Mechanical failures often cause trucking accidents. These failures can be difficult to discern and often involve multiple aspects of the truck. When one part is poorly maintained, another part was likely not taken care of properly either. This is why it can be very important to involve an experienced semi truck accident lawyer when you have been injured or suffered property damage in an accident with a large truck.
There are two primary truck parts responsible for causing most truck accidents. Those are brakes and tires. The Department of Transportation (DoT) recently released findings of a study showing 29.4 percent of all tractor trailer accidents were due to brake failure. Besides overall failure of brakes, this important mechanism also caused accidents when out of adjustment or otherwise not properly performing.
Who is at fault when truck brakes are defective?
When truck brakes fail to function properly, any of the following may be to blame:
- Company that loaded the truck
- Brake manufacturer
- Other parties responsible for brake maintenance
When an accident occurs, the trucking, leasing and hauling companies often disagree about which of their organizations’ insurance must pay for the victim’s damages. They will try to point to specifics of the accident and relate those specifics to the responsibility of others. As an example of this, the trucking company may blame the wreck on defective brakes. The brake manufacturer will then blame the leasing company that is supposed to maintain the vehicle.
Each party may be responsible to a certain degree.
Manufacturer of the Brakes
There are strict government regulations for truck braking systems’ safety. The truck must be able to:
- Provide a standard braking force according to truck weight
- Come to a stop from 20 miles per hour as regulated for its size
- Meet requirements for automatic brake adjustment
Not meeting these standards makes the brake manufacturer possibly responsible for an accident. Claims may be made because the manufacturer improperly designed the brakes or the brakes had a defect from manufacturing.
Another reason why the manufacturer may be responsible is if the federal government determined their brakes were defective and issued a recall. Recalls substantiate claims that the brakes are dangerous. Such a situation would not just make the manufacturer of the brakes responsible for the wreck, but also the truck owner, if they knew of the recall and did not replace the defective parts.
Trucking Companies and Drivers
Negligence on the part of trucking companies or the truck driver can cause brakes to fail. Some forms of negligence include depowering the front brakes deliberately to make the truck rely only on trailer brakes or downshifting to slow the vehicle as a means of minimizing tire and brake wear and replacement expenses.
Other forms of negligence include failing to properly set or maintain the brakes. Federal regulations require that trucking companies comply with requirements for maintenance of mechanical service records and the trucks, themselves. Drivers must also perform daily pre-trip inspections, including:
- Checking brake shoe condition and functioning
- Looking for loose components of brakes
- Detecting any brake chamber air leaks
Trucking companies may also be to blame if the truck load is not evenly distributed, which can cause brakes to overheat and malfunction.
Who is at fault when truck tires lead to an accident?
Most drivers have encountered long strips of truck tire littering the highway. These are the result of semi-truck blowouts, usually caused by defective tires or failure to properly maintain tires.
Manufacturer of the Tires
Defective tires are the result of a tire manufacturer selling stock of tires that had flaws from the manufacturing process. In many instances, these defects cause recalls. The Department of Transportation maintains records of all recalled tires and is where the public can find lists of tires that have been found to be defective.
Trucking Companies and Drivers
Not maintaining tires properly is a big problem for trucking companies, just as failure to maintain brakes is also a problem. Large trucks often use air brakes, which can only take a certain amount of heat. When a truck driver comes to a full stop from a speed of 60 miles per hour, this raises the air brake drum temperature to about 600 degrees. This temperature is the limit for safe operation of the brakes. If settings of the brakes are improper or not maintained, these brakes can overheat and fail to function.
Other mistakes trucking companies often make that lead to accidents include:
- Allowing drivers to use tires without DoT-regulated tread depth
- Mismatching tires with different sizes or levels of wear
- Mixing radial tires with bias tires on the same axle
Not performing tire inspections before each trip as required can lead to accidents, as well. A tire failure may occur that the driver could have prevented through one of these daily inspections. Using improper tire pressure can also lead to tire deterioration and blowouts. Blowouts lead to loss of control over the truck. Indicators of this type of deterioration in tires include tread wear, sidewall damage and air leakage.
When a Truck Accident Occurs
When you have been in an accident involving a truck, getting help from an experienced Phoenix accident lawyer can help you gain the compensation you deserve for your injuries or property damage. Consider calling a truck accident attorney near you today.
Thanks to our friends and blog authors at Cantor Crane for their insight into truck accidents and personal injury practice.