If the driver of a large commercial truck loses control of a big rig in highway traffic, it can quickly lead to an accident that causes personal injury and death. A tractor-trailer that outweighs other vehicles on the road is a hazard to everything nearby if it careers out of control due to mechanical failures such as failed brakes, loss of steering, or a failed trailer hitch. Everything happens so fast that it leaves us thinking about what should drivers do in case of a brake failure.
Nonfatal injuries suffered in a truck accident can be disabling. When full recovery is possible, it can take months or even years. Tragically, families sometimes lose loved ones to injuries suffered in large truck accidents long after the crash.
It takes courage to push forward with your life after suffering devastating injuries or the loss of a loved one in a truck accident. It takes courage to fight against aggressive trucking companies and insurers trying to deny legitimate claims for compensation to those who have been unjustly harmed. At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, our truck accident lawyers provide the Kentucky Courage you need to get through this difficult time and move forward with your life.
Call us now to meet with a Kentucky truck accident lawyer about a tractor-trailer or truck accident caused by mechanical failure that left you or a loved one seriously injured. The consultation is free.
Federal Regulations Guard Against Mechanical Failure in Large Trucks
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulates the trucking industry and enforces its regulations with fines and removal of unsafe trucks and drivers from the roads. Every trucking company, its officers, drivers, and employees directly concerned with driving, loading, inspecting, or maintaining commercial motor vehicles must comply with the agency’s rules.
Part 396 of FMCSA regulations outlines periodic inspection requirements and the reports required to document inspections. It says, “Every motor carrier … must systematically inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles and equipment subject to its control.”
Further, the FMCSA says that “A motor vehicle shall not be operated in such a condition as to likely cause an accident or a breakdown of the vehicle.”
In other words, trucking companies, their drivers, and other employees, as well as their parts providers, are responsible for maintaining their trucks and trailers in safe condition and for getting unsafe vehicles off of the road. When a truck accident occurs and mechanical failure is cited as the cause, the regulations serve as the basis for allowing those who have been injured to claim compensation for their losses.
Common Mechanical Causes of Truck Accidents
The FMCSA regularly publishes its “Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts” to identify the various safety violations and mechanical failures that lead to commercial truck accidents. The report lists several types of mechanical failures found in tractor-trailer crashes, such as:
- Brake failure
- Degraded braking capability
- Steering failure
- Tires/wheel failure
- Trailer attachment failure
- Suspension failure
- Body, door, hood failure
- Transmission/engine failure
The most frequently identified mechanical problem identified is brake failure or degraded braking capability. According to their Large Truck Causation Study, 29% of 141,000 trucks involved in crashes are accredited to brake failures.
Brakes slow and stop a vehicle by applying pressure to wheels. Large commercial trucks use an air-powered pressure system that allows the vehicle’s multiple braking units to be linked and controlled from the truck’s cab. However, the heat caused by the pressure of braking causes the materials in brake components to wear down. This is why regular inspections and maintenance of truck brakes are required.
How Our Attorneys Prove Brake Failure in a Truck Accident
We can identify signs of brake failure in large trucks often due to:
Inadequate brake maintenance
Sometimes a truck owner will cut corners to save money by conducting inspections less often or ignoring minor problems until later. Some companies hire poorly trained inspectors who simply overlook problems.
If some brakes on a truck are applied harder than others it creates an imbalance, which can cause the over-applied brakes to lock up. This may cause the truck to skid and/or jackknife. Brakes that are overused due to a brake imbalance can also overheat and fail. Mismatched components or issues that cause the pneumatic system to apply more air pressure to some brakes than others can cause brake imbalance.
Lack of front brakes
Some truck owners disconnect the brakes on the truck cab to save wear and money on brakes and tires. But this leaves only the trailer’s brakes to slow and stop the truck. Along with braking, some drivers downshift to lower gears to slow their rigs, which take much longer distances to stop than cars and pickup trucks. Less braking capability aided by downshifting is not an efficient or certain way to slow or stop a large truck.
A trucker who brakes improperly on downhill drives can cause the truck’s brakes to overheat and fail. A poorly trained driver or poor brake maintenance can contribute to the problem of brake overheating.
The weight of a truck adds to its momentum. The heavier the truck, the greater the distance required to stop the vehicle. An overloaded tractor-trailer will require excessive braking distances. Brakes on overloaded trailers may fail, especially if wet or icy roads, poor maintenance, or imbalanced brakes add to the vehicle’s hazardous braking conditions.
Who is Legally Responsible for a Truck Brake Failure Crash?
After a large truck crash, police will respond to assist the injured and make an initial determination as to why the accident occurred. Once the Kentucky State Police or a local law enforcement agency has determined how the crash happened, the responding officers will file a report of their findings and may make an arrest.
As commercial truck accident attorneys, we investigate to determine fault after a wreck that has caused injuries or fatalities. We use many resources to investigate tractor-trailer accidents, including police accident reports, accident reconstructions, trucking company maintenance records, driver employment records, and data from the truck’s “black box” recorder. The insights gathered from our investigations will tell us how to prove brake failure.
After a crash involving a commercial truck, parties who may be held legally liable include:
The truck driver
A trucker is required by federal regulations to inspect their truck at the start of every drive to ensure it is fit to be on the road.
Trucking companies are responsible for ensuring they comply with recommended regular maintenance and repair schedules, whether work is performed by employees or provided by service vendors.
Truck Maintenance / Repair Vendors
If the truck had recently been taken in for an inspection, maintenance, and/or repair and the work wasn’t performed properly or warning signs of brake failure were ignored, it can lead to an accident. When that is the case, a third-party repair shop can be sued.
If a mechanical component on a truck had a manufacturing or design defect that caused the accident, the manufacturer that made the truck or the defective truck component can be held liable.
In many truck accident cases, there are multiple defendants and potentially multiple insurance policies to pay compensation. A trucking company is ultimately responsible for its vehicle and its drivers, regardless of the most closely related cause of a crash. The trucking company will in many cases be the party that holds insurance coverage for the truck and the driver. An independent truck driver may have separate liability insurance. The owner of the trailer and the freight shipping company may have insurance.
Contact Our Kentucky Truck Accident Lawyers Today
To recover compensation after a truck accident, we need to collect evidence of negligence that will persuade the insurance company to settle your claim or convince a jury to award you compensation. In most cases, we need access to the crashed truck and to records the truck owner possesses. These types of evidence can be lost if there is a delay in investigating the accident. This makes it important to contact a lawyer with Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer as soon as possible after being injured in a truck accident in Kentucky.
Once you engage Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer as your attorneys, we can begin an investigation and issue a spoliation letter to potential defendants, which legally compels them to preserve potential evidence that we cite. From there, we can examine the truck and obtain a variety of records, including maintenance schedules and records.
If you experience brake failure while driving, it’s important to speak to a Kentucky truck accident lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that your interests are protected. If too much time goes by, the crashed truck and related records can be lost forever.
At Morgan, Collins, Yeast & Salyer, we are dedicated to recovering full and fair compensation for Kentucky truck accident victims. Please contact us today for your free consultation. We do not charge a fee to investigate your personal injury claim, and our truck accident law firm only gets paid when we have recovered money for you.