Mechanical Failure and Truck Accidents

Mechanical Failure and Truck Accidents Jacoby & Meyers LLP

When you drive by large trucks on the road, the last thing you want to think about is mechanical failures. An 80,000-pound truck plus bad brakes? No, thank you! But year after year, accidents involving large trucks and mechanical failures continue to happen. In one year, of the 4,657 large trucks involved in fatal crashes, 5 percent had at least one mechanical issue. While that might not seem like a lot, that’s nearly 300 faulty and massive vehicles that should never have been on the road in the first place.

The scary thing about accidents involving faulty mechanics is that often there’s nothing either driver can do. When a truck fails, the driver has very few options to correct the vehicle and prevent an accident. As a passenger vehicle driver, sometimes you have mere seconds to respond. These factors only increase the severity of an already dangerous situation. If you need help after a large truck accident, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

The Most Common Mechanical Failures in Large Trucks

Any failure is bad. But some failures can have more dire consequences than others. However, every truck driver has a duty to thoroughly inspect their truck before each trip. Common issues include:

Bad Tires

Of the mechanical issues that contribute to accidents, tire issues were the number one complaint. Truck tires take quite a beating. According to HDS Truck Driving Institute, the average truck drives 45,000 miles per year. Long haul drivers can drive more than 100,000 miles per year.

Tires require regular maintenance and replacement. Worn tires can cause blowouts, which may cause the driver to lose control of the vehicle. Additionally, debris from the tire can cause secondary accidents. Tire blowouts aren’t always the result of poor maintenance. In some cases, a blowout may happen when the truck’s load is too heavy for the vehicle.

Faulty Brakes

There are few things scarier than a semi with bad brakes. Yet it happens. While a driver may correct for other mechanical issues, the number one concern with faulty brakes is high speed. The faster a truck is traveling upon impact, the greater the damage will be.

Unfortunately, a driver may not realize they have a brake issue until it is too late. In this case, they will likely call to have emergency services help them stop their vehicle. As a driver, if you see a semi approach you from behind at extremely high speeds, don’t dismiss it as a reckless driver. Move out of the path of the vehicle and report the incident to 911.

Broken Safety Devices

In the grand scheme of things, worn windshield wipers or a burnt-out headlight may seem like nothing. But these devices are just as important as other mechanical components of a truck. If a truck’s lights don’t function properly, they won’t have a clear view of the road. This makes it hard for the truck driver to see other drivers, and more difficult for other drivers to see the truck.

The same goes for windshield wipers. Worn windshield wipers are not as effective as those in good condition. In heavy rain, properly functioning windshield wipers can be the difference between whether a driver can see or not.

Damaged, Worn, or Non-Existent Tie-Downs

When you think of accidents with large trucks, you probably think of a collision with the actual truck. But what happens when a driver loses their load? Bad or damaged tie-downs or anchors can cause whatever a truck is hauling to come loose and fall into the path of traffic. Even small items can cause substantial damage as they leave the truck at a high speed. If a truck is carrying a large load such as heavy equipment or building materials, the results can be devastating.

Damaged or Missing Rear-Guards

The federal government requires rear guards on most large trucks. These guards prevent a passenger vehicle from sliding under a larger truck during a rear-end accident. Because large trucks ride so high off the ground, the space under the rear of the vehicle is often just the right height for the hood of a car to go under the truck. When a suitable rearguard is in place, the guard will stop the smaller vehicle and allow its crumple zones to take the brunt of the damage.

Why Do Mechanical Failure Accidents Happen?

Nobody wants mechanical failure accidents to happen. So why do they? There are a variety of factors that can lead to vehicle failure.

Common reasons for mechanical failure include:

  • Non-compliance with daily inspections: One of the best ways to catch mechanical issues is to do a daily inspection. The FMCSA requires all truck drivers to inspect all parts of their vehicles every day. But sometimes these inspections do not happen. A driver may forget an inspection, fail to complete the entire inspection, or “pencil whip” the inspection.
  • Past due annual inspections: All employers must complete annual inspections with a certified professional. But, once again, this doesn’t always happen. These inspections are an opportunity for the employer and federal regulators to correct any major issues. If an inspection doesn’t happen or if it happens too late, an accident can occur.
  • Bad maintenance: Sometimes the driver and employer do their job and it’s the maintenance technician who makes a mistake or cuts corners. In this case, the driver generally believes their truck is in working order when they get on the road.
  • Product defects: Thousands of recalls happen every year. Unfortunately, a large number of these include automotive parts. The scary thing is, often, these defects won’t show up in a typical inspection.

Who’s at Fault After an Accident?

