Empty trailers can create road hazards

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A pair of recent settlements illustrates the danger vehicles stopped on the side of the road – particularly trailers – can pose for motorists. These cases also show that if you have been hurt in an accident caused by such hazards, an attorney can determine which entities might be responsible.

In the first case, Alfred Jackson was on Interstate 20 in Lexington County, S.C, traveling home from a Thanksgiving dinner, when the passenger van he and his family were riding in crashed into an empty flat-bed car-hauler trailer. Jackson, who was riding in the passenger seat, died at the scene from his injuries.

At the time of the crash, the trailer, which was equipped for one car, was parked on the side of the road. But a good portion of it had been left in the roadway, and its operator, Jerome McWilliams, had failed to place warning placards in the road. The truck’s owner, Michael Brown, had paid McWilliams $250 to drive the trailer, and Brown’s federal motor carrier placard was displayed in the truck. McWilliams’s insurer ultimately acknowledged fault and paid the full policy limits, supplemented by Jackson’s own uninsured motorist coverage, which entitled him and his family to a certain amount of benefits beyond the limits of the at-fault party. Meanwhile, the family continues to pursue a case against Brown in state court for providing the vehicle to McWilliams.

In the other case, a married couple was in their SUV during the evening hours on a two-lane highway in Forsyth County, N.C. After cresting a hill, their vehicle slammed into an empty logging truck trailer blocking both lanes of traffic. The husband suffered vertebral fractures, a brain injury and damage to his esophagus, tongue and vocal cords that left him unable to eat solid foods. His wife, who suffered a fractured sternum and ribs, now must care for her husband full time.

The truck driver was cited by police for improperly backing the trailer across the highway at night without safety markings or spotters to warn oncoming traffic. Although the truck driver argued that the husband should have seen the truck, the victims countered that it was dark, the roadway was unlit and the husband was obeying the speed limit. Ultimately the parties settled, with the driver agreeing to compensate the couple for their harm.

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