1118 requires that drivers in Virginia towing a second vehicle must have a connection that includes a fifth wheel, drawbar, and trailer hitch, or other similar device. Additionally, the vehicles must be equipped with an emergency chain or cable that is capable of stopping the towed vehicle in the event it becomes unhitched while in transit. Not every state has regulations, however, and there is no uniformity among the states which have enacted regulations.  Unhitched trailer accidents continue, even in states with regulations.

For example, Oklahoma law requires drivers to attach trailers to their vehicles by at least two chains. Unfortunately, people may remain ignorant of the law or may simply choose to disregard it.  Thus, accidents, such as the one that killed Kristie Cox’s husband and 3-year-old daughter, continue to occur. For more information on that accident and some simple tips to avoid hitched trailer accidents, read the Today article titled, “Unhitched Trailers Can Become ‘Missiles on the Highway’,” available at www.today.com/news/unhitched-trailers-can-become-missiles-highway-2D11958895.

About the Author: Mic McConnell is a medical malpractice attorney working out of the Richmond Office of Allen & Allen. With over 20 years of experience, Mic has handled challenging cases in almost every medical specialty for over twenty years. Mic handles cases in Virginia and across the United States. He also handles personal injury cases involving distracted driving and auto accidents.


[1] www.today.com/news/unhitched-trailers-can-become-missiles-highway-2D11958895

[2] ocj.com/2013/01/getting-hitched-avoid-common-trailer-mistakes/

[3] Id.

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