Motorhomes, campers, and recreational vehicles (RVs) are popular for holiday travels and mobile living.
In New Jersey, anyone with a driver’s license can operate a motorhome since the state has no special licensing requirement for driving an RV (though a few federal restrictions exist). While this is good news for RV travelers and dwellers, it could also mean that some motorhomes in NJ are operated by drivers who are less capable of handling these special vehicles.
RV accidents result in tens of thousands of hospitalizations annually. Claiming compensation for such injuries can be challenging due to the unique factors in the RV crash.
In New Jersey, Grossman Law Firm personal injury attorneys have experience in motorhome and RV accidents. We help crash injury victims obtain the compensation they need to move forward with recovery.
Are RVs More Dangerous than Cars?
When comparing statistics, you might think that there are more accidents involving regular cars than motorhomes, but this is mostly because there are far more cars than motorhomes on the road.
Motorhomes and RVs, in and of themselves, have unique qualities that may make them more prone to accidents than regular cars. The size and build of RVs make for major differences when it comes to driving and accidents.
These taller vehicles have a higher center of gravity, which means their weight is placed higher above the ground. In general, they are more prone to tipping or rollover accidents.
A motorhome can lose its balance if it is overloaded, if cargo is not evenly distributed, or if cargo is not properly secured in the trailer. Improperly loaded cargo can cause “trailer sway” or the side-to-side movement of the trailer while traveling. This could quickly lead to the uncontrollable “whipping” movement of the vehicle.
Larger vehicles have more blind spots. A motorhome driver has to take extra precautions when turning, changing lanes, and backing up, because they may fail to see surrounding vehicles or pedestrians.
Likewise, RV drivers have to be smart when calculating their stops. Generally, the bigger the vehicle, the more time and distance it takes to brake. The driver also has to be familiar with the RV’s braking mechanisms, which can include electric trailer brakes and a breakaway brake system. At the hands of an inexperienced driver, a motorhome can be difficult to stop in time to prevent an accident.
These common RV risks can be circumvented with responsible motorhome preparations and driving. Unfortunately, not all RV owners and drivers are careful enough for the road. The inevitable result is serious injuries and sometimes fatalities from motorhome crashes.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries from an auto collision, consult with an attorney as soon as possible about compensation options.
Types and Classes of Motorhomes
The vehicles we call RVs or campers can be grouped into two main categories: towable and self-driving.
Towable rigs are those that are attached to a separate vehicle such as a truck. These rigs are essentially trailers you hitch onto a tow vehicle. Examples of popular brands are Airstream, Keystone, and Forest River.
Towables are further categorized into the following:
- Fifth-wheel trailer
- Toy hauler
- Travel trailer
- Pop-up camper
- Other trailer types.
Also called motorcoaches or motorized RVs, these have a built-in engine so you don’t need to hook them to another vehicle. Popular brands include Winnebago, Entegra, Coachmen, and Thor Motor Coach.
Motorcoaches are categorized into the following classes:
- Class A — These look like large buses, each stretching 26 to 45 feet long and weighing 13,000 to 30,000 pounds. Because they are spacious and usually fully equipped with living amenities, Class A motorhomes are considered luxury coaches. However, they have low fuel efficiency and may be restricted from certain roads due to their size and weight.
- Class B — A Class B motorhome is about 17 to 23 feet long and 4,000 to 9,000 pounds in weight. It’s commonly called a camper van, and it often looks just like a van outfitted with extra space and amenities. Campers have better mileage and can access more roads because they’re the smallest motorhome class.
- Class C — Considered the mid-size option, Class C motorhomes are about 20 to 30 feet long, weighing 20,000 to 30,000 pounds. They’re usually configured like a truck, with a front cab, a truck chassis, and a box living space in the back. Their most recognizable feature, however, is the over-cab space that can be used for sleeping or storage.
New Jersey Laws on RV Driving
While New Jersey doesn’t have special license requirements to drive a motorhome, our state does have a few highway rules for RV drivers to follow. These include:
- On state roads, the maximum RV width is 96 inches, the maximum length is 40 feet, and the maximum height is 13.5 feet. If the motorhome is the towed type, the maximum combined length is 62 feet.
- Trailers heavier than 3,000 pounds must have trailer brakes, a breakaway switch, safety chains, and safety glass.
