Our wrongful death lawyers recently learned that a runaway truck trailer crashed into a minivan last Wednesday and killed seven individuals in the vehicle. Whig.com reports that the out of state accident occurred when a 24-year old truck driver’s trailer was hauling crushed cars when it broke free of the rig that was pulling them. The trailer cut across a two-lane road and slammed into the minivan just seconds later. The minivan was hit in rural Cortland County south of Syracuse, according to the report.
The driver of the minivan was heading home with friends and children in the vehicle when he was killed. Also killed in the accident were his 21-year old fiancé, a 26-year old woman with her two 4 and 5-year old daughters, and two additional children at the ages of 4 and 7. An eighth individual was taken to a nearby hospital with moderate injuries. According to the driver’s mother, “there was zero time to make a maneuver.”
The sheriff’s office released that investigators determined the cause of the accident to be mechanical failure. Tractors and trailers are commonly connected by a “fifth wheel” in which a pin on the trailer fits into the center of a piece of metal on the trailer and is secured by an automatic locking device. Authorities say that this truck part that was specifically used to securely lock the connection between the tractor and the trailer had failed. It is still being determined exactly why this happened. The truck was owned and operated by Newton Salvage of Georgetown.
Though our law firm strives to educate drivers in order to prevent various forms of driver error and driver negligence that may cause motor vehicle accidents, mechanical failures unfortunately occur at a consistent rate and often cause injury and fatality to those. Even so, in cases of mechanical failures, runaway trailers as described in the above report are rare. According to an analysis of federal data made by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), only 10% of fatal crashes that involved a truck’s couplings, hitches or chains occurred from 2007 to 2011. “It is possible that with an old, not properly maintained fifth wheel that the device can get loose, the sides can wear away, the hole that the pin fits into is no longer snug and rigid.” stated a crash data analyst with FMCSA. “And at that point it can come loose…It’s very rare but it does happen, and can be very serious. It’s one of the things we inspect for.”
Inspection of truck parts in order to prevent mechanical failure is just one regulation that truck drivers face before driving. Other regulations include that all equipment components are working properly, the driver is well rested, and he or she is not drinking and driving. Because of the great amount of energy and force associated with trucks, truck drivers need to be extremely cautious at all times, even at low speeds. In the case that a mechanical failure does occur, driving attentively and responsibly may be the difference between causing a severe accident and preventing one.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by a negligent motorist, please contact us for more information. We provide quality legal representation to those who lives have been severely impacted by negligent motorists and are willing to assist you in determining what rights and compensation may be available to you.