Poor Maintenance and Defective Equipment
Truck accidents can be caused by any number of reasons. For instance, overly tired drivers or unqualified drivers cause accidents all the time. However, sometimes these accidents are caused by defects of the truck itself.
Before a trucking company allows a truck to go on the road, it is responsible for ensuring that the mechanical integrity of the truck is in top shape. Additionally, all of its component parts should be serviceable for the purpose of making that delivery. When one of the truck’s components fails and causes an accident on the road, the trucking company is responsible for paying damages to any injured victims.
If you’ve been injured in a commercial truck accident, you can pursue damages even when the driver is not the one responsible for the crash. Talk to our knowledgeable truck accident attorneys today to learn about your rights if poor truck maintenance or defective truck equipment caused your accident.
Who Is Liable When a Defective Part Causes a Trucking Accident?
To determine who should be held responsible for a crash, a full investigation must be conducted to determine the cause of the part failure that resulted in the accident. There are three likely culprits:
- The trucking company – The trucking company is responsible for maintaining its vehicles and ensuring that they are safe to drive. In cases where the trucking companies fail in this duty of care, they can be held liable for any accident that ensues.
- The maintenance company – Large trucks have mechanics just like cars do. The law imparts certain duties to the trucking company such as the requirement to perform diagnostics on the truck before it leaves the dock. However, if the trucking company caught a serious problem with the truck, sent it out to be fixed, and then the truck came back with the problem either unresolved or another major problem, the company that was paid to repair the damage could be held liable, at least partly, for the accident.
- The company that manufactured the defective component – In some cases, neither the trucking company nor the maintenance company is responsible for the accident. Instead, the truck passed diagnostics and the part was installed correctly but malfunctioned on the road and this resulted in a serious accident. In that case, the company that manufactured the part could be held liable for the accident.
Examples of Poor Truck Maintenance
Examples of poor truck maintenance that result in trucking accidents include:
- Failure to maintain brakes – When a trucking company allows a truck to leave with defective or damaged brakes, they are not only putting their driver at risk, they are also putting other drivers on the road at risk. In cases where the brakes have just been replaced, the company that manufactured a component may be to blame or the mechanic that installed the new brakes may be at fault if the brakes fail. However, the trucking company can also be held responsible for failing to test the brakes before unleashing the dangerous truck on the road.
- Failure to maintain tires – Tire failure is one of the most common causes of trucking accidents, and it represents a serious danger to the truck driver and other drivers on the road. When the tires are worn down, underinflated, or otherwise defective, they can lose their tread or blow out, causing the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle. Old or overused tires with worn-out treads must be replaced before leaving for a delivery. Additionally, the tire pressure should be checked as part of the diagnostic process.
- Failure to maintain steering systems – Steering failures are generally related to the steering pump, tie rods, hydraulic lines, or the truck’s suspension. In these cases, such mechanical issues can be easily diagnosed before the truck is sent out on the road.
- Failure to maintain the trailer – Trailer problems generally occur when materials are not stacked and loaded properly. This can cause the truck itself to become unbalanced and jackknife on the road.
- Failure to maintain lights and mirrors – Trucks are required to abide by all the same laws that passenger vehicles are. In fact, there are more laws regulating trucks because their massive size makes them a threat to other drivers. A truck should not leave for a delivery with a broken tail light or a missing mirror.
- Insufficient underride/rear guard protection – Trucks are required to have some underride/rear guard protection to prevent smaller vehicles from becoming trapped under the truck. In the absence of this protection, it’s very easy for an 18-wheeler to completely destroy a car and injure or kill the person driving it.
In each of these cases, it is required that the trucking company be aware of potential problems, the mechanics who service the trucks fix the problems, and the company that manufactured the components do so safely. When this doesn’t happen, serious injury and death can result.
Major Danger for Trucks: Tire Blowouts
Tire blowouts happen for a number of reasons. Truck tires are designed to be incredibly strong because they are expected to be capable of transporting multiple tons of weight over long distances.
Tires are warrantied against both the treads and their age. In other words, once the treads have worn down to a certain extent, the company that manufactured the tire no longer stands by their product. Second, even if the treads are still in good shape, age can have a severe impact on the quality of the tire. Tires are made of rubber, and heat and wear and tear on the rubber cause it to harden, making it more susceptible to a blowout. Even if the tire sits on a shelf for a long period of time, it can still be dangerous to put on a tractor-trailer.
For this reason, tire blowouts are one of the most common causes of trucking accidents. In cases where the tire is still under warranty, it may be the tire company’s fault for manufacturing a defective tire. In other cases, the tire could have been underinflated, overinflated, or otherwise should have been replaced prior to the truck being put on the road. The trucking company is expected to maintain the truck’s tires and ensure that the tires are capable of journeying at high speeds over an extended period of time.
Compensation in Commercial Truck Accident Lawsuits
If you were injured in an accident involving an 18-wheeler or other commercial motor vehicle, you can pursue compensation for all the damages, both economic and non-economic, that you have suffered. This includes compensation related to:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of employment/employability
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
Pain and suffering can include elements like:
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of society
- The literal presence of pain
- Emotional trauma
- Permanent disability or impairment
- Permanent disfigurement
In cases where the trucking company or other liable party is guilty of gross negligence or a willful indifference to the rights and safety of others, the defendant can also be sued for punitive damages, which are meant to punish the at-fault party for wrongdoing.
Wrongful Death and Commercial Trucking Accidents
In cases where your loved one was killed as a result of a mechanical failure or defective part on a truck, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucking company and any other culpable parties. Wrongful death damages include recovery for:
- Your loved one’s medical expenses
- Your loved one’s pain and suffering
- Funeral expenses
- Wages and support your loved one would have provided if he or she were still alive
- Emotional anguish related to your grief
- Loss of consortium (for a spouse)
- Loss of guidance and companionship
- Punitive damages
How Our Truck Accident Attorneys Can Help You
In cases where you or someone you love is harmed by the negligence of a commercial trucking company or other liable party, you are entitled to recover damages related to your injuries or other losses. However, taking on a large corporation (or multiple defendants) in a truck accident claim can be a complex process. You will need a law firm with the skills and resources to do so.
The attorneys at Ketterman Rowland & Westlund understand that you will only get one chance to litigate your claim. For that reason, it is imperative that you have a powerful team of knowledgeable 18-wheeler accident attorneys represent your interests when pursuing damages for your injuries or the loss of your loved one. Contact us today to set up a free consultation. We are here to help you demand the justice you deserve after a serious trucking accident.