Although the majority of tractor-trailer accidents happen due to driver error, mechanical failure is often a factor in crashes involving big rigs. Mechanical failure can be caused by faulty parts, inadequate maintenance, improper repair, and other issues. Our tractor-trailer accident lawyers at Moore Law Firm have years of experience in handling and successfully recovering compensation in these types of cases.
Types Of Mechanical Failure That Can Cause Accidents
Big rigs and other commercial vehicles need more distance and time to stop than passenger vehicles. They’re also much larger and heavier, which puts lots of wear and tear on brake systems. Tractor-trailer brakes require regular maintenance to stay in safe working condition. Truck drivers must be properly trained to drive in a manner that helps them avoid brake failure, especially when driving through steep or sloped terrain.
Brake failure often happens due to:
- Worn brake pads and discs
- Defective or damaged brake lines
- Leaking or inadequate amounts of brake fluid
- Anti-lock brake system (ABS) malfunction
- Insufficient or improper inspection of brakes
These causes of brake failure can usually be avoided with proper inspection, maintenance, and repair. If brake failure was the cause of a tractor-trailer accident the trucking company, maintenance company, and driver may all be liable for any damages or fatalities that resulted from the crash. Our tractor-trailer accident attorneys are familiar with FMSCA regulations regarding the repair and maintenance of big trucks. Our team extensively investigates these types of cases to uncover exactly how and why brake failure occurred.
Improperly or overloaded cargo is a major cause of transmission failure in tractor-trailers. The maximum gross weight of a loaded tractor-trailer is 80,000 lbs. When a truck exceeds this weight limit, transmission systems can fail and cause catastrophic accidents and injuries. Routine inspection and maintenance of transmission systems are also critical. However, even if a transmission is in good working order, excessive cargo can cause it to fail. When a transmission goes out, a driver may lose control of their truck, which puts everyone on the road in danger.
Tire Defects Or Blowouts
It’s essential for the tires on tractor-trailers and other large trucks to be properly inflated, treaded, and maintained. Proper tire care should include: regular rotation of tires, frequent measuring of the tire tread, replacement of wearing or aging tires, continuous monitoring of tire pressure, and staying abreast of the latest tire recalls.
Extreme temperature changes, road salt, inclement weather, and rough terrain take a serious toll on tires. When the tread in truck tires starts thinning, losing control becomes much more common when driving in these conditions. Tires that are over- or under-inflated and those with punctures that have been patched pose a much greater risk of a blowout, which can have disastrous consequences on the road. Truck tires are costly. Independent drivers and trucking companies often let tires go beyond a safe level of wear to save money, but the ultimate cost of driving on dangerous tires simply isn’t worth the risk.
Failure Of Steering And Suspension Systems
When a truck’s steering fails, there’s no way for a driver to avoid losing control. Proper inspection, adjustment, and periodic lubrication of the drive axles and steering axles are critical to keeping them in good working order. When a truck isn’t properly inspected or maintained, problems with the steering mechanism, steering column, wheel, and suspension often go unnoticed until it’s too late. Improper loading or overweight cargo and poor driving technique are also common causes of steering or suspension failure.
Broken Or Burned-Out Lights
While a broken headlight or taillight may seem like no big deal for regular passenger vehicles, burned-out or malfunctioning lights on tractor-trailers can have grave consequences. Properly functioning headlights, tail lights, brake lights, sidelights, and turn signals help drivers stay visible to other vehicles and assist them in seeing the road more clearly at night. During the day, working brake lights and turn signals are important to ensure other motorists on the road can anticipate turns or quick stops.
Malfunctioning Windshield Wipers
Bad weather coupled with worn or malfunctioning windshield wipers can be a lethal combination. Driving in heavy rain or snow is difficult and hazardous enough, but when a truck’s windshield wipers don’t work properly, it can be fatal. Ideally, drivers should stop and pull over when the weather makes it dangerous to be on the road, but truckers often continue in poor weather conditions to meet tight deadlines. Malfunctioning windshield wipers can make it impossible for a truck driver to see where they’re going, which can result in serious rear-end collisions and over-ride accidents.
Rear Guard Failure
Under-ride accidents happen when a smaller vehicle crashes into a large truck and runs under its rear tailgate. These types of tractor-trailer collisions usually lead to catastrophic injuries like amputation and paralysis for the occupants of the smaller vehicle. In an effort to avoid under-ride accidents, a trucking company or independent driver may install a rearguard, which is a metal bar below the tailgate that’s designed to keep smaller vehicles from sliding under the truck. However, rear guards can also cause serious injury or death when improperly installed. If a guard is positioned at the wrong height, it can cause devastating injuries and fatalities.
Hitch Or Trailer Failure
Also known as coupling failure, a broken, defective, or improperly attached hitch can cause a commercial truck’s trailer to become loose or separate from the cab completely. When this happens while traveling at high speeds on the highway, jackknife accidents, rollovers, and runaway collisions can cause devastating multi-car pileups.
Who Is Liable For Accidents Due To Mechanical Failure?
Determining liability in crashes caused by mechanical failure is a complex process that requires the knowledge of experienced tractor-trailer accident attorneys. Multiple parties may be found negligent and held liable in these types of crashes, including:
Truck driver — Commercial truck drivers have a duty of care to inspect their trucks and look for mechanical issues before they hit the road. If a driver fails to have their vehicle inspected or repaired regularly or continues driving a truck with a known mechanical issue, they may be liable for any injuries or damages caused in an accident.
Trucking company — Unfortunately, trucking companies often skimp on proper repairs and safety inspections and neglect to perform regular maintenance. The FMSCA has strict regulations that pertain to inspections and repairs, and breaking these rules is against the law. When a trucking company fails to adhere to these rules, they put everyone on the road at risk, including their employees.
Vehicle manufacturer — If a truck manufacturer sells a dangerous or defective vehicle, or fails to properly inform users of potential hazards and proper use, they may be liable for damages in an accident that involves mechanical failure.
Parts or tire manufacturer—Companies that produce truck parts, components, accessories, or tires can be held responsible if a defect results in a mechanical failure accident.
How We Can Help
Our team at Moore Law Firm understands the multifaceted aspects of investigating and winning tractor-trailer accident claims involving mechanical failure. If a driver, trucking company, parts manufacturer or other party is responsible for your injuries, we can help you pursue all sources to recover maximum compensation for your loss of income, medical expenses, mental anguish, and other damages.
Contact Our Tractor-trailer Accident Attorneys To Learn More
If you’ve been hurt in an accident involving a tractor-trailer and you believe mechanical failure was to blame, call Moore Law Firm at 251-445-7602 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.