Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The dangers associated with towing trailers

Dorothy Barnett v. Sunnybrook, et al

The dangers associated with towing trailers are generally not fully appreciated by consumers. Also, adequate information about the appropriate steps to take to control a trailer once it begins to sway due to a passing semi-tractor trailer or wind gusts is not provided.

As a result, each year numerous needless deaths and injuries occur. On November 24, 2002, Dr. John Barnett was killed after his 31 foot long Sunnybrook Travel Trailer began to sway after being passed by a tractor trailer.

It was alleged that insufficient information was provided to the Barnett family about trailer sway, and that they were not told the appropriate responses to sway to prevent a loss of control situation. It was also alleged that the vehicle-trailer-hitch combination was defective in that it did not prevent or minimize the potential for trailer sway in the first place.

The case settled for a confidential amount.
Trailer Sway

Every year on American highways preventable accidents occur involving travel trailers of various lengths and configurations. The phenomenon commonly referred to as “trailer sway” occurs when a trailer being towed by a car, truck or van begins to sway or swing back and forth as it is being pulled. Often this side-to-side oscillation of the trailer occurs due to air disturbances caused by passing tractor trailers or wind gusts.

When sway occurs there are a number of things consumers can do to regain control of the swaying trailer. This information is critical for consumers to have, but, unfortunately, the industry and dealerships often do not adequately warn of the risks of trailer sway or provide instructions on how to properly respond.

The industry and dealerships often do not adequately warn of the risks of trailer sway or provide instructions on how to properly respond

In fact, it is generally recognized by experts in this area that consumers often do things in the way of steering and braking that have the unintended consequence of actually making sway worse once it starts. Because of this proper instructions and warnings are needed. If they are not provided and an accident happens, a claim may exist against the trailer manufacture, the hitch manufacturer and the dealership.

The fact is that the dangers of trailer sway have been known within the trailer industry for decades. While only so much can be done when designing a trailer to minimize its propensity to sway, technologies and alternative designs do exist that can have a dramatic effect on reducing the propensity of a trailer to sway uncontrollably. Often times, however, it is discovered after a trailer sway accident that these simple alternatives where not used or even considered.


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