U-Haul Accidents, Rollovers, and Injuries Lawyer

Kansas City — Johnson County — Wyandotte County — Kansas — Missouri

If you are moving into, out of, within or through Kansas or Missouri, your move should be a happy time where, perhaps, you are starting a new career opportunity, seeking new experiences or moving near friends and family. And if you are working on a home improvement project and have rented a trailer or other moving equipment, you deserve safe, well-maintained equipment in exchange for the rental money you paid.

Unfortunately, all too often, U-Haul rental trucks, trailers and other equipment fail, causing injury to riders, drivers and other people on the roads, and causing damage to property. In 2004, the company earned over $1.5 billion through the business of—as bold letters on its trucks proclaim—"Making Moving Easier." U-Haul International Inc., founded in 1945, is the leader of the do-it-yourself moving industry. It sends millions of Americans out on the road annually in its signature orange-and-white trucks and trailers.The Phoenix-based company, built on low cost and convenience, has about 1,450 company-owned centers and 14,500 independent dealers. It took in about $1.5 billion from equipment rentals last year.

Despite making so much money, U-haul has a questionable safety record, with hundreds injured and dozens killed each year while using their equipment.

If you or a loved one has been injured due to problems with U-Haul equipment, the personal injury law firm of The Law Offices of Jeremiah L. Johnson, LLC, can help. We have handled numerous accident and injury cases involving U-Haul and we have recovered significant settlement awards for injured clients.

Were you injured in a U-Haul truck or trailer rental accident? Do you have questions regarding the safety of rented trucks and trailers? Call Jeremiah L. Johnson, LLC, at 816-581-4602.

The U-Haul business model leaves its renters are playing Russian Roulette:

When you rent a one-way truck from U-Haul, you are taking your life into your own hands due to U-Haul's own business model. Each U-Haul outlet is independently owned and each outlet has a number of "local" trucks and a number of "one-way" rentals.  The one-way trucks do not belong to them, rather these trucks are "roamers" that do not have a specific home.  Why is that bad for customers?  Well the individual operators do NOT get credit from U-Haul for spending money to fix these trucks, rather they will simply spend money out of their own pocket.  As a result, they often send these trucks out with dangerous safety and mechanical defects in order to push the repair off on the next location.

All of this means that folks renting one-way with U-Haul may be taking their lives into their own hands.

U-Haul rental equipment fails from a broad range of causes, which include:

    •    Design flaws

    •    Poor maintenance

    •    Old equipment and un-roadworthy equipment

These issues can lead to safety violations and vehicle and trailer failures, including problems involving brakes, overheating, fires, tire blowouts and rollovers.

U-Haul trailer sway:

Accidents often happen when a driver gains speed going downhill. The trailer whips from side to side more and more powerfully and finally takes control of the tow vehicle — a situation known as "the tail wagging the dog.

The safest way to tow is with a vehicle that weighs much more than the trailer. A leading trailer expert and U-Haul consultant has likened this principle to "motherhood and apple pie." Yet U-Haul allows customers to pull trailers as heavy as or heavier than their own vehicles. It often allows trailers to stay on the road for months without a thorough safety inspection, in violation of its own policies. Bad brakes have been a recurring problem with its large trailers. The one Sternberg rented lacked working brakes. Its midsize trailers have no brakes at all, a policy that conflicts with the laws of at least 14 states. It relaxed a key safety rule as it pushed to increase rentals of one type of trailer, used to haul vehicles, and then failed to enforce even the weakened standard. Customers were killed or maimed in ensuing crashes that might have been avoided.

The company's approach to mitigating the risks of towing relies heavily on customers, many of them novices, some as young as 18. They are expected to grasp and carry out detailed instructions for loading and towing trailers, and to respond coolly in a crisis.

But many renters never see those instructions — distribution of U-Haul's user guide is spotty.

To those who receive and read it, the guide offers this advice for coping with a swinging trailer: Stay off the car's brakes and hold the wheel straight. Many drivers will reflexively do the opposite, which can make the swaying worse.   Further, U-Haul allows customers to tow its trailers, tow dollies and other equipment with passenger vehicles as well as with the company's large trucks. Most renters use SUVs or pickups, which have a high center of gravity and are prone to rollovers.  Moreover, customers are permitted to pull trailers that weigh as much as or more than their own vehicles.Under U-Haul rules, the company's largest trailers, which are equipped with brakes, can outweigh the customer's vehicle by up to 25% when fully loaded. Smaller units, which do not have brakes, can weigh as much as the tow vehicle.

U-Haul says extensive research at an Arizona test track and other sites has shown that its weight rules are safe, provided customers use its equipment as instructed.

But the rules conflict with the safety recommendations of some auto manufacturers.

Ford Motor Co., for example, advises owners of the 2007 Crown Victoria, which weighs about 4,100 pounds, to tow no more than 1,500 pounds. Owners of the lighter Mustang are advised not to pull a trailer weighing more than 1,000 pounds.  Honda Motor Co. says its vehicles should not pull trailers that weigh more than 1,000 pounds unless the trailers have brakes. General Motors offers the same advice for many of its models. Nissan Motor Co. tells owners of its Pathfinder SUV that trailer brakes "MUST be used" with a trailer weighing 1,000 pounds or more.

Yet U-Haul permits customers driving Pathfinders as well as Honda and GM vehicles to tow un-braked trailers that weigh more than that.

Some vehicle makers also recommend using sway-control devices with trailers above certain weights. These devices come in various forms and include bars or brackets that limit side-to-side movement of the trailer.

