Common Maintenance Issues That Cause Truck Accidents
While truck accidents are regularly caused by driver fatigue or error, it’s also possible for these accidents to occur as a result of maintenance issues. In 2015 alone, more than 415,000 accidents involving large trucks were reported in the U.S. If you have been involved in a truck accident that occurred because of maintenance problems, you may be able to seek compensation.
Faulty Brake Issues
Even though there are many maintenance issues that can contribute to a truck accident, among the more common problems are faulty brakes. In fact, nearly 5% of truck accidents are caused by this issue. While the brakes can malfunction with no forewarning, it’s possible that they stopped working because of poor maintenance. Making sure the brakes work correctly is likely the most important aspect of truck maintenance. To that end, the federal government has set high standards for maintaining truck brakes. These standards ensure the safety of the truck driver and anyone else on the road.
Keep in mind that multiple entities are responsible for regularly maintaining the brakes on a truck. For instance, the driver must inspect the vehicle every day to make sure that it works properly. However, a maintenance specialist must also check the brakes on a regular basis to look for any signs that the brakes may be affected by wear and tear.
There are numerous signs that indicate that truck brakes are about to malfunction, which include air leaks that are present in the brake chamber and loose or broken parts within the brake system. If the owner of the truck or the management company that hired the driver doesn’t pay the money for routine inspections, they could be liable for accidents that are caused by the brakes.
It’s also very common for tire blowouts to occur, which can send a truck off the side of a road or into another vehicle. Several different issues can result in tire blowouts, including poor air pressure, general wear and tear, and misaligned tires. Because of how much trucks weigh, each tire must have the same amount of air in them as the others to ensure that blowouts don’t occur. Even a single tire with too little or too much air could bring about a blowout, which significantly increases the likelihood of an accident in the aftermath.
The truck driver is responsible for regularly inspecting the tires for air leaks, tread wear and sidewall damage. The presence of any one of these issues means that a repair is necessary before the truck can safely operate on the road once more. Each trucking company is also directly responsible for making sure that the trucks their drivers use are outfitted with the right tires. Federal regulations dictate that trucks must be equipped with tires that have a certain tread depth and that they match in wear level and size. If any of these regulations weren’t adhered to, someone could be held liable for the accident that occurred.
Components That Must Be Regularly Inspected
In accordance with the regulations set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, truck drivers are required to inspect certain components on their trucks every day. They include:
- The horn
- Any lights and reflectors on the truck
- Windshield wipers
- All rearview mirrors
- All emergency equipment on the truck
- Coupling equipment
- Wheels and rims
- The steering mechanism
- Service and parking brakes
If, for example, the service brakes are not inspected daily and are found to be the result of a truck accident, the driver could be liable.
How Truck Accidents Occur Because of Poor Maintenance
If a truck is poorly maintained, there is a range of issues that could occur and cause an accident. Some of the more serious problems that can develop because of poor maintenance include:
- Issues with tire pressure that lead to blowouts
- Wear-and-tear issues that cause tires to lose traction and take longer to come to a complete stop
- Misalignment of wheels and axles
- Brake malfunction
- Malfunctioning lights
- Overheating of the engine
- Leaks of oil and similar fluids that are used throughout the vehicle
When drivers don’t perform daily inspections, maintenance issues could be overlooked entirely. If caught, these issues would, ideally, be repaired before causing an accident. When left untended to, they will worsen until the parts malfunction completely. Even though state and federal laws dictate that trucking companies are required to replace any worn parts at certain intervals, some companies decide to adjust the parts in an attempt to make them last longer. Even though these decisions are made to save money, they can be costly mistakes if an accident occurs, or a malfunction results from a lack of maintenance.
If you feel as though the accident you were involved in occurred because of poor maintenance, our New Jersey trucking accident lawyers can help you determine what your ideal legal option would be.
Who Is Liable?
Before you investigate the types and amount of compensation that you can seek for your injuries, it’s important to determine who was liable for your accident. If a lawsuit is filed, the entity responsible for the accident would be the defendant in the case. As mentioned previously, regulations mandate that the truck driver perform daily inspections on the truck. He or she must then write and sign a report before taking the truck on the road. If an issue with the condition of the truck is detected, the driver shouldn’t sign the report. If he or she does, he or she could be liable.
It’s also possible that the carrier could force the driver to operate the vehicle even if a safety issue is present, which means that the carrier would likely be liable for what transpires. The company that owns the specific truck may be liable if it didn’t schedule the necessary inspections or maintain the vehicle even after issues were detected. In some situations, the company that performed the repairs or inspections could be liable if its work was substandard and didn’t correctly fix the problem.
There are times when the fault of an accident lies with the manufacturer of the vehicle. If the brakes on a truck were properly maintained but are unable to decelerate the vehicle to 20 miles per hour or slower, the manufacturer may be liable. The same is true if the average braking force is lower than it should be. It’s possible that the manufacturer made a mistake in the design of the brakes or a similar component on the truck that caused it to create issues even when properly maintained. If you hire our New Jersey trucking accident lawyer to represent your case, we can help you determine who may be liable for your accident, which will allow you to start building a strong legal case.
If you have recently been injured in a truck accident and would like to explore your legal options, call RAM Law today at (732) 394-1549 to learn more about how our legal representation can help you. We have New Jersey offices in New Brunswick, Somerville and Freehold.