Towing over your limit, insurance, liability - Fiberglass RV


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Old 11-12-2008, 03:03 PM   #1
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Reading John’s Jeep post made think of a question. If in a wreck, while towing over the Tow vehicle rating, your car insurance will not cover you right? Even if it was not your fault and you were going the speed limit? I know every policy is different... but speaking in general terms of how you understand car insurance works.
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Old 11-12-2008, 05:13 PM   #2
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Ken,
I don't have any answer for your question; however, I also would like to hear of personal experience with this topic. It seems to me that every traffic accident involves a mistake by one or more driver. If an insurance will deny coverage because someone makes a mistake, they would never have to pay a single claim. If a driver is speeding, or drunk, or distracted, or not maintaining their car, etc.; does the insurance company not cover the damage from a wreck?

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Old 11-12-2008, 05:44 PM   #3
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I'm not an attorney, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express once!

Perceived liability and actual liability are two very different issues. Perceived liability is when you look at something and say "that's wrong... I'll bet they'd lose if somebody sued them." Actual situational liability concerns comes from legal decisions from law suits. Liability is also divided into criminal culpability (where negligence rises to the level of criminal conduct), and civil liability where someone is injured through the negligence or incompetence of another.

In the case you describe, where you are knowingly (or a reasonable and prudent person should have reasonably known) exceeding the stated design limitations of your equipment, and your equipment fails causing some injury either to persons or property it's likely that you are incurring both criminal and civil liability. That's a very different scenario from the person who is towing within the design limits of their equipment and who makes a left turn in front of someone else. There may yet be criminal and civil liability in that case, but it's derived from an action, not necessarily derived from gross negligence, and it's doubtful that there would be punitive damages assessed on top of actual damages.

Most insurance policies have clauses that allow for the company not to pay on claims if the damages were caused because of intentional actions on the part of the insured. If they can show that you knew or reasonably should have known that you were engaging in conduct that is, on it's face, illegal or negligent, then the liability lies entirely with you personally, and they'll likely not pay. That said, many companies would pay for the damages you caused to others, but would refuse to pay for damage you did to yourself. AND, they'd drop you like a hot rock.

There are ways, of course, to mitigate towing over the stated range of a specific vehicle; installing heavier suspension, heavier hitch, beefing up the frame if necessary, etc. etc. etc. but there are no guarantees that you won't be sued, and it will be incumbent on you to justify why you believe that the modifications you made were adequate for carrying the load you were trying to carry. All in all, it's just much easier to have enough tow vehicle for the load you've got.

In other words, mistakes happen and you're still liable for your actions, but it may not rise to the level of criminal neglect. Intentionally abusing your equipment to the point of failure, OTOH, could make you liable for punitive damages as well. At the very least, you'll be out huge amounts of attorneys' fees in trying to defend yourself.

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Old 11-12-2008, 06:12 PM   #4
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I would be curious to find out the actual legal logic behind the fact that European versions of many vehicles have a far superior tow limit compared to their American twin. I realize that standards, laws, warranties, lawyers, statistics, etc. are all different between the two continents, but the laws of physics are the same. I see many threads on other forums about people suggesting to others that they can safely tow beyond their tow limit based on the European numbers, and find this extremely mind-boggling both because I believe that unsafe towing is an irresponsible thing to do, but also because the definition of what is 'safe' seems to be an abstract concept. I wonder if the same could apply to car insurance, and if a claim was ever escalated high enough in the legal system to get manufacturers to defend the discrepancy in their tow limits.
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Old 11-12-2008, 07:41 PM   #5
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I realize that standards, laws, warranties, lawyers, statistics, etc. are all different between the two continents, but the laws of physics are the same.
I think you've hit it on the head. Euro trailers are built significantly differently than US spec trailers as well. I'm not sure there's any real rhyme or reason to the differences... just as rules of the road are different in different countries, I suspect that towing laws and standards just evolved differently in different places.

"Safe" really doesn't have a definition either; merely that there are standards and laws to be followed. You can safely tow any trailer with any tow vehicle equipped any way you want... right up until you crash. The towing guidelines established by manufacturers are what they rate the vehicles to be able to tow without mechanical failure. There's no guarantee that towing a weight under that weight is towing "safely". Safety consciousness lies solely with the driver.

