Are Trailer Brakes Required When Towing on Maryland Roads?

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion raising an interesting issue discussing whether a vehicle owner has a duty to install brakes on their trailer. Ultimately, the court did not come to a definitive decision, and remanded the case for further consideration. However, the opinion provides insight into the court’s considerations.

According to the court’s opinion, a woman was asked by her father to transport a load of palm fronds using his truck and trailer. Originally, the woman’s father had planned on making the trip himself, but he was not feeling well on the day of the trip. The trailer was not equipped with brakes and was loaded past its capacity.

While the woman was transporting the load, traffic in front of her suddenly slowed. As the woman tried to brake, she realized she was not going to stop in time, so she swerved onto the shoulder. Unfortunately, as the vehicle entered the shoulder, it struck the plaintiff who was waiting for the bus.

The plaintiff sued several parties, including the owner of the vehicle. The plaintiff’s theory was that the owner was negligent for loading the palm fronds into the trailer that was not equipped with brakes. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, finding that the owner did not have a legal duty to install trailer brakes because there was no law requiring motorists to install brakes on this type of trailer. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the lower court’s decision was reversed. The appellate court acknowledged that, under state law, the trailer was not required to have brakes installed. However, the court went on to hold that did not necessarily mean that the defendant did not have a duty to install the brakes on the trailer. The court explained that a common-law duty to install trailer brakes may arise from the specific facts of the case. Here, because the lower court failed to consider whether the facts of this case gave rise to such a duty, the case was remanded.

Maryland Trailer Laws

The law governing the use of tractor brakes in Maryland states that vehicles must have brakes on all wheels. However, exceptions apply to certain types of trailers. For example, trailers weighing less than 3,000 pounds do not need to have brakes if 1.) The total weight on and including the wheels of the trailer or trailers does not exceed 40 percent of the gross weight of the towing vehicle when connected to the trailer or trailers, and 2.) the brakes on the towing vehicle are adequate.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Truck Accident?

If you or someone you love has recently been injured in a Maryland truck accident, contact the dedicated injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers. At our firm, we represent injury victims across Maryland, as well as in Virginia and the District of Columbia. We have a reputation for being aggressive, diligent advocates who unceasingly pursue maximum compensation for our clients. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation today, call 800-654-1949. Calling is risk-free, and we will not bill you for any of the work we put into your case unless we can help you recover financial compensation for your injuries.

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