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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Fatal Auto Accident Leads to Stricter Regulations on Trailer Hitches

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A fatal 2007 auto accident occurred on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Maryland while the westbound span was carrying two-way traffic to relieve eastbound congestion. Randy Orff and his son were killed after their Ford pick-up truck was hit by a homemade trailer that came unhitched from a Lincoln Navigator.  An investigation determined that the truck flipped and flew through the air smashing into a tractor-trailer, two trucks and a Honda, killing the driver inside.

According to a police investigation, the driver of the SUV whose trailer came loose was solely responsible; evidence showed he did not use a safety hitch pin, a $1.79 part, to secure the trailer to his vehicle.  The report stated that the latch lever most likely released due to the trailer bouncing around as it was being pulled; the safety hitch pin would not have allowed that to happen.  Investigators also determined that the chains used to pull the trailer were too long allowing the front of the trailer to hit the ground and the bolt that secured the chain to the trailer was improperly secured.  Nonetheless, prosecutors determined there were no existing regulations that would justify criminal charges in the case.  The civil lawsuit is still pending.  Federal and state laws only addressed the proper securing of full-size trailers, but not small, noncommercial trailers such as the one-axle unit that came loose; not until Missy Orff took action.

After losing her husband and son, Missy pushed for stricter regulations on trailer hitches.  Her fight helped Maryland pass a law requiring a pin to lock the hitch in place and safety chains to keep the trailer connected in case it pops off the hitch. Missy said her fight does not stop there.  No matter how many obstacles and how long it takes Orff plans to influence legislation to change the two-way traffic on the Bay Bridge.

Thank you, Ms. Orff, for fighting on behalf of all Maryland residents. We will follow your efforts to improve traffic safety; I hope your continuous fight to save lives will influence other citizens to follow your courageous lead.  To Maryland lawmakers – thank you for listening, implementing change, and applying the law.  I commend you for applying a law to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.  Thank you for recognizing that a $1.79 safety pin would prevent runaway trailers and deaths; those that fail to abide by the law will be held accountable.

Why not go all the way?  Why should there be any wrongdoer protection in litigation?  Why are there no penalties to make us safer?  Damage caps in wrongful deaths, product liabilities, and medical malpractice only limit our rights.  Aren’t our lives worth more than $1.79?  Don’t all citizens deserve the same protection? This law proves that finding a solution to a dangerous product is not only good business, but much cheaper in the long run. If you really want to help Marylanders, it’s time to reverse the state’s tort reform laws.   Until you do so, Marylander rights will continue to be undermined despite the court system supposedly being about justice, fairness, and individual rights. Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.

2 Comments

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  1. Ron Melancon says:
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    Wrong. No national safety standard for all hitches and trailers. The law is not sting at all go to http://www.dangeroustrailers.org. 8 States have no safety chain law. 12 states have no registrations for these trailers so we ask what is this law doing to really protect others?

  2. Marie says:
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    Ron,
    Where did Mr. Bello say it was a “national” standard? It says Maryland passed a law.
    “What is this law really doing to protect others?” It is helping trailers from coming unhitched and killing people.