Equipment Malfunctions and Truck Accidents
Every year, there are hundreds of thousands of car accidents involving large commercial trucks. While fatigue and alcohol are contributing factors to accidents, other common causes of truck accidents involve equipment malfunctions. Brake failures and defective tires are most often the culprits in trucking accidents that result from mechanical failures. The problem that a truck accident lawyer often faces is an argument as to whether the company operating the truck or the product manufacturer is to blame. Each party must abide by federal laws that seek to maximize safety.
In an accident case, a trucking company often attempts to pass the blame to the component manufacturer, which can in turn blame the leasing company. If it can be proven that the brakes, for example, were designed improperly, or there was an error during manufacturing, then there could be a product liability case. A defective product liability claim is a lawsuit in which damages are awarded to someone who is injured or killed because of a defective product. According to strict federal regulations, brakes must provide a certain force, based on a percentage of what the truck weighs, and allow for a deceleration from 20 miles per hour to a full stop at a rate that has been previously determined for the size of the truck.
It can often be proved that the brakes do not meet these requirements. If so, a claim against the manufacturer is possible. Similar laws regulate tire performance. Federal recalls are enacted when it is known that a part is defective. If trucking companies do not replace the components, and an accident occurs, then a lawsuit can be made against the company. All truck companies are required by law to keep maintenance records, and drivers must check the brakes, tires, and load before every trip. If records show that these procedures were not carried out, then the company, by law, is responsible.
Tire malfunctions account for more than half of truck accidents caused by equipment failure, followed by the jump or pull start, air hose, wiring, and brakes. Signs of improper tire maintenance include use of those that don't meet the minimum tread depth requirements set by the Department of Transportation, mixed tire sizes, and the mix of bias and radial tires on one axle. Tire inspections and changes should be noted in the truck's maintenance log. An investigation into these records will help a truck accident lawyer determine who is at fault.
While the company is the one responsible for enforcing maintenance of brakes, tires, and other parts, the company that loaded the truck, an owner-operator responsible for maintaining brake performance, the manufacturer, and the driver can all be blamed if there is a malfunction. In complicated cases where one or more of these parties may be at fault, a truck accident lawyer can help make sure you receive the compensation you need and deserve if you've been injured or a loved one lost his or her life no matter whose negligence was the cause of the accident.
Trucking Info, "Trucking Statistics", http://www.truckinfo.net/trucking/stats.htm (accessed March 15, 2011).
NOLO, Trucking Accidents Caused by Brake and Tire Failure, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/trucking-accidents-brake-tire-failure-30239.html (accessed March 15, 2011).