Mechanical failure is a common cause of commercial truck accidents that cause extensive property damage and serious personal injuries. Many tractor-trailer accidents are due to brakes being out of adjustment or defective brakes. Brake failure was cited in about 30% of accidents involving commercial trucks, according to the U.S. DOT’s most recent report on the causes of large truck crashes.
Truck drivers and trucking companies are responsible for ensuring that the large trucks they put on the road are safe. Anyone injured in an accident with a commercial truck caused by truck brake failure may be entitled to compensation for medical bills and other losses.
The Indianapolis truck accident lawyers of Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC can help you determine whether you have a valid truck accident injury claim. Our attorneys can build a case for full recovery of compensation after a truck accident caused by brake failure. We have decades of experience representing victims of large truck crashes and their families. Indiana truck accident attorney David W. Craig has successfully handled numerous commercial vehicle accident cases for clients in Indianapolis, Batesville, Richmond, Fort Wayne and throughout Indiana.
Contact us for a free review of your case today.
What to Do When Injured in a Truck Accident Caused by Brake Failure
Truck accident claims are complex, and trucking companies move quickly to mitigate the potential of large payouts, regardless of the damage done.
You will need to present insurers with evidence that the truck’s mechanical failure was the cause of the accident and that you are prepared to demonstrate this to the satisfaction of a judge and jury.
To recover full compensation from the trucking company and its insurer and/or other responsible parties, you should review your legal options with an experienced truck accident attorney before signing anything or accepting any settlement offered by the insurance company representing the trucking company.
Common Causes of Brake Failure in Trucks
Functioning brakes stop a vehicle by using pressure. In front brakes, pressure is applied to brake calipers and brake pads. In rear brakes, pressure on brake drums and brake shoes stops wheels from rolling. Large commercial trucks use air brakes, because an air-powered pressure system allows the vehicle’s multiple braking units to be linked so that braking capability for all units can be controlled from the cab.
However, pressure on moving objects creates friction, which creates heat. Pressure and heat cause the affected materials to wear down.
Brake failure in a large commercial truck – a tractor-trailer, semi, tanker truck, etc. – is likely due to:
- Inadequate brake maintenance. Federal rules require trucking companies to systematically inspect, repair and maintain of all tractor trailers and motor vehicles subject to their control. Some companies try to save money by allowing more time between inspections, letting “minor” problems go or by hiring less experienced inspectors.
- Brake imbalance. When some brakes on a truck are applied harder than others it creates an imbalance, which may lead to some wheels locking up and causing the truck to skid and/or jackknife. A brake imbalance can also cause overheating among the over-used brakes, especially when braking while going downhill. That may lead to brake failure and a runaway truck. Brake imbalance may be due to the use of mismatched mechanical components or issues that cause the pneumatic system to apply more air pressure to some brakes than others.
- Brakes overheating on downhills. Improper braking technique on downhill drives can overheat the brakes and weaken them to the point that they can fail to limit the truck’s speed, causing an out-of-control truck to crash. A poorly trained driver or poor brake maintenance can contribute to the problem of overheating while braking on steep inclines.
- Not using the front brakes. Some owner-operator drivers save money on brake maintenance and tire wear by disconnecting the brakes on the tractor. But this means brakes on the trailer bear the full burden of slowing or stopping the truck. Downshifting to lower gears is another way to help the brakes slow the rig.
- Overloaded trailer. Large trucks require longer distances to stop than smaller vehicles because their weight adds to their momentum. An overloaded truck requires excessive braking distances that tax the brakes regardless of their condition. Brakes on overloaded trailers may fail, especially when the added weight is combined with other factors like wet or icy roads or poor maintenance.
How Our Attorneys Prove Brake Failure in A Truck Accident Claim
When Craig, Kelley & Faultless investigates a commercial truck accident, we collect and examine a variety of evidence, including:
- Police reports
- Your statement as well as any witness statements
- Photos of the crash scene
- Physical evidence at the crash scene, including skid marks
- Vehicle damage
- Truck maintenance records
- Security camera footage when available.
One of the most useful sources of evidence after a truck crash is the truck’s event data recorder (EDR). This “black box” recorder contains a variety of information automatically recorded just prior to the impact of a crash, including brake status, vehicle speed and diagnostic trouble codes, such as brake failure warnings. In modern tractors, advanced anti-lock brakes with stability control capability are also capable of recording electronic data.
Our investigators can test a large truck’s air brakes after a crash. Testing the operation of the valves, gauges, warning devices and pressure supply system can identify brake failures and deficiencies. A brake imbalance can be identified by inspecting the brake linings.
In most cases, the failure of a truck’s brakes is a deficiency rather than a total failure. In other words, there was some braking, just not enough to slow the truck in time to avoid a collision or rollover.
Our ability to examine the truck requires access to the crashed vehicle. Once we are engaged as your attorneys to pursue a truck accident claim, we move quickly to issue one or more spoliation letters that advise the recipients of a pending injury claim and the need to preserve potential evidence listed in the letter.
A spoliation letter to the trucking company that owns the truck would also ensure preservation of a variety of records, including maintenance records and schedules.
It is important to contact Craig Kelley & Faultless as soon as possible after being injured in an Indiana truck accident so our attorneys can launch an investigation and gather evidence before it is degraded, lost or destroyed.
Who is Legally Responsible for a Truck Brake Failure Crash?
One factor that makes truck accident claims different from accidents involving only passenger cars is that multiple parties linked to the truck may potentially be liable. The trucking company, or motor carrier, is responsible for its trucks, as is the truck driver. There are also potentially third-party vendors such as a cargo loading company who may have liability for a crash as well as the manufacturer of the brakes.
A truck accident case based on brake failure may result in multiple claims, which may seek compensation from the:
- Truck driver. A trucker has responsibility for the safety of a rig, regardless of ownership. A truck driver who was speeding, driving while fatigued, or driving while distracted, may have compounded the problem caused by the truck’s braking system.
- Trucking company. The motor carrier that puts commercial trucks on the road is legally responsible for the safe performance of its vehicles.
- Cargo handlers. If a third-party vendor responsible for loading cargo into a trailer overloaded the truck and the extra weight contributed to the vehicle’s inability to stop, the cargo handlers may be held liable.
- Truck mechanic. Truck maintenance may have been outsourced to a third party. A truck’s mechanic may be held liable if worn or imbalanced brakes or poorly performed maintenance work is found to have contributed to the crash as a result of the mechanic’s negligence.
- Brakes manufacturer. If brake system failure caused a truck accident and it can be shown that the system or a component of the system was faulty from the start, the brake manufacturer may be held accountable through a product liability lawsuit.
As you can see, a truck accident investigation is complicated. It’s important to work with an established Indiana law firm that has the resources to pursue an investigation where ever it leads. If our investigation finds negligence on the part of the truck driver, trucking company or other parties, you may be able to recover compensation. After building a solid case, our attorneys are successful in negotiating a settlement of most truck accident cases without going to trial.
However, you need to act quickly after an accident. The longer you wait to contact an attorney, the more difficult it can be to obtain evidence that helps us prove your case.
Contact Our Indiana Truck Accident Attorneys Today
If you have suffered serious injuries in a truck accident that may have been caused by brake failure, contact an Indianapolis truck accident lawyer at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC for a free case review. If you have a valid case, we can move promptly to secure evidence from the accident, identify the responsible parties and calculate the compensation you are due.
If you have been injured in a commercial truck accident in Indiana, contact Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC today. We aggressively pursue truck accident claims on a contingency fee basis. We only get paid a legal fee if we recover money for you. Contact us now by telephone or online for a free consultation about a truck accident in Indiana.