What Happens When You Hit a Trailer Hitch?
Rear-end collisions are among the most common types of accidents on the road, and their consequences can vary depending on various factors. One important consideration is the presence of a trailer hitch on the vehicle that is rear-ended. We will look into what happens in a rear collision when the vehicle being struck is equipped with a trailer hitch, shedding light on the potential effects and safety considerations.
Understanding what happens in such situations is crucial for both drivers and passengers, as it can shed light on the potential risks and safety considerations involved. Let’s explore the impact of rear-end collisions on vehicle equipped with trailer hitches.
Increased Structural Protection: One advantage of having a trailer hitch is that it can provide additional structural protection to the rear of the vehicle. The hitch is typically designed to be strong and durable, serving as a buffer between the colliding vehicle and the rear bumper. This extra reinforcement can help absorb some of the impact energy and minimize damage to the vehicle’s frame in a really small impact (think a baby bumper tap). According to Chalmers University of Technology vehicles with hitches involved in rear-end crashes have a 22% increased risk of causing severe occupant whiplash than those without hitches. Our January 16, 2023, blog post addresses some of the dangers of a trailer hitch in minor to moderate impacts.
Rear-End Collisions Involving Tow Hitches
Potential for Trailer Hitch Engagement: In certain rear-end collision scenarios, the presence of a trailer hitch can lead to the engagement of the hitch with the striking vehicle. When the rear of the striking vehicle contacts the trailer hitch, it may cause the striking vehicle to “ride up” and come into contact with the rear bumper or even the trunk area of the vehicle being rear-ended. This engagement can further dissipate the force of the impact and potentially prevent the striking vehicle from entering the cabin area.
Potential Damage to the Trailer Hitch and Rear Bumper: While a trailer hitch can provide some protection, it is important to note that the rear-end collision can still cause damage to the hitch and the rear bumper of the vehicle being rear-ended. The severity of the damage will depend on the speed and force of the impact. It is recommended to have the hitch and the vehicle thoroughly inspected by a professional after any collision, even if no visible damage is apparent, to ensure the structural integrity of the hitch.
Considerations for Towing: If the vehicle equipped with a trailer hitch is towing a trailer or carrying a load, the impact of a rear-end collision can have additional implications. The force exerted on the hitch can be transferred to the trailer or the load, potentially causing damage or altering the stability of the entire setup. It is crucial to assess the condition of both the hitch and the trailer or load after a rear-end collision involving a towing scenario.
Potential Hitch Misalignment: While trailer hitches offer advantages in rear-end collisions, it’s important to note that misalignment can occur if the rear-ending vehicle impacts the hitch at an angle or with excessive force. This misalignment may result in damage to the hitch or the vehicle’s frame, requiring a thorough inspection by a qualified mechanic to assess any potential structural issues.
Trailer Hitch Maintenance: To ensure optimal safety in the event of a rear-end collision, regular maintenance of the trailer hitch is essential. This includes inspecting the hitch for any signs of wear or damage, ensuring proper installation, and adhering to the manufacturer’s weight limits and towing guidelines. Regular maintenance not only enhances the hitch’s performance but also ensures its structural integrity, maximizing its effectiveness in protecting the vehicle during a rear-end collision.
How Can An Occupant of a Vehicle with a Trailer Hitch Get Injured?
The trailer hitch (and ball joint, if attached) act as fixed, non-impact absorbing hardware that transfers the energy of a rear-end collision more sharply (or jolt) to the vehicle occupants, resulting in a 22% increase in whiplash- with women and children being most adversely affected than men.
The damage sustained is mostly to the frame and while you might think less damage is a good thing, it means that the vehicle occupants received a greater share of the force. For years manufacturers have developed ways for the vehicle to absorb the force of the collision and reduce the impact on the occupant; trailer hitches counteract these advances.
Having a trailer hitch on a vehicle involved in a rear-end collision can provide some degree of protection and potentially reduce the risk of occupant injuries. However, it is important to remember that the presence of a hitch does not guarantee complete immunity from damage. If you have been involved in a rear-end collision, regardless of the presence of a trailer hitch, it is advisable to seek professional inspection and assistance to assess any potential damage and ensure your safety on the road.
Why Does Experience With Trailer Hitch Cases Matter
Attorney Martin Hernandez has been practicing law since 2001 and has experience handling personal injury claims throughout the Tampa Bay Area and the entire state of Florida. A number of cases he has settled on behalf of his clients include rear-end collisions involving trailer hitches.
A majority of trailer hitch rear-end collisions involve trucks or SUVs. However, some clients were also driving a car with a trailer hitch. More important than the vehicle type is the science and physical evidence that play roles in supporting your injuries.
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