Large commercial trucks are constantly on the road, wearing down tires and brakes and requiring comprehensive ongoing maintenance. However, their obligation to save time and make profits can sometimes tempt some truck drivers and trucking companies to disregard the rules and skip over some of the inspection procedures. That disregard can lead to serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths.
Usually, when a large truck crashes into an automobile, it’s those in the auto who suffer the most severe injuries. Truck collisions caused by poor truck maintenance can be prevented. By law, vehicle safety inspections must be performed on all large commercial trucks before the drivers begin their work. When truck drivers and owners disregard the law and neglect proper maintenance, they are negligent, and that negligence places you and your family at risk.
Although driver fatigue is the number one cause of trucking accidents, these accidents are also often caused by mechanical failures – mostly brake failures and defective tires. The U.S. Department of Transportation recently reported that more than a quarter of all large truck crashes – 29.4 percent – involved brake failures, brakes out of adjustment, or other brake-related issues. If you are injured in a collision with a truck in the state of Texas because the truck had not been adequately maintained, you may be able to obtain compensation for your medical treatment and related expenses, but you’ll need the help of a good Texas personal injury attorney.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE WHEN A TRUCK’S BRAKES MALFUNCTION?
When brakes malfunction, liability may be assigned to one or more of these parties: the driver, the company that loaded the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the brakes (usually the owner), and the manufacturer of the brakes. After an accident, the trucking, hauling, and leasing companies frequently dispute among themselves over whose insurance should reimburse the victim. The trucking company might claim that brakes were manufactured defectively. The brake manufacturer might then point to the leasing company, claiming that it failed to maintain the brakes properly.
The federal government enforces strict regulations on the safety of truck braking systems. A truck must be able to develop a certain “braking force” (based on a percentage of the truck’s weight), decelerate to a stop from 20 miles per hour at a rate specific to its size, and meet the automatic brake adjustment system regulations. If a truck’s brakes are not up to these federal standards, and you’re injured in a collision with that truck, you may have a claim against the brake manufacturer – a product liability claim based on either a faulty brake design or a defect in the manufacturing process.
When the federal government finds that certain types of brakes or brake parts are defective, it requires the manufacturer to recall the defective brakes or parts. A brake recall is powerful evidence in a product liability case. You may have a claim against the truck’s owner if the manufacturer notified the owner of the defect and the owner failed to act. An experienced Texas product liability attorney can help you determine if a particular braking system has been recalled.
In a product liability case, the manufacturer of the defective product that caused your injury is usually responsible to pay for your ongoing and future medical treatment, current and future lost wages and earning capacity, and all other injury-related expenses. However – as you may know – a manufacturer will only compensate a victim when the victim compels the payment by filing and pursuing a product liability claim with an attorney’s help.
Sometimes, however, there is no defect in a truck’s brakes, and it’s the actions of a truck’s driver or owner that cause the brakes to fail. Some truck owners and drivers deliberately unhook or “depower” a truck’s front brakes, depending exclusively on the brakes of the trailer and the downshifting process to slow or stop the truck, in order to reduce tire and brake wear and replacement expenses.
Federal rules set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation require commercial trucking businesses to keep maintenance records showing that truck maintenance has been completed according to a standardized schedule. Additionally, each driver is required by law to conduct a daily inspection and complete a report about the condition of the tractor and trailer equipment. These inspections include:
checking for loose brake components
listening for air leaks in the brake chamber
making sure that brake shoes function properly and have no missing or broken parts
The Department of Transportation has also spelled out exacting rules for the safe loading and securing of a truck’s cargo. The law says, “Cargo must be firmly immobilized or secured on or within a vehicle.” If the truck’s load is not distributed evenly, the brakes are likely to overheat and malfunction. When a truck driver makes a turn, trucks with improperly secured cargo can become unstable and even roll over.
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE WHEN A TRUCK’S TIRES MALFUNCTION?
We have all seen the long, heavy strips of tire pieces littering the roadway after a truck has a tire blowout. When a truck tire fails, an injury or a fatality is a predictable consequence. The most common causes of truck tire failure are manufacturing defects and the failure to properly maintain tires. Even when defective truck tires are recalled, there’s no guarantee that a tire retailer or a truck owner will heed the recall warning. There’s also no guarantee that a truck’s tires have been maintained properly or even that tread and air pressure are checked routinely. Other far-too-frequent tire-related maintenance mistakes made by trucking companies include:
using tires that do not meet the minimum DOT tread depth requirement
mounting mismatched tire sizes or pairing tires with substantially different wear
mixing radial and bias tires on the same axle
The trucking companies that do not maintain the braking systems on their trucks tend to be the same companies that fail to inspect tires. This kind of negligence can lead to multiple mechanical problems – an accident waiting to happen. The network of players in the trucking industry can be quite complicated, and getting the information you need after being injured isn’t always easy. If you’re injured in a trucking accident, an experienced Texas personal injury attorney can help you determine the cause and help you determine precisely who is liable.
