How Can Braking Problems Contribute to Semi-Truck Accidents?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Kevin Swenson with Swenson & Shelley Injury Attorneys.
Due to the size, weight, and velocity at which semi-trucks travel, the damage caused in an accident with one tends to be catastrophic. This is why trucking companies and drivers are required to meet highly specific standards regarding training, driving, and maintenance. When a truck is poorly maintained and/or a driver fails to check the vehicle’s conditions before heading out on the road, the effects can be disastrous. Brake problems in particular are one of the biggest maintenance issues with large trucks and 18-wheelers, and they are responsible for serious accidents every year.
Some of the biggest braking problems with semi-trucks include:
- Driver error: Braking improperly under certain conditions can result in more dangerous situations for the truck driver and others on the road. For example, when driving on slippery roads, truck drivers are advised to drive as slowly as possible so that the brakes can be used as little as possible, avoiding the possibility of sliding or losing control. Similarly, over-braking particularly on downhill slopes can lead to brake system failure.
- Poorly maintained brakes: Truck drivers are required to inspect their brakes before every drive; if a driver fails to do so and then experiences maintenance problems with their brakes while on the road, dangerous accidents can occur. Similarly, if a maintenance provider was hired to maintain or repair faulty brakes, yet fails to adequately do so, the maintenance provider could be liable if the brakes fail and cause an accident.
- Worn brake pads: Just as with a passenger vehicle, worn brake pads can result in a failure or deficiency in the overall braking system. Truck drivers may not be required to check these pads before every drive, but only when they feel the brakes are not performing as expected. However, maintenance providers who fail to identify or replace worn brake pads may be liable if the bad brake pads cause or contribute to an accident.
- Imbalanced brakes: Brakes on a large truck or semi differ significantly from the brakes on a passenger vehicle; not only are the brakes different on the tractor than on the trailer, but these brakes must be balanced correctly between torque and pneumatic; brakes that are improperly balanced may cause the truck to veer to one side or the other, lose control, and/or start a fire.
- Improper loading: The way a large truck is loaded plays a big part in how effective the braking mechanisms are. Trucks that are improperly or overloaded are more likely to lose control if the driver has to brake suddenly, potentially causing the vehicle to jack-knife, flip, and/or strike another vehicle.
If you suspect brake problems caused or contributed to an accident with a large truck, consider the following steps:
- Seek emergency medical attention.
- Take pictures of everything at the scene of the accident.
- Collect witness contact information and testimonies from the scene.
- Seek follow-up medical attention and ask for a copy of the records.
- Talk to a truck accident attorney.
If you are too injured to do any of the above on your own (a common problem after truck accidents), a friend, family member, or attorney may do so on your behalf. Truck accidents can be difficult, and evidence including maintenance records, driving logs, and brake assessments can be impossible for the average person to obtain without the help of a truck accident attorney. The good news is that these attorneys typically offer free consultations and work on a contingency fee basis, which means clients don’t pay unless or until they win; this allows families to focus on healing and recovery while an experienced lawyer deals with the trucking company responsible for the accident.
To learn more about brake problems in semi-trucks, or for help filing a claim, reach out to a truck accident attorney in your area.