The owners and operators of large commercial trucks are required by law to ensure that their vehicles are safe to operate on U.S. highways. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) may levy fines if trucks are not systematically inspected, maintained, and repaired, and can order unsafe trucks and unsafe drivers off the road.
When a commercial truck accident occurs because its brakes failed, the truck owner, truck driver, and others may be held legally accountable to anyone injured in the crash. Texas personal injury law says that accident victims and survivors of individuals killed by others’ negligence may seek compensation for medical expenses, lost income, property damage, and pain and suffering.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a truck accident caused by brake failure in Corpus Christi or San Antonio, our experienced truck accident attorneys at Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C. are here to help you. We have seen the harm caused by negligent maintenance by truck drivers and trucking companies in the Rio Grande Valley and throughout South Texas. We have an accident investigation team and the resources necessary to pursue maximum compensation for our injured clients.
Contact us today at (361) 882-4357 for a free case review and discussion of how we may help you. We have helped families across the Rio Grande Valley recover financially from serious losses caused by negligent truck drivers and trucking companies.
Common Causes of Brake Failure in Trucks
In 2018, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials inspected 2.4 million commercial motor vehicles. Inspectors found safety violations that required taking the trucks off the road in more than 501,000 inspections, according to the agency’s 2019 Pocket Guide to Large Truck and Bus Statistics. In those inspections, they found more than 550,000 violations involving brakes, including 62,519 cases reported as “inoperative/defective brakes.”
The FMCSA identifies the various critical events that contribute to commercial truck accidents in its Large Truck and Bus Crash Facts. The most frequently identified mechanical / equipment failure cited is brake failure or degraded braking capability. According to their report to Congress, brake failure is the most common vehicle factor in crashes.
The brakes on a truck stop the vehicle by applying pressure to the wheels. Large commercial trucks use an air-powered pressure system to link the vehicle’s multiple braking units. But the pressure required to slow and stop the wheels of a large truck creates heat that causes the materials in brake components to wear down. This is why regular brake inspections and maintenance are necessary.
Reasons as to When Brake Failure is Identified as the Cause of a Truck Accident
- Neglected maintenance
Federal regulations require that every trucking company must inspect, repair, and maintain all motor vehicles under the company’s control. But some truck owners try to cut corners with maintenance to save money. They may go longer than they should between inspections or delay correcting minor issues. Some trucking companies hire less qualified employees or cheaper service providers and get lower quality work.
- Brake imbalance
Trucks have multiple braking systems. If some brakes are applied harder than others, it creates an imbalance that can send the truck out of control, such as into a jackknife skid. Brakes may be improperly balanced because brake components are mismatched or because of problems that cause the pneumatic system to apply more air pressure to some brakes than others.
- Brake overheating
Improper braking, while a truck goes downhill, will overheat the brakes. It may weaken them enough that the truck driver cannot control the truck’s speed. This is a particular issue on steeper grades. A poorly trained driver or poor brake system maintenance can contribute to overheating on steep inclines.
- Overloaded trailer
The weight of a truck adds to its momentum and affects the amount of distance it needs to come to a stop. An overloaded truck requires excessive braking distances, which overtaxes the vehicle’s brakes.
Who Can Be Held Responsible for a Truck Brake Failure Crash?
Truck accident claims can be complicated because there are often multiple parties and multiple insurance companies involved. The truck accident attorneys at Herrman & Herrman invest the time to determine how the crash happened and who should be held accountable for your losses.
- The driver might be held liable for an accident if the trucker failed to adjust the brakes on his or her truck or acted with some other negligence, such as speeding in heavy traffic or inclement weather.
- In some instances, multiple insurance policies may be available to pay your damages.
- The trucking company may be held liable if maintenance records show a failure to inspect and/or repair problems with brakes on the truck or to keep an unsafe truck off of the road. The trucking company is responsible for its employees’ actions. In almost all cases, a trucking company connected to a crash with injuries will face a truck accident claim.
- The trailer’s owner may be a defendant in a claim If the investigation shows that the brakes on the trailer failed. In some cases, the trailer on a big rig is owned by a party separate from the cab owner.
- A third party responsible for maintaining the truck might be held responsible for an accident if evidence shows they did not perform maintenance or repair work properly.
- The manufacturer of the truck or its brake system might be responsible if a defect or design error contributed to the crash.
When evidence from a truck accident investigation implicates multiple parties, they often try to blame one another. It is also common for trucking companies to claim that their drivers are independent contractors, and the company is therefore not responsible for the driver’s negligence. Individuals who have been injured in the accident benefit from our attorneys’ knowledge of trucking regulations, as well as federal and state laws that help, determine financial liability for a truck accident.
Our attorneys at Herrman & Herrman seek to pursue claims on your behalf against all the parties responsible for your injuries.
How Our Lawyers Prove Brake Failure in a Truck Accident Claim
After a large truck accident, responding law enforcement officers will conduct a perfunctory investigation and may cite the truck driver as responsible for the crash in the accident report. In an accident caused by brake failure, a trucker in Texas may be ticketed for “failure to control speed” or “failure to maintain speed.”
In addition to the police report, our investigative team at Herrman & Herrman can obtain evidence to help identify how an accident occurred. A brake failure accident is often identified by the speed at which the collision occurred and, in some cases, the lack of skid marks or broken skid marks. Vehicle damage and the seriousness of impact injuries also provide some indication of vehicle speed and a probable lack of braking.
Some of the most valuable evidence available after a large truck crash is data from the truck’s “black box” Event Data Recorder (EDR), this information can tell us how to prove brake failure. This device records the status of many truck components in the seconds before a collision, including whether the brakes were applied and changes in vehicle speed (mph), acceleration, and trajectory. It also indicates whether any warning lights were on and the status of various diagnostic code indicators.
After being engaged to represent you, our personal injury attorneys will move promptly to investigate the accident and obtain access to the crashed truck and its EDR and other systems. Advanced anti-lock brakes with stability control capability also record data, for example. We gain access to evidence with a spoliation letter that advises the trucking company of a pending legal claim and the need for them to preserve the materials we cite.
Access to the truck also allows us to test the crashed truck’s brakes. Inspecting the valves, gauges, warning devices, and pressure supply system can identify various types of brake failure signs and deficiencies.
Ensuring that evidence needed for a successful truck accident claim is available to your attorneys requires that you act promptly, if you experience brake failure while driving you should inform us as soon as you can. Badly crashed trucks may be stripped of salvageable parts and junked, and evidence can be lost forever. By hiring Herrman & Herrman, you can rest assured that your attorneys will take care of the work needed to secure evidence and file a claim. We will negotiate with insurers on your behalf and be prepared to fight for your rights in court if the insurance company refuses to agree to a reasonable settlement.
Contact Our Texas Truck Accident Attorneys Today
The truck accident law firm of Herrman & Herrman, P.L.L.C., is dedicated to standing up for Texans who have been injured or lost loved ones in commercial truck accidents. We investigate commercial motor vehicle accidents to identify all liable parties, and we aggressively pursue all available compensation for our clients.