There are many things that contribute to a truck accident, but one of the more common causes is malfunctioning brakes, which account for approximately 27 percent of truck crashes. The brakes on a commercial truck can fail for a number of reasons, however, which can make it difficult to know exactly who to sue for the damages and losses you suffer as a result of the accident. Here are two reasons brakes may malfunction and the person or entity that could be held liable for the crash.
One dangerous practice that takes place in the trucking industry is drivers will unhook or depower the front brakes on the vehicle, effectively preventing them from being used. To stop or slow down the truck, the driver relies on downshifting and/or the brakes on the trailer.
The purpose of doing this is to reduce the amount of wear and tear on the front brakes and extend their lifespan so the driver/company can save money on replacement costs. The problem is, without the front brakes, the truck typically has a harder time stopping and may not decelerate as quickly as it would have if the brakes were properly engaged. This increases the chance of a collision and possibly the amount of damage caused to other vehicles.
In this situation, the driver would be either fully or partially liable for the accident depending on the circumstances. The company he or she worked for could also be put on the hook for damages via vicarious liability laws that make employers responsible for the actions of their employees while workers are doing their jobs.
Although the easiest way to determine whether the brakes were depowered at the time of the accident is to ask the driver directly, the person is unlikely to answer truthfully—if at all—to avoid implicating him or herself. One way to obtain evidence of this issue is to get the accident report from the certified truck inspector. This person typically works for the state police and is tasked with inspecting all commercial trucks involved in accidents before they are removed from the scene. If the brakes were depowered, he or she will typically make note of that fact in the report.
Another thing you can do is request the data from the truck's black box. This machine records important information about the truck including whether or not the brakes were employed when the accident occurred. This can also help you show the front brakes were disengaged at the time of the collision.
It's important to note that you need to act quickly to get data from the black box. These recorders typically only hold information for about 30 days. Additionally, some companies will manually erase the data to avoid being held liable for the incident. You need to submit a court order requiring the company to turn the information over as soon as possible to prevent this from occurring.
Another reason why brakes malfunction is due to a manufacturer's defect or poor production quality. Brakes must meet a certain minimum standard set by the federal government. If the brakes don't meet the required qualify standard, the company who made them can be held liable for any accidents that occur as a result.
In this situation, you would have a product liability case against the manufacturer, and you would need to prove the brakes were either designed poorly or that a defect was introduced during the production process. Getting evidence of this will typically require having an expert inspect the brake design to determine if it was properly made.
You can also check the federal brake recall list to see if the government had already caught the defect and required the manufacturer to recall the defective parts. If this occurred, you may also have a case against the trucking company if the company knew the brakes were on the recall list but didn't replace them as required.
For more information about this issue or assistance with litigating a truck accident lawsuit, contact a personal injury attorney or check out a website like http://www.snyderwenner.com.