When you go to file a personal injury lawsuit, one of the most important factors is fault. Insurance companies won’t pay until they know whether their policyholder is at fault. And if they can assign fault to someone else, that’s what they are going to do. The tricky thing about truck accidents is that there is often more than one party to blame.

Responsible parties may include:

  • The truck driver: While there are some cases where the truck driver will have no liability, these cases are rare. Truck drivers have a responsibility to control their vehicles, maintain their vehicles, and respond to other drivers. If they fail in any of these areas, the personal injury lawsuit will almost surely cite the driver as the primarily responsible party.
  • The driver’s employer: Remember how the employer is responsible for annual inspections? If the employer does not ensure these inspections happen and continues to let the driver get out on the road, they will have at least some responsibility in the case of an accident. Additionally, if the employer does not provide a safe driving environment, including hiring qualified drivers, complying with federal laws, and regularly screening their drivers, they may hold some liability.
  • The truck’s owner: Sometimes the driver, employer, and owner are three different people. They all have their responsibilities. If there is a mechanical issue and the owner is a third party, they will likely carry some responsibility for the accident.
  • A parts manufacturer: As we said, sometimes defects happen. When they do, and they are not readily visible, the trucker and the trucking company may hold no responsibility. In this case, 100 percent of the liability may lie with the parts manufacturer.
  • The government: These cases are rare. However, if poor road conditions, missings signs, or other safety devices were defective or not in place, you and the truck driver may have a claim against the government entity responsible for maintaining the stretch of road where the accident occurred.

How Do I Prove Fault After an Accident?

There are many ways to prove fault after a truck accident. While it may seem like fault is straightforward, it’s important to understand that insurance companies do not want to pay if they don’t have to. That means that even if they know their client is at fault, they are going to look for ways to lessen their financial responsibility. This is why you have to protect yourself. One of the best ways to do this is to talk to an attorney.

Additionally, some of the things you can do to help your case include:

  • Evidence: Evidence will be one of the biggest pieces of your personal injury case. One of the best ways to prove what happened is to take pictures. Were the driver’s running lights out? Take a picture. Did they slam on their brakes? Document the skid marks. Whatever you think might help your case, try to get it on camera.
  • Witness testimony: It’s not often that a truck accident happens and there is no one else around to see. In most cases, the accident is so shocking that one or several people will pull over to help. Be sure to get the names and contact information of any witnesses. They can help provide details if there are disagreements about what happened between the parties.
  • Employment/driver records: This is where it is really helpful to have an attorney on board. Employment records are not something the trucking company is going to want to give up easily. However, there is a lot you can learn from employment records. Did the driver have a history of substance abuse or bad driving? Did the trucking company do a background check or drug testing? How many hours did the driver drive that week? All of these factors can make a substantial difference in a personal injury case.
  • Accident reconstruction: In cases involving large trucks, it may be necessary to hire an accident reconstruction expert. This person can use photographs, repair reports, and calculations to create a better picture of what happened during the accident and help prove fault and financial liability.

While you might collect some of this evidence at the time of the accident, an attorney can take care of most of the work for you, especially if you’re too injured to do so. To get help with your truck accident case, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

Financial Compensation After a Large Truck Accident

Money won’t take away the pain after an accident, but it can help to know that you have a way to pay any current or recurring bills. After any accident, it’s not unusual for hospital bills to reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. For accidents that involve large trucks, these figures can easily reach six figures. At a time like this, security and comfort are important.

Common costs in a personal injury suit include:

  • Medical bills (including future bills);
  • Lost wages and/or future earnings;
  • Worker retraining;
  • Structural modifications (including wheelchair ramps, stair limps, and other adaptive devices);
  • Pain and suffering;
  • Loss of enjoyment of life;
  • Loss of companionship; and/or
  • Wrongful death.

Each case is different and it’s impossible to determine how much a case is worth without considering all of the available evidence. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand your rights and guide you in the right direction for your case.

Protect Yourself

Accidents are scary. It’s normal to experience a range of emotions, from hurt, to anger, to fear, to relief. It’s important to process your feelings and take care of yourself. A personal injury lawsuit can help you make sure you get the right care for your physical, mental, and emotional needs.

If you were in an accident involving a large truck, you have rights. In some cases, this may include rights against multiple parties. This is not the type of case you want to try to handle on your own. A personal injury attorney can take care of all of the logistical issues so the only thing you have to worry about is your health and well being. If you need help after a recent truck accident, a personal injury attorney can help. To learn more about what you need to do to protect your legal rights, contact an experienced truck accident attorney.

Personal Injury Law