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Old 11-13-2008, 06:20 AM   #6
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With respect to european towing limits, it could also have to do with warranty. That is, they might not cover the frame and driveline to the extent that we do in the U.S. That it to say, the european vehicle manufacturers might not care if you wreck the transmission towing since they don't warranty it.

Warranty implies both what is covered and how long it's covered, either or both of which could be different.

There also could be different stopping distance regulations. I'd have to check, but I believe we have braking standards we have to pass with a rated trailer attached.

On edit: I did a quick review of ECE brake standards and the max. allowable trailer does factor into their stopping distance specifications, although I didn't go through the effort of checking how U.S. and EU standards compare. Because the trailer does factor into brake system performance it at least allows for differences.

Logically, different trailer allowances doesn't equal equal performance. Just different "idiot proofing" tolerances.
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Old 11-13-2008, 07:14 AM   #7
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A long time ago i was in a fender bender, a car pulled in front of me. My car insurance said they would not cover it if I was going over the speed limit. The insurance made me wait a long time for the police report to arrive defore I could get my car fixed. It arrived and It said I was going the speed limit so I was then able to go to a body repair shop. Those are the lines I was thinking down. Wondering if the same type of process would apply to towing over weight limit, you are automatically negligent. Like in my case, going over the speed limit, automatically negligent.



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Old 11-13-2008, 08:13 AM   #8
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Reading John's Jeep post made think of a question. If in a wreck, while towing over the Tow vehicle rating, your car insurance will not cover you right? Even if it was not your fault and you were going the speed limit? I know every policy is different... but speaking in general terms of how you understand car insurance works.
I am not convinced that your above statement is entirely correct and just might be, perhaps, somewhat misleading. First of all, I am not convinced that I am, in fact, " towing over the Tow vehicle rating". I suspect that I certainly am approaching it, at least for American standards. I can say that my "new-to-me" 16' Casita SD pulls like a dream behind my short wheel-base jeep. It pulls and handles considerably better than a much lighter 5'X8', vee front, Wells Cargo covered utility trailer that I owned a short time ago, towed behind the very same jeep Wrangler, and finally sold. Now that was indeed a scary load to tow-a white-knuckled experience if there ever was one! And, it was one-half the weight and about 3 feet or so shorter than my 16' Casita. But this Casita tows like a dream, even while being longer and weighing twice as much as that Wells Cargo trailer. The difference between the two are like night and day, even though the Wells Cargo weighed one half the weight of the Casita. I was always acutely conscious that the Wells Cargo was right there behind me on the road when I pulled it, like an animal waiting for the right moment to pounce. But, I often forgot that the Casita was there. Why that is, or was, I have absolutely no idea. Perhaps it has something to do with balance and placement of the weight above the axle, or some other quantity which i cannot account for, yet probably must if an accurate comparison is to be made between the two. The brake factor does not account for the difference either as it only comes into play during braking. The Wells Cargo did not have electric brakes and everyntime I applied brakes for a stop I really needed to make sure I had the extra room to do it. The Casita, having electric brakes, just stops with the Jeep almost like it was not even there. And, that just might be the real danger in pulling the Casita-forgetting that it is there behind you.

I suspect that there are a variety of unknown quantities in just "pulling a trailer" and, when we attempt to strip it down to over-simplistic terms on a forum to fit a convenient generality, we just might occasionally fall short in accurately defining the variables in arriving at a (perhaps flawed) generalistic conclusion. I always felt unsafe towing that Wells Cargo trailer, even when it was completely unloaded, at just 800 pounds of my Jeep's 2000 Lb rated capacity.. Yet I never felt the same pulling the twice as heavy Casita.

As far as the insurance question you broached, I did indeed discuss this at length with my agent and it was never an issue.
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Old 11-13-2008, 08:27 AM   #9
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John, I believe you are towing closer to the limit on your Wrangler than you think.

I don't know how much 'stuff' or how many passengers you have when you are towing, but the Wranglers, post 2004, are limited to a maximum cargo weight of 850 pounds.

I have seen some Wranglers over loaded towing 17' FGRV with only two passengers (2 passengers at 225 each plus a hitch weignt of greater than 400 pounds).

