When a fully loaded, 40-ton tractor-trailer traveling at 55-75 miles per hour on the interstate needs to slow down or stop, the safety of everyone traveling nearby depends on that truck’s brake system. If the brake system fails, a rear-end, rollover, or jackknife accident could result, doing massive damage to other vehicles and catastrophically injuring or killing their occupants. Cars that manage to avoid contact with the crashing 18-wheeler might still end up in wrecks caused by cargo falling off the truck and onto the highway. For these reasons, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires the brakes on every commercial truck to be correctly adjusted, regularly inspected, and functioning properly at all times.
Brake Safety Requirements
Brake manufacturers are held to very high safety standards in terms of their products’ braking force, deceleration rate, and stopping distance. Nonetheless, truck brakes do sometimes fail, generally for one of three reasons:
Problems with the design of brakes, substandard materials, mechanical glitches in the assembly process, or human error could result in defective brakes being put on a truck.
Truck brakes should be installed and adjusted by a qualified commercial truck mechanic. When truck owners or drivers install their own brakes, perhaps because they can’t afford a truck mechanic, brake system failure can result.
Lack of proper maintenance
Truck brakes are extremely complicated devices with many moving parts. Truck owners and trucking companies are required by law to have their brakes maintained by a qualified truck mechanic. There must be records of all maintenance and regular brake inspections. Lack of proper brake maintenance can lead to worn-out brake components, misalignment, oil contamination, faulty calipers, improper brake adjustment, overheating, incorrect amount of air pressure, and brake line leaks.
Any of these problems can increase the truck’s stopping distance and cause a rear-end crash. If brakes are worn unevenly, rollovers and jackknife wrecks can occur because the stopping distance and deceleration rate are different on one side of the truck than they are on the other.
Truck Failure Accident Injuries and Insurance Claims
The occupants of a smaller vehicle hit by a truck due to brake failure include broken or crushed bones, lacerations, scarring, whiplash, burns, spinal cord damage, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and amputations. Fatalities are also more common in accidents between semi-trucks and smaller passenger cars than they are in other kinds of crashes.
If you’re injured in such an accident in Florence, you’re entitled to file a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company for your medical bills, property damage, lost income, and pain and suffering. The filing process in a truck-car crash, however, is generally more complicated than it is in a car-car accident because more than one party may be liable for your damages:
Drivers are required not only to operate safely, obey traffic laws, be unimpaired by substances, drive a limited number of hours without rest, and be undistracted; they should also be trained to inspect their trucks before every trip to make sure all systems, including brakes, are operating properly. Failure to do so is negligence.
The trucking company is indirectly responsible for any negligence or liability on the part of a truck driver in the process of performing job duties. If the company has failed to train its drivers to inspect their trucks for safe operation, that failure is considered negligence and makes the company responsible for resulting damages.
Truck owner or leasing agency
If the driver or company leases the truck from an agency, that agency is responsible for leasing trucks in safe operating condition.
Mechanic or repair service
A mechanic who installs brakes incorrectly or fails to maintain them properly is potentially liable for damages in any crash that results from negligence.
Brake or replacement parts manufacturer
If the brakes can be proven defective, the manufacturer bears at least a portion of responsibility for your accident and damages.
Each of these defendants might bear a different percentage of fault from the others and have a different insurer. This is just one reason it’s a good idea to consult an experienced truck accident lawyer if you’re the victim of a truck brake failure accident. Your lawyer can pursue the complex claims process on your behalf while you focus on your recovery.
What to Do If Your Claim Is Denied
Because truck crash claims generally involve serious injuries, high medical bills, and significant lost income due to long recovery periods, they are the most likely to be denied by truck insurance companies. The insurer’s top priority is to save money for the company’s shareholders. It does so by disputing and denying expensive claims and offering quick low settlements to keep the company profitable. You should not accept or even consider the company’s first offer without consulting a truck accident attorney.
The insurance company can have a team of lawyers who will look for reasons to deny claims or offer unfairly low awards. If you don’t have an attorney to represent you, the insurer may not take you seriously because you’re not likely to file a suit and go up against the company on your own in court. If, however, you have an attorney on your side, the defendant’s attitude is likely to change because there is now a threat of a lawsuit and an expensive court case the insurer would prefer to avoid. It is thus more likely to negotiate with you in good faith if you have legal counsel. Your attorney can help you to fight for fair compensation in many ways:
- Investigating your wreck thoroughly, perhaps with the help of an accident reconstructionist, to determine each defendant’s percentage of fault
- Filing the proper claims against the proper defendants’ insurers
- Obtaining important evidence in the trucking company’s possession before that evidence is “lost” or destroyed: data from the truck’s black-box recorder and dashboard camera, records of the truck’s brake inspections, cell phone records to determine if the driver was distracted at the time of the crash, results of the driver’s blood-alcohol content tests, the driver’s traffic record, the company’s safety record, and its history of compliance with maintenance regulations
- Demanding reasonable compensation from the respective insurers and negotiating for a fair award
- Filing multiple lawsuits if necessary and fighting for you in court.
If you’ve lost a loved one in a truck brake failure accident, your attorney can also help you to file a wrongful death claim.
Have You Been Injured In A South Carolina Area Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one was injured in a commercial truck accident in South Carolina, you should speak with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Charleston, South Carolina office directly at 843.488.2359 to schedule your consultation. We are also able to meet clients at our Conway, Myrtle Beach, Murrells Inlet, Mt. Pleasant, North Myrtle Beach or North Charleston office locations.