Given its size and weight, certain risks are inherent to operating a large truck. Improper or poor maintenance of such vehicles compounds the dangers. Considering these facts, one would assume a company renting moving trucks-in many cases to people inexperienced in operating them-would take precautions to ensure the safety of its customers. Unfortunately, this has not been the case for one widely known company: U-Haul.
“Accidents involving the company’s fleet and the litigation following them does not suggest it has prioritized the safety of its customers,” explained California truck accident lawyer James Ballidis.
Over the years, U-Haul’s failure to maintain its fleet properly and its rentals of dangerous equipment to customers have resulted in the company facing significant legal liability for injuries that occurred as a result of its negligence. Lawsuits against U-Haul have occurred across the country by victims who have been injured as a result of U-Haul rentals.
In September of 2007, for example, the Los Angeles Times reported on an accident that occurred when a U-Haul customer returned his rented truck to a San Francisco area to exchange it for another. The customer was returning the truck shortly after picking it up because the parking brake was malfunctioning. The customer, Demetrio Nagtalon, pulled into the check-in area and reported the problem to an employee who used pliers to tug on the brake cable as the vehicle was running and the truck was on an incline. When the truck began rolling down, Nagtalon tried to help but was unfortunately pinned between the truck and a pillar and suffered severe injuries that led to his death four days later. In the resulting U-Haul lawsuit, the company was sued for negligence for failing to turn off the truck or make repairs in a safe location.
Also in 2007, KIRO TV reports that a jury awarded a Seattle woman more than $15 million in damages after a piece of furniture flew off of a U-Haul trailer, went through her car windshield and nearly caused her death. The furniture was being towed in a U-Haul trailer that was unsafe as designed and provided inadequate warnings.
In 2008, Inside Edition reported on a death caused when a U-Haul trailer began to sway violently on a straight Texas Highway, resulting in both the trailer and the SUV that was towing it flipping over. Mark Letzer, who was in the SUV at the time, was thrown from the car and killed. The Letzers filed a lawsuit claiming faulty brakes and U-Haul settled without admitting wrongdoing.
In the Letzer case, U-Haul alleged that the driver was speeding and that the vehicle was not properly loaded because the weight was not placed 60 percent in the front. In response, Inside Edition conducted an investigation to determine whether U-Haul was informing customers about proper distribution of the load and found that they were provided with the safety booklet and information only one out of 14 times.
The vast number of U-Haul lawsuits indicates that the company is failing to live up to the duty of care owed to renters of their vehicles. Those who rent a U-Haul truck may have a cause of action based on a number of different negligent behaviors, including failure to warn customers of potential dangers of U-Haul trucks, as well as negligent maintenance of vehicles. Consumers throughout California and the United States should be cautious in renting U-Haul trucks and should ensure they take all necessary steps to secure their own safety with this potentially dangerous fleet of vehicles.
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