I just thought you should know.
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Old 11-13-2008, 10:04 AM   #10
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John, I believe you are towing closer to the limit on your Wrangler than you think.

I don't know how much 'stuff' or how many passengers you have when you are towing, but the Wranglers, post 2004, are limited to a maximum cargo weight of 850 pounds.

I have seen some Wranglers over loaded towing 17' FGRV with only two passengers (2 passengers at 225 each plus a hitch weignt of greater than 400 pounds).

I just thought you should know.
I am by myself and really do not carry much 'stuff'. For years I have been somewhat of a long distance backpacker and have learned to get by with a very small amount of it since I had to carry it upon my back. Food is the heaviest item carried and it's weight ius reduced daily. So, it is my intent to carry that very same philosophy over into this new venture of "camping" in the Casita. (Now I do find it difficult to call that "camping", given all the nice conveniences of the Casita, as compared to living out of a backpack and sleeping under a tarp or in a hammock-or both) I weigh 195-200 pounds and intend to keep my 'stuff' well below 300 pounds, which appears, so far, to be quite easy to do. So, I likely will be adding just 300 more or less additional pounds to the unit and, from my experience with my recent trip of 550 miles pulling it, I do not believe that weight will grossly affect the trailering characteristics.
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Old 11-13-2008, 10:58 AM   #11
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To clarify and stay on topic, I am asking with the idea of my future towvehicle purchase and my future trailer purchase and packrat camping habits (lots of heavy stuff).

And... "A long time ago i was in a fender bender, a car pulled in front of me. My car insurance said they would not cover it if I was going over the speed limit. The insurance made me wait a long time for the police report to arrive defore I could get my car fixed. It arrived and It said I was going the speed limit. I was then able to go to a body repair shop. Those are the lines I was thinking down. Wondering if the same type of process would apply to towing over weight limit, you are automatically negligent. Like in my case, going over the speed limit, automatically negligent."

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Old 11-13-2008, 10:59 AM   #12
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I have yet to see a thread on any forum on insurance companies denying accident claims due to towing over the limits. Never seen a post where a trailer's remains were weighed by an insurance company. I'm not saying such posts and information doesn't exist, just haven't seen it myself.

That said, towing over the limits is not a good practice, although I did it with my Scamp and Element.
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Old 11-13-2008, 11:14 AM   #13
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My $24 question is "Why do it?" Why take the risk? If you are doing it to save a few bucks in gas, what is the cost of someone's life or property, yours included, if you wreck pulling with a vehicle not made to pull your trailer? There are plenty of vehicles rated to pull these little trailers. Buy an older one if money is the reason. a $3k car when the cost of gas is $4 a gallon will pay for itself in short order.

However, if you don't trailer alot, $3k is still less then a few parts on a lexus or mercedes!! And we won't put a price on life. Towing with a vehicle not meant to tow your trailer rises ethics questions. If you KNOW it should not be towing it, then DON'T!!
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Old 11-13-2008, 01:57 PM   #14
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I am a staunch proponent of towing safely.

However, on RV.NET they discourage posting about towing over limits and insurance/libability concerns unless someone can cite actual court cases and so far, no one has....

I DO know that many jurisdictions will weigh the car and trailer to determine overweight if there is an accident with serious injuries or death. What is done with this info is unknown to me (I don't have access to Lexis-Nexis).

I also know that in auto accidents there can be shared liabilities, such as you running a stop sign and colliding with a drunk driver -- The blame and penalties will likely be apportioned.

Also, EACH state has its own set of insurance laws and oversight, so a lot will depend on where your policy was written and where you had an accident.

The numbers may or may not be valid, but they are evidence and juries like evidence. A slick lawyer may be able to cloud the issue by raising Euro or Australian standards for what may be the same vehicle, but his opponent merely has to say "We are not in Europe".

Personally, the thing I would fear most is a fatality-related liability civil suit. Even if one's insurance was operative, the liability may be much more than that, esp if someone like a young surgeon was killed. So I don't take the risk.

BTW, a couple of thousand miles of no incidents is not enough experience; I had towed far more than 100,000 miles before I had my serious sway incident which fortunately did not result in an accident.
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