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Faulty Tractor-Trailer Hitches Currently in Use May Pose Serious Dangers to Motorists

Accidents involving tractor-trailers and other large trucks are often caused by the negligence of truck drivers and/or the trucking companies that employ or dispatch them. They may also be caused by truck defects, including defects in the hitches that hold semi-trailers to cabs. A fatal accident that occurred in January 2014, when a semi-trailer came loose from a truck cab and collided with two vehicles behind it, was initially attributed to the truck driver’s negligence in securing the hitch. In June 2015, however, after reports of a high percentage of malfunctions with the same type of hitch had been received, authorities began to investigate the possibility that a defect in the hitch, itself, was a cause of the accident.

Defective trucks have the potential to cause serious injury or death to motorists. If you have been injured or one of your family members has died as a result of a truck accident caused by a defective truck, we can help you obtain the compensation to which you and your family are entitled.

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Defective Hitches

To begin, the hitch is the part of the tractor that connects the vehicle or cab with the trailer itself. Because of this, it is pivotal that the hitch is in proper working order. However, there have been numerous reports of tractor becoming unhitched from the cab of the truck and causing accidents.

Recently there was an accident involving an semi truck’s unhitched trailer and a pickup truck on Interstate 80 in Illinois. In this accident the semitrailer was traveling west on interstate 80 when it lost its double bottom trailer.  The pickup truck behind the trailer was not able to stop in time and was involved in an accident. Sadly, there are other reports of trailers becoming unhitched and causing accidents. On July 11, there was a seven car crash on Interstate 75 in Alabama which resulted in the death of one driver and three people being injured. In this accident a trailer became unhitched when the tractor hit another vehicle.

It is apparent that the hitch is very important to the overall integrity of the vehicle and if the trailer becomes unhitched from the cab it can result in accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began receiving multiple complaints about one particular hitch as many drivers noted that their trailer came unhitched. The hitch in question was the “Ultra LT” hitch which is manufactured by Fontaine Fifth Wheel out of Trussville Alabama.  This hitch could be in use in as many as 6,000 tractor trailers throughout the country and is the being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, this is not the result of one isolated incident the Ultra LT Hitch has a history that extends back to 2011 when Fontaine first issued a service bulletin.

On March 1, 2011 Fontaine Fifth Wheel issued a service bulletin describing a safety condition that had been noted with the Ultra LT 5th wheel hitch. The condition they noted in the service bulletin was a concern that the trailer could become partially closed during the coupling, or hitching, process. The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) subsequently opened an investigation into this concern. After their research and review of the situation there was a recall of the Ultra LT 5th wheel hitch.  However, this was not the end of the problems. On April 4, 2012 Fontaine Fifth Wheel issued another service bulletin. This time Ultra LT 5th wheel was noted for having a problem with the operating lever. This issue caused the locking mechanism to malfunction and could result in the trailer becoming detached from the towing vehicle.

After several problems with this hitch Fontaine decided to halt production of the Ultra LT 5th wheel. However, since the product had been in the stream of commerce for several years there were many tractor-trailers that were equipped with this device.

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Liability for Defective Hatches

After several notable accidents that were attributed to the Ultra LT Hitch, which have resulted in severe injuries, and even death Fontaine 5th wheel stopped production of Ultra LT Hitch.  If you were injured because of a detached trailer then you probably are curious who can be held liable for your injuries.

Products-liability law provides a remedy for injuries or deaths caused by certain types of product defects. Product liability coverage includes defects in trucks and other motor vehicles.  Under products liability law, if a truck or truck component, including the a trailer hitch, is found to contain a defect in its design, manufacture, or warnings, then the manufacturer and others who were involved in the truck component’s production and distribution may be held liable.

Contact A Truck Accident Attorney Today

To schedule a private, no cost evaluation, call our truck wreck attorneys (215) 709-6940 or contact us online. If the statute of limitations expires, your window of legal opportunity will close and you won’t be able to pursue a claim. So contact us today to see how we can make our experience work for you. You only pay if there’s a financial recovery.

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