Braking Errors and Truck Brake Failure Leading to Injury Lawsuits
The massive weight of commercial trucks makes them more challenging to stop than passenger cars. When a truck driver does not properly apply the brakes, this can cause a devastating accident. Truckers must receive training in handling braking systems, and they must respond alertly to changes in traffic conditions or hazards on the road that require slowing or stopping. Distracted driving, drowsy driving, or the use of alcohol or drugs can impede the reactions of commercial drivers.
Sometimes, though, a trucker operates the brakes appropriately, but a malfunction in the brakes causes a crash that could have been avoided if the brakes were in proper condition. A malfunction may result from poor maintenance of the truck, which may mean that the trucking company bore responsibility for the accident. A trucking company may try to reduce its operating costs and keep trucks on the road for as long as possible by delaying maintenance and repairs, such as replacing brakes. In other cases, the brakes may contain a design or manufacturing defect. This indicates that the company that designed, made, or assembled the brakes was at fault.
Claims Based on Braking Errors by Truck Drivers
A victim who was injured because a truck driver failed to brake properly likely can pursue a negligence claim against the driver and the trucking company. They would need to show that the driver failed to use reasonable care in operating the truck, and this caused their injuries. The trucking company that employed the driver may be liable if the accident happened while the driver was performing their job duties. A victim also can hold the company directly liable if the company hired an unqualified driver or ignored a history of safety violations by a driver, among other situations.
Why Sue the Trucking Company?
Bringing a trucking company into the litigation can give a victim a better chance to recover full compensation. This is because trucking companies have much “deeper pockets” than individual drivers, allowing them to pay the substantial damages that may be awarded for catastrophic injuries.
Damages available for accidents caused by braking errors may cover medical bills, lost income, property damage, and more subjective harm like pain and suffering. If a victim will need future medical treatment, or if their injuries reduce their earning capacity, they can receive these damages as well.
Claims Based on Truck Brake Failure
If brakes failed due to improper maintenance, a victim likely will pursue a negligence claim against the trucking company. They also may have a claim against a truck maintenance company if it failed to make competent repairs. The legal elements of this claim are similar to the elements of a claim against a careless driver. On the other hand, a claim against a truck manufacturer based on a brake defect may rely on a strict liability theory. This involves showing that the brakes were defective when they left the manufacturer’s control, and the defect caused the accident.
In the context of truck brakes, defects usually involve design or manufacturing. A design defect means that the blueprint for the brakes contained a safety flaw, from which all the brakes of that type suffer. A manufacturing defect means that a mistake during the production or assembly process affected a specific set of brakes, while the design contained no inherent problems. Expert witnesses may need to testify about technical matters related to a defect.
Consider Hiring an Attorney
Truck accident cases involving brake failure may pose complex legal questions. Trucking companies and truck manufacturers usually retain skilled defense lawyers, so a victim should hire an attorney of their own if possible. They probably will not need to pay the attorney upfront, since the attorney will collect their fee as a percentage of the compensation award.