By John Roxon

There are many reasons that people use trailers on a regular basis: horses and other livestock; utility trailers; tractors, vehicles or other motorized work equipment; recreational equipment like ATVs, boats or jet skis; or work or landscape trailers.

Many people use trailers routinely or daily and the mechanics of safely trailering equipment is second nature. However, you are responsible for any damage caused due to improper trailering or failure to maintain or repair your equipment.

If you trailer, you first need to be sure that your tow vehicle is adequate for the load you are towing. Manufacturers supply towing ratings, the number of pounds your vehicle is designed to tow, are usually contained in the owner’s manual or the information plate on the vehicle. Common sense dictates that a Honda Civic or other subcompact or mini car is not adequate to tow a 35 foot powerboat, or really anything of substantial size and weight.

Be sure that your equipment is in good working order. Most trailers are equipped with electric brakes and lights. They must be connected to the tow vehicle through a wired connector on or below the rear bumper and are controlled by the brakes of the tow vehicle. Most trucks come with or can be upgraded to a “towing package” where the trailer connection is integrated into the truck’s electrical and braking system. If not, trailer brake consoles can be purchased and installed at the dealer or a trailer sales location. The trailer brakes should be adjusted, so there is neither too little nor too much braking pressure; too little you will not stop, too much you can damage the hitch or the trailer when the trailer brakes lock up. When connected, you should check to make sure there is a good connection and the lights and brake lights on the trailer come on when they are activated on the tow vehicle.

The trailer hitch and tongue should also be regularly inspected and maintained. Most “bumper pull” trailers have a cup type connector that fits over the ball on the hitch. This locks down over the ball, using a lever or latch. You must use a lock or a clip to secure the latch and prevent it from popping off or vibrating loose. Also, generally two sets of chains are attached to the tongue of the trailer and hook on to the hitch receiver of the tow vehicle, and most have a ‘failsafe’ high strength wire in the event all else fails. The hitch itself is secured by a pin with a clip that runs through the hitch connector on the tow vehicle.

Trailers are convenient and many times are necessary for a wide variety of people. A little common sense, routine maintenance and periodic inspection can save a lot of headaches and problems down the road. Certainly it is not a good feeling to see your boat sailing away down the road because of a trailer problem. If you are injured due to someone’s negligence, whether due to a trailer wreck or any other cause, call an experienced personal injury law firm to find out your rights under the law.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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