U-Haul says such equipment is not needed when "towing a properly loaded U-Haul trailer."

Automakers say their guidelines are meant to promote safety and prevent undue wear on engines, brakes and other components.

"We would consider it unsafe to tow outside of those recommendations because that is what we tested the vehicle to be capable of towing," said Honda spokesman Chris Martin. "We'd rather be safe than have someone get into an accident."

U-Haul will allow a Crown Victoria to tow a trailer weighing up to 4,400 pounds and a Mustang to pull up to 2,500 pounds.

Yet when accidents occur, U-Haul almost always blames the customer.

Proper loading of the trailer is crucial in preventing sway. U-Haul tells customers to put 60% of the weight in the front half and suggests a three-step process to check that the load is balanced correctly.

But the company has declined to offer an inexpensive, portable scale that would help renters get it right.

U-Haul vigorously defends its safety record. Executives say that the company diligently maintains its fleet of more than 200,000 trucks and trailers, and that decades of testing, experience and engineering advances have steadily reduced its accident rates.

U-Haul Tow Dolly accidents:

Cargo trailers are not the only U-Haul equipment that is vulnerable to sway. It can also happen with the company's tow dollies.  Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans use these two-wheeled trailers to haul vehicles across town or across the country.  U-Haul imposed tough conditions when it began renting the devices in 1982. It required that the tow vehicle weigh at least twice as much as the one to be towed. This would "ensure adequate braking and control," a company manual said.  But the rule crimped sales. Towing a typical-size car required a giant pickup or similar vehicle. John C. Abromavage, U-Haul's engineering director, testified in one lawsuit that the 2-to-1 standard "doesn't make sense other than to restrict your own market."

In 1986, U-Haul relaxed the rule, requiring that the tow vehicle be only 750 pounds heavier than the one behind it. Over the next few years, the company increased the maximum weight of vehicles that could be hauled on dollies, and lifted a ban on towing with small jeeps and SUVs.  The new policy boosted dolly rentals. But it conflicted with the guidelines of Dethmers Manufacturing Co., an Iowa firm that produced many of the U-Haul dollies used in the late 1980s and 1990s.

Dethmers recommended that the tow vehicle weigh at least 1,000 pounds more than the dolly and the second vehicle combined.  U-Haul said its relaxed standard still provided a reasonable safety margin. But in the past employees and dealers frequently ignored the rule, sometimes with tragic results.

The Los Angeles Times reviewed police reports and other records on 222 crashes nationwide from 1989 through 2004 in which drivers lost control while pulling U-Haul tow dollies.  In 105 cases, the documents contained enough detail to determine the vehicle weights.  In 51 of those crashes — 49% — the rentals violated U-Haul's rule requiring the tow vehicle to be at least 750 pounds heavier than the one being towed.  In some of the crashes, the tow vehicle weighed less than the one it was towing.

At least 12 people were killed in the ensuing wrecks.

The Los Angeles Times also found recurring problems with U-Haul trailer brakes. As far back as 1966, U-Haul's own insurer told the company it needed to do a better job maintaining them.  "We are increasing the risk of an accident by sending a trailer with faulty brakes on a rental which we advertise and represent as being safely equipped with brakes," wrote Frontier Insurance Agency of Portland, Ore. The memo surfaced in a lawsuit years later.  A 1995 crash in Indiana drove home the potential consequences of brake failure. Two people were killed in the wreck, which police said was caused by inoperable brakes on a U-Haul auto transport. U-Haul has had so many complaints that websites such as this one have been. With some U-Haul trailers, the issue is not ad brakes but a lack of brakes.  Most states require surge brakes on larger trailers such as the model Sternberg rented. At least 14 states also mandate brakes on smaller trailers under common conditions. Yet U-Haul ignores this requirement, renting small and midsize trailers that have no brakes.

In general, the state regulations say that trailers below 3,000 pounds must have brakes if they exceed 40% of the tow vehicle's weight. By that standard, two popular, un-braked U-Haul cargo trailers are frequently in violation of the rules.  For instance, U-Haul's 5-by-8-foot trailer, which weighs 2,700 pounds fully loaded, would be required to have brakes unless the tow vehicle weighed at least 6,750 pounds. Only giant pickups weigh that much. U-Haul routinely rents the trailer to customers using much smaller tow vehicles.

U- Haul president Edward Shoen acknowledged that U-Haul was not in compliance with the state motor vehicle codes but suggested it was a trifling matter. To make his point, he pulled out a news clipping about a 201-year-old North Carolina law barring unmarried couples from living together.  What's important, Shoen said, is that vehicles towing U-Haul equipment can stop within state-mandated braking distances.  The laws you're referring to are well-known to people at the state jurisdictions," he said. "But what happens is they enforce, or don't enforce, depending upon what the public good is."   Source:  Driving With Rented Risks, Alan C. Miller and Myron Levin, The Los Angeles Times, June 24, 2007.

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Attorney Jeremiah Johnson can work to protect your rights in cases involving U-Haul equipment. When U-Haul equipment fails, trucks can roll over, and trailers, with blown out tires or other problems, can drag cars, trucks and SUVs off the road, into ditches and into oncoming traffic, resulting in serious injury and wrongful death. To discuss U-Haul-related trailer and truck rental injuries, contact us for a free initial consultation.

Contact Us

If you have questions regarding U-Haul trailer and truck rental injuries, contact us. We work on a contingency basis, so that you pay nothing unless we recover damages. We are available for free initial consultations weekdays, evenings and weekends. To contact us, call 816-581-4602.