As a personal injury attorney, I understand that an insurance company does not like to pay claims especially in a truck accident or a trucking injury case. In some cases, the insurance company will deny your claim entirely. Now, let’s talk about the problem. According to Newsweek, the United States was on track in 2015 to have its deadliest traffic year since 2007. But National Safety Council says that nearly 19,000 people are killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents between January and June, that’s a 14% increase from last year.
The number of injuries and costs associated with traffic accidents also rose significantly. According to estimates from the National Safety Council, nearly 2.3 million serious injuries, which the National Safety Council defines as those requiring consultation with a doctor, were sustained during the six month period, that’s up 30% when compared to the first half of 2014. In a similar upward trend, the amount of medical expenses, wage, and productivity losses and property damage increased 24% to roughly 152 billion.
According to Howard Abramson, who was an executive at American Trucking Associations, as of one year ago more people were killed in traffic accidents involving large trucks in one year than have died in all of the domestic commercial airline crashes over the past 45 years. Now, large trucks are disproportionately involved in fatal accidents while heavy trucks accounted for less than 10% of total miles traveled to the United States during 2013. According to federal data, the NTSP recently reported that they were involved in one in eight of all fatal accidents, and about one quarter of all fatal accidents in work zones like the crash that injured the famous comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his friend Jimmy Mack.
Now, the question some may had is why were there a number of leading causes. Driver fatigue is the number one cause of trucking accidents. These accidents are also often caused by mechanical failures, mostly brake failures and defective tires. The US Department of Transportation recently reported that more than a quarter of all large truck crashes 29.4% involved brake failures, brake breaks out of adjustment or other brake related issues.
Large commercial trucks are constantly on the road wearing down tires and brakes and requiring comprehensive ongoing maintenance. However, their obligation to save time and make profits can sometimes tend some truck drivers and trucking companies to disregard the rules and skip over some inspection procedures. That disregard can lead to serious personal injuries and wrongful deaths. Now in many cases, liability may be assigned to one or more negligent parties, the driver, the company that loaded the truck, the party responsible for maintaining the truck and the manufacturer of the truck. After an accident, the trucking, hauling and leasing companies frequently argue about whose insurance should reimburse the victim.
For example, in a case involving truck brake failures, the trucking company might claim that the brakes were manufactured defectively. The brake manufacturer might then point to the leasing company claiming that it failed to maintain the brakes properly. Now, the federal government enforces strict regulations on the safety of trucks and trucking companies and are held to certain standards to keep their trucks and drivers safe. For example, if a truck’s brakes are not up to those federal standards, and you’re injured in a collision with that truck, you may have a claim against the brake manufacturer.
Sometimes, however, there is no defect in the truck’s brakes and it’s the actions of the truck driver or the owner that caused crash, or in other times there may be a tire blow out. Now, we have all seen the long heavy strips of tire pieces littering the roadway after a truck has a tire blow out. When a truck tire fails, an injury or a fatality is a predictable consequence. The most common cause of truck tire failures are manufacturing defects. Even when the defective truck tires are recalled, there is no guarantee that a tire retailer or a truck owner will heed the recall warning. There’s also no guarantee that a truck’s tires have been maintained properly or even treaded or have their air pressure checked routinely. Other fault too frequent tire related maintenance mistakes happen all too often.
For example, using tires that do not meet the minimum department of transportation requirements, mounting mismatched tires, or mixing different kinds of tires like radial and bias tires. The trucking companies that do not maintain the braking systems on their trucks can lead to multiple technical problems, an accident waiting to happen. The network of players in the trucking industry can be quite complicated, and getting the information you need after being injured isn’t always easy.
Now to conclude, it’s important to know that if you are injured in a collision with the truck in the State of Texas, because of the truck driver or truck company negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation for your medical treatment and related expenses. But you’ll need the help of a good experienced Texas personal injury attorney. If you’re injured in a trucking accident, an experienced Texas personal injury attorney can help you determine the cause and help you determine who is responsible.
In addition, an experienced personal injury lawyer can determine what is a fair demand for a settlement or a jury part. For example, how do you determine the fair amount of money for a broken bone like a broken arm or a broken back, a neck injury, a loss of limb or a brain injury? An experienced personal injury attorney or lawyer can help and often times the first meeting or initial consultation is free. Finally, perhaps the most important thing to remember is to get help as soon as possible.
By Chris Brasure
Brasure Law Firm, PLLC was founded by Chris Brasure in 2006. His legal accomplishments are diverse and numerous. He is a fellow with the Texas Bar Foundation, was a delegate in the American Bar Association House of Delegates and holds a BA in political science and speech communication from Baylor University. He then went on to obtain his law degree from Baylor University Law School. Chris believes that education is absolutely critical to one’s success, so his firm now offers The Brasure Law Firm Scholarship to give back to the community and to help students who are seeking to pursue a higher education.