Like any other vehicle on the road, tractor-trailers and other trucks need regular maintenance to be operated safely. Unfortunately, these regulations are not always followed, sometimes with disastrous results. Failure to properly maintain a commercial vehicle can easily result in a truck accident, causing countless damages, bodily injury, and even fatalities.
Common Causes of Truck Accidents Involving Maintenance IssuesThe Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has strict standards for the operation of commercial vehicles and requires that every motor carrier systematically inspect, repair, and maintain any vehicle for which it is responsible. Some of the issues that can arise from poor maintenance and cause serious accidents include the following:
- Brake Failure: Commercial trucks are heavy-duty vehicles requiring robust braking systems to control their momentum. When these braking systems are not properly maintained, they can fail, causing devastating accidents.
- Tire Blowouts: Poorly maintained tires or those not suitable for the weight of the truck can blow out, leading to loss of control of the vehicle and subsequent accidents.
- Defective Lights: Inoperative tail, brake, and headlights can make the truck less visible to other drivers, especially at night or during bad weather, increasing the risk of accidents.
- Steering System Failure: A neglected steering system can malfunction, making it difficult or even impossible for the driver to control the truck's direction.
- Failed Suspension: Improperly maintained suspensions can negatively impact the truck's stability and handling, making it more prone to accidents.
- Inoperable Windshield Wipers: Especially during adverse weather conditions, malfunctioning windshield wipers can dramatically reduce visibility, leading to accidents.
- Cracked Windshields: Similar to faulty wipers, cracked windshields can also impair a driver's visibility and lead to dangerous incidents on the road.
- Cracked or Missing Mirrors: Mirrors are vital for drivers to view their surroundings. Cracked or missing mirrors due to poor maintenance can result in blind spots, increasing the likelihood of accidents.
- Missing Reflectors or Lights: Reflectors and lights are crucial for making a vehicle visible to others, particularly at night. When missing or damaged, they significantly increase the risk of collisions.
- Worn Tires: Tires worn down by extensive use can lead to decreased traction, making the truck more susceptible to skidding and accidents, especially in wet or slippery conditions.
- Parking Brake Failures: The parking brake is an essential safety feature. If it fails, the truck could potentially roll away when parked, causing accidents.
- Faulty Headlights or Taillights: Much like defective lights, faulty headlights or taillights can reduce the visibility of the truck to others on the road, thereby increasing the risk of an accident.
When Can I Sue for a Truck Crash Caused by Lack of Maintenance?If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident caused by a lack of maintenance, you may be wondering about your legal options. Under personal injury law, victims have the right to pursue compensation when their injuries are the result of someone else's negligence. A trucking company, driver, or even a maintenance service could be held accountable if it can be proven that their negligence in maintaining the truck caused the accident. The key elements of a negligence claim include:
- Duty: The defendant (the party you are suing) had a legal duty to you. In this case, trucking companies, drivers, and maintenance services have a duty to ensure the truck is in a safe, working condition to prevent harm to others on the road.
- Breach: The defendant breached this duty. This could be shown through various forms of evidence, such as maintenance records, inspection reports, and expert testimony, indicating the truck was not adequately maintained.
- Causation: The defendant's breach of duty caused your injuries. In other words, you need to show that the accident wouldn't have occurred if the truck had been properly maintained.
- Damages: You suffered damages (such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering) as a result of the accident.
- Negligent Driving: Truck drivers, like all drivers, have a duty to operate their vehicles safely. Examples of negligent driving include speeding, tailgating, aggressive driving, improper lane changes, or not adhering to traffic signals.
- Distracted Driving: Distractions on the road are a significant concern for all drivers, but they can be particularly dangerous for those operating large commercial vehicles. This could include texting, talking on the phone, eating, or even adjusting the radio while driving.
- Fatigued Driving: Fatigue can impair a driver's ability to safely operate a vehicle, similar to the effects of alcohol. Despite regulations limiting the hours a truck driver can be on the road, some drivers or companies may ignore these rules, leading to dangerously tired drivers behind the wheel.
- Drunk or Intoxicated Driving: Operating a commercial vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not only illegal but extremely dangerous. Impaired drivers have slowed reaction times and impaired judgment, which can lead to disastrous accidents.
- Improper Loading: Overloading a truck or not properly securing the load can lead to a range of problems. These include unbalanced loads that make the truck harder to control and debris falling off the truck and onto the roadway, creating hazards for other drivers.
- Lack of Training: Commercial truck drivers require specialized training to handle their vehicles safely. If a trucking company fails to provide appropriate training, inexperienced or unprepared drivers could cause accidents.
- Violation of Regulations: Trucking companies and drivers must adhere to various federal and state regulations regarding vehicle maintenance, driver hours, and more. Negligence in adhering to these rules can lead to accidents.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance Can Entitle Victims to CompensationTruck drivers and trucking companies have a duty to keep their vehicles in safe operating condition. When they fail to do so, people who are injured as a result of their failure are often entitled to compensation for any losses they have experienced. The kinds of losses that are typically recoverable in a truck accident case include medical expenses, property damage, lost income, physical and emotional pain and suffering, and loss of quality of life.
Unfortunately, it is not always clear to victims when poor vehicle maintenance caused their accidents. If a truck accident occurred and left you with injuries, medical bills, and other expenses, you likely have questions about what to do. For this reason, it is critical for anyone who has been hurt in an accident with a semi to speak with a lawyer as soon as they can. An attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case and determine whether you can pursue a personal injury claim against the truck driver, their employer, or another party.In many cases, you will be eligible to receive compensation through a claim with the insurance companies involved. However, accidents involving commercial vehicles can be more complex than other types of car accidents and often involve navigating a more complex legal landscape due to the way that trucking companies are regulated and the multitude of responsible parties involved. We urge you to reach out to a skilled attorney today for more information about your legal rights after a trucking accident.