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Runaway Utility Trailer Smashes into SUV on California’s Highway 41

By Brian Chase on May 16, 2013 - No comments


Four people escaped without serious injuries after a runaway utility trailer smashed into the SUV in which they were traveling. According to a CBS 47 News report, the collision occurred the afternoon of May 14, 2013 on Highway 41, just south of Avenue 12 in Madera County.

California Highway Patrol officials say safety chains on a PG&E utility trailer sparked a grass fire on the side of the road. The trailer then broke away from the truck that was towing it and went hurtling down Highway 41 into oncoming traffic. The runaway trailer eventually struck an SUV, which overturned.

Passersby helped rescue the SUV’s occupants, including an infant and a toddler. Both children were secured in car seats properly, which, no doubt, saved their lives.

PG&E officials are in the process of examining their trailer to determine what went wrong. CHP officials also said that the occupants of the vehicle are lucky to be alive and fortunate that the injuries are not serious.

Ongoing Investigation

I trust CHP is investigating the cause of this crash rather than leaving it up to PG&E to solely investigate the incident. There are still several unanswered questions here. Did the trailer become disconnected due to a part or system failure? Did a defective auto product play a part in this incident? Did negligence on the part of PG&E employees cause this incident? A thorough investigation will be required to get to the truth in this case.

Runaway Trailer Accidents

California is no stranger to these tragic runaway trailer accidents. Statistics on these types of accidents are not readily available because the government does not keep track of them. However, a Los Angeles Times investigation identified 540 runaway trailer accidents from news reports and court files between 2000 and 2007. These accidents resulted in hundreds, if not thousands, of injuries and at least 164 deaths. It is very likely that there were many more runaway trailer accidents, injuries and deaths that were not reported by news sources.

The web site,, which monitors runaway trailer accidents nationwide, documents more than 4,000 newspaper reports of “utility trailer accidents” in California over the last two decades. Scrolling down the tragic reports, it is heartbreaking to see how many have lost their lives just because a trailer was not secured properly or a hitch was defective.

Dangerous Trailers, under the leadership of its founder Ron Melancon, is spearheading the initiative to get state governments to require registration for trailers. The web site says that 15 states don’t even require registration for these trailers, which makes it challenging to find the owners of the runaway trailers. Much work remains in terms of getting legislation passed that will make our roads safer and protect travelers from these killer runaway trailers.

How Can You Protect Your Rights?

In runaway trailer cases, injured victims can seek compensation from the at-fault party, in most cases, the owner of the trailer and/or the manufacturer of a defective auto product that may have caused the trailer to detach. Injured victims can seek compensation for damages including medical expenses, lost wages, hospitalization, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering and emotional distress. An experienced California personal injury lawyer will be able to advise injured victims and families of deceased victims about their legal rights and how their own auto insurance policy might apply to a runaway trailer case.

Posted in: Auto Defects

About the Author: Brian Chase

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