- Riding in a travel trailer is prohibited.
- On the NJ Turnpike, a towed vehicle must have all four wheels on the ground (tow dollies or piggybacks are prohibited).
- On the Garden State Parkway: If a motorhome tows another vehicle, both vehicles must have a tow bar, safety chains, and emergency tail lights.
On top of these state laws, there are federal rules on motorhome size, accessible roads, and seatbelt use. It is the responsibility of RV drivers and owners to comply with both state and federal laws that apply to their vehicles.
Common Causes of RV Accidents in NJ
Here are some common causes of motorhome / RV accidents in New Jersey:
- Speeding. The faster a motorhome travels, the harder it is to stop. It also has a greater risk of “trailer sway” that could eventually lead to a rollover accident.
- Driver fatigue. As RVs are typically used for long road trips, it’s all too common to find tired or drowsy drivers at the wheel.
- Miscalculated stop. Larger vehicles like motorhomes require longer braking distances. Many inexperienced drivers miscalculate this, causing collisions. At other times, sudden brakes cause trailers to sway or “fishtail,” which often results in a rollover.
- Miscalculated turn. When attempting a turn, an RV driver has to take into account the momentum of the towed vehicle, the total length of the rig, and any blind spots where other vehicles or pedestrians could be hit. Many motorists who are used to regular cars find it challenging to corner a motorhome.
- Overloading. Vehicles have a prescribed weight limit to keep them controllable and maneuverable. To weigh a motorhome, a driver can use the scales found at most truck stops. Sadly, many still travel despite their excess weight.
- Uneven loading. The uneven weight of cargo can pull the vehicle in one direction, making it difficult to maintain balance. In addition, extra weight on certain tires could lead to a tire blowout.
- Blind spots. Motorhomes have more blind spots around them due to their size. They could end up hitting other vehicles or pedestrians when trying to back up or make a turn. It’s helpful for a coach or RV to have a backing-up camera system, but not all motorhomes are equipped with these.
- Improper hitch. For towable RVs, the towing hitch is crucial and must be thoroughly checked. Even a partially detached trailer can sway or completely jump off and become a runaway, posing danger to other motorists.
- Mechanical failure. As motorhomes cover long distances, they need regular checkups and maintenance to prevent automotive issues. A common issue is brake failure, particularly involving trailer brake systems.
- Wind gusts. Strong winds are riskier for RVs because these vehicles are taller and more prone to getting flipped. This is especially important to lightweight vehicles like campers.
What Happens if You Get Injured in a NJ Motorhome Accident?
Like regular passenger cars, motorhomes need to carry auto insurance. NJ’s minimum insurance requirements are:
- Personal injury protection: $15,000 per person per accident
- Property damage liability: $5,000 per accident.
New Jersey is a “no-fault” state, which means regardless of who was at fault in your crash, your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance should automatically cover your medical bills.
However, in many cases, standard insurance cannot cover all losses from the accident. Injuries may be too severe and costly, and there may be significant non-monetary losses such as pain and suffering. This is why many accident victims and their families consult a lawyer to see what other legal remedies are available.
A personal injury claim may compensate you for both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include hospital bills and lost wages, while non-economic damages are those like pain and suffering, emotional/mental distress, reduced quality of life, and loss of enjoyment of life.
If you lost a loved one in the accident, you may file a wrongful death claim. In this case, economic damages can include funeral and burial expenses. Non-economic damages may include loss of companionship and loss of household services.
It is always wise to consult a lawyer even if you are not thinking of legal action at the moment. A competent injury attorney should help you assess the full value of your claim and negotiate with insurers when necessary. Your attorney should also guide you on your legal options to obtain maximum compensation.
Consult with a Trusted New Jersey Motorhome Injury Lawyer
Top-rated in New Jersey, the Grossman Law Firm has been handling personal injury and wrongful death cases for over 20 years now. We are highly experienced in accident cases involving RVs, vans, trucks, and motorhomes, helping injured individuals and bereaved families get the legal relief they deserve.
Your first consultation with us is free, and you won’t have to pay us lawyer fees unless and until we obtain your compensation for you.
Talk to us about your motorhome accident. Contact us at (732) 625-9494 to schedule a free consultation.