Rear-End Trailer Hitch Accidents

Rear end collisions are the most common type of car accident our personal injury lawyers encounter. Sometimes, our client is in a vehicle with a tow hitch (with or without a trailer ball) which is struck by the at fault driver’s vehicle. In this scenario, the visible damage to our client’s vehicle is often underwhelming. This is because all of the impact is transferred to the frame of the vehicle instead of being absorbed by the crush allowed by a bumper. The results to the occupants of the rear-ended car can be devastating.

Many of us have trailer hitches on the back of our vehicles for towing boats, RVs, and utility trailers. Even if the trailer ball is not in place, the trailer hitch itself usually protrudes to our past the outside edge of the bumper. What many of us do not realize is that this makes us more susceptible to serious injury in the event of a rear-end accident. To add insult to injury, claims adjusters, defense attorneys and juries are often skeptical that a person suffered injuries because the damage to the car the person was in was not dramatic due to the presence of the trailer hitch.

According to The National Safety Commission’s publication, How Receiver Hitches Affect Rear End Collision Injuries, rear-end collisions in which the forward vehicle has a tow hitch:

  1. Increase the risk of neck injury by creating a stiff “crash pulse;”
  2. Transfer crash energy “directly to the frame of the ‘target’ vehicle and then to the occupants;”
  3. Cause the occupants in the “target” vehicle to move forward at a speed of 2.5 times, or more, than that of the striking vehicle; and
  4. Increase the risk of whiplash by 22%.

A difficulty in handling a claim for injuries that result from rear-end trailer hitch accidents is in convincing an adjuster, mediator or jury that the force to which the occupants are subjected is often greater than a case with significant rear end damage. In the negotiation process, we use literature, like that referenced above, to help make the point. In addition, we make sure that our client’s vehicle is inspected for frame damage that can otherwise go unnoticed.

If the case goes to trial, we will hire a biomechanical expert to testify about the transfer of force that occurs when the trailer hitch, instead of a bumper, is impacted. This is necessary as helpful literature or research is usually not admissible evidence at trial.

In clear liability rear-end cases without dramatic damage to the vehicles, the defense points to photographs depicting the lack bumper damage. This tactic, although effective, fails to tell the whole story. Without an expert witness, the one-sided perception of limited damage goes unchallenged, and, as a result, many a deserving claiming has left the courthouse with no recovery.

Our lawyers handle rear-end trailer hitch accident cases in the greater Jacksonville and Northeast, Florida, area. If we accept your case, we will make sure that the forceful effect of such a collision on occupants inside the vehicle is fully explained to the jury with expert testimony. You should make sure that any attorney you hire is willing and able to incur such an expense as, without expert testimony, you are probably fighting an uphill battle.

Our attorneys handle rear-end trailer hitch accident cases in the following counties: Duval, Clay; St. Johns; Nassau; Baker; Union; Putnam; Volusia; Flagler; Bradford; Alachua; and Columbia.

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