There are several reasons which add up to recognition that trailer hitches are a necessary evil for people who use their vehicle to trailer a boat or camper or other work related activities. But for the vast majority of people, especially in a “family” vehicle, hitches should be avoided! I’m taking our hitch off our car now that I understand the physics involved.
Let’s understand the anatomy of the trailer hitch. There are two basic sections: The “Receiver Hitch” and the “Ball Joint”.
The Receiver Hitch is permanently mounted on the vehicle (this we could call the female piece). The hitch is bolted onto the steel rails of the automobile or truck frame. This is the spine and structure of the vehicle. The frame is what essentially gives form to the body of the vehicle.
The Ball Joint is a separate piece that fits inside the Receiver Hitch (this is the male end). Some people keep the Ball Joint permanently attached to the Receiver Hitch. Most people don’t. It’s more common to see Receiver Hitches without Ball Joints.
Now let’s examine the physics of a rear end collision. Simple physics shows that there are two objects in a rear end collision. The vehicle sitting still (the front vehicle) who will be getting rear ended is called the “Target vehicle.” The vehicle doing the rear ending is called the “Bullet vehicle.” That’s pretty self-explanatory. What is interesting and completely unknown to the public is that the energy increases in velocity 250% (2.5x) when it transfers from the Bullet vehicle into the Target vehicle. So if a Bullet vehicle is going 10 mph and hits a Target vehicle the Target will jump forward at 25 mph!
The automobile industry has created bumpers that absorb the shock of auto accidents up to 10-15 mph without setting off airbags and by absorbing the impact to try and decrease passenger injury! It’s been 100 years of development. Bumpers are getting better and better. With airbags cars and trucks are safer than ever. However, the bumpers do not escape the impact unscathed. They are designed to crumple. To crush. To break. By doing so the energy is imparted from the Bullet vehicle into the Bumper technology. Why? Because energy never just goes away. It goes into something. That means it will go into breaking the car, the bumper or the stuff in the car (that means you). So the design of the bumpers is to redirect the energy transfer to the bumper, not to you!
Now here is another interesting fact: when a Receiver Hitch is on the car or truck there is no damage seen to the Target vehicle bumper in a 5 mph impact. But we know that a simple 5 mph impact imparts enough energy to throw the vehicle forward at a rate of 10-15 mph! That means the bumper didn’t do its job and absorb any energy.
Understanding the physics is important because anyone with half a brain can see that by attaching a Receiver Hitch you undermine the technology designed into the car or truck’s original bumper! By keeping a Ball Hitch attached you doubly undermine the bumper by extending the distance between the Bullet vehicle and the Target vehicle. You redirect the Bullet car’s energy from the bumper right to the passengers in the vehicle! The energy is going someplace and with a Hitch and/or a Ball that means it’s coming directly to you.
Every neurosurgeon will admit (even the lying con-artist doctors that work exclusively for the insurance industry) that the human neck is exceptionally susceptible to injury in forward snapping motions. The head is a heavy object. The neck, especially if not athletically trained like a wrestler, is usually not strong enough or prepared enough to ward off a surprise jolt to the body from the rear. When the human body goes from 0 mph to 12 mph (assuming the Bullet vehicle hits your car at 5 mph) the head snaps back, then snaps forward, then rectifies itself thereafter. That snapping motion can cause soft tissue muscular damage (whiplash). But worse, it can cause the neck to catch an intervertebral disc between two vertebrae and cut or tear a small bit of the outside of that disc (called an annular tear) which then leads to a herniated disc which then creates a lot of pain, nerve injury, and eventually needs a surgery! All legitimate science. All from a 5 mph impact. All without any perceivable damage to your (the Target vehicle) car!
What, pray-tell, happens next?
You seek medical care. The insurance company takes a lot of photos of the unharmed vehicles. When you claim an injury the Insurance Adjuster calls you a lying fraud. They look at your medical history. They give your medical file to one of their own medical examiners. That doctor will conclude your prior history caused your injury and it is impossible that the accident, which had zero property damage, caused any harm.
This is the most common case for an injury attorney. Most folks come to our office saying “I’m not the type to sue… But… This is different”. But the truth is you’re not different. You’re just the same. Another person hurt in an auto accident who will have an awful time convincing a jury why this could happen.
Before you hire an attorney for a rear-end collision case make sure he or she has a solid foundation in medicine and physics. Without a great understanding of the engineering principles and how physiological injury can occur you will have no ability to defend your case against the insurance company’s paid-for opinions.
Best of luck. Please call me with any questions. At LaBovick Law Group we are passionate about our clients’ cases. We have the technical skills, the medical staff, and the engineering knowledge to maximize the value of your case. Don’t settle for less. Get the maximum for your injury case.