According to a story in the Press Enterprise, a 47-year-old Desert Hot Springs woman was killed Wednesday when the car she was driving was hit by a flat bed trailer that had broken loose from its tow vehicle in Palm Springs. Riverside County coroner's officials identified the victim as Maria Herminia Quinones-Medrano. She reportedly died at the scene of the 7:06 a.m. wreck along North Indian Canyon Drive, 680 feet south of Train Station Road.
As a matter of California law, any operator of a motor vehicle towing a trailer or another vehicle has an obligation to make sure the tow is done safely. This requirement generally requires that the driver perform a safety inspection before each trip, ensuring that:
- The pin securing the ball mount to the receiver is intact.
- The hitch coupler is secured.
- Spring bar hinges are tight with the safety clips in place (load equalizer or weight distributing hitches).
- Safety chains are properly attached.
- The electrical plug is properly installed.
The specific requirements for towing particular trailers varies according to the type of trailer, conventional, cargo, fifth wheel, etc.. The general guidelines can be found at the California Department of Motor Vehicles website. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/dl648/dl648pt12.htm Logically, a violation of these guidelines may be presumed to be negligence on the part of the motor vehicle operator. In addition, absent very unusual circumstances, the fact that a trailer comes loose during normal operation may create a legal inference of negligence, a doctrine known as res ipsa loquitur. Assuming there were no unusual circumstances involved in the case above, it may be presumed the vehicle operator either failed to comply with the DMV guidelines or there may have been a defect in one of the trailer or motor vehicle components intended to secure the trailer. For example, a coupling or chain could have failed (through no fault of the vehicle operator) because of a design or manufacturing defect.
Compensation for pedestrian victims of traffic accidents, caused by a driver’s negligence or a product defect, should be an important concern for all Californians. When a driver operates their vehicle carelessly or a safety product fails to perform as expected, the responsible party should be held accountable. An Orange County trial lawyer with experience at handling such cases can make a fair assessment of these claims. Mr. Ralph has more than 19 years of experience handling personal injury cases, including just this type. He can be reached at 714-919-4415 for a FREE CONSULTATION.
Have you or a loved one been injured in a trailer accident?
- Nothing in this post is intended to suggest the Law Offices of Paul W. Ralph currently represents anyone involved in the news story above. This posting should not be construed as legal advice or an opinion on the merit of any particular matter. A consultation is the best way to obtain an assessment of your potential case.