Brake failure is one of the most common vehicle-related factors associated with commercial truck crashes in the United States. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) recently placed 12 percent of trucks out of service for brake violations in a single week. More than 5,100 trucks were pulled off the road during its annual roadside brake inspection campaign that spanned the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
An 80,000-pound tractor-trailer that experiences brake failure is a disaster in motion, placing everyone in the vicinity at risk of serious harm. In Michigan, people seriously hurt in brake failure truck accidents may be entitled to significant compensation for their injuries and related losses. But truck accidents are more complicated than the average car accident claim. Working with a knowledgeable truck accident attorney is critical to identify the responsible party and hold them accountable for their negligence.
At Christensen Law, we have more than 30 years of experience helping injured accident victims demand justice when they’re hurt through no fault of their own. Contact us today for a free consultation with a dedicated truck accident lawyer.
What to Do When You’re Injured in a Truck Accident Caused by Brake Failure
Being struck by an out-of-control truck with failed brakes can lead to serious and catastrophic injuries. Many victims require extensive medical care, which gets expensive fast.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to protect your health, your legal rights, and your ability to pursue compensation for your losses after a truck accident:
- Seek prompt medical attention: If you did not require emergency treatment at the scene of the crash, make an appointment with a doctor as soon as you can. Seeing a physician will help protect your health and your legal claim. An official record of your decision to pursue treatment can demonstrate that you made every effort to reduce the chances of lasting harm caused by the accident.
- Follow your doctor’s orders: Continue to attend any follow-up medical appointments and follow your doctor’s treatment plan. Failing to do so could give the other side reason to claim you may not be as injured as you claim.
- Gather physical evidence from the crash: Gather any photos and/or videos you took of skid marks, vehicle damage, road debris, or visible injuries at the scene of the accident. It’s a good idea to keep physical evidence, such as the clothes you were wearing at the time of the wreck, as well.
- Keep track of your accident-related expenses: Maintain a record of the medical bills, co-pays, lost wages, and other accident-related costs incurred. These records will make it easier for your truck accident lawyer to demonstrate your financial losses.
- Avoid discussing the crash with others: You’ll need to report the collision to your insurance provider, but keep your descriptions brief and don’t volunteer any unnecessary details. Refuse to share the specifics of the crash with anyone except your lawyer. The best option is to let your attorney speak to all insurance companies on your behalf.
- Keep a pain diary: Document the physical and emotional pain you experience from your injuries in a journal. Doing so will help provide evidence of the extent of your pain and suffering.
- Keep a record of lost time: If you have to take time off work for recovering, for treatment and/or medical appointments, keep track of your hours and wages lost.
- Contact an experienced Michigan truck accident lawyer: An attorney with experience handling commercial vehicle accident claims can help you establish a strong case and develop a strategy for success.
Common Causes of Brake Failure in Trucks
The colossal size and weight of a large commercial truck make brake failures on these vehicles particularly disastrous. Some of the most common reasons for truck brake failure include:
- Inadequate maintenance: Truck owners, motor carriers, and drivers should regularly inspect, maintain, and adjust truck brakes. Failures often occur when brake issues are not detected or addressed in time.
- Poor adjustment or balance: Brakes can get unbalanced when individual components are mismatched or forced to work harder than others. Over time, the resulting imbalance can cause some brakes to overheat and seize, leading to dangerous losses of control.
- Excessive or improper braking: Poorly trained or negligent truck drivers sometimes rely too heavily on their brakes instead of slowing down gradually. This technique can be a problem if brakes become too worn or overheated to stop the truck, especially when traveling downhill.
- Manufacturing defects: In rare cases, truck brakes may have design or manufacturing flaws that prevent them from functioning properly. Even the most careful and attentive truck drivers may lose control in these situations.
- Excess cargo weight: If a truck is pulling a trailer overloaded with cargo, it will require more braking power than usual to slow or stop. The added stress of an overloaded trailer makes a truck’s brake system more likely to fail, especially in scenarios involving inclement weather or poor road conditions.
- Bobtailing or unloaded trailers: “Bobtailing” is a term that describes driving a semi-truck without a trailer. If a large truck has an unloaded trailer or no trailer, there is less weight and less traction on its rear wheels. When the front brakes bear the burden of stopping the momentum of the entire truck, the brakes may become overheated and fail.
How Our Truck Accident Lawyers Prove Brake Failure in a Truck Accident Claim
After a truck accident caused by suspected brake failure, our attorneys will investigate thoroughly to locate the root cause of the crash. Evidence that can provide useful evidence of brake failure in a truck accident case includes:
- Post-crash brake inspections: Testing truck components for defects is a critical part of any truck accident investigation where vehicle factors, such as brake failures, could be a contributing factor.
- Electronic truck data: Many modern trucks have “black boxes,” electronic logging devices (ELDs), and global positioning systems (GPS) that record helpful information. Data from these devices can show a truck’s speed or brake status before a crash, indicating possible brake issues.
- Truck maintenance records: Truck owners and operators are expected to keep detailed records of the maintenance they perform on their rigs. These records can be used to demonstrate inadequate brake inspection, maintenance, or repair practices.
- Driver training history: Commercial drivers are expected to undergo rigorous training and testing before getting behind the wheel of a large truck. If a truck driver is trained poorly — or not at all — they may contribute to brake failure accidents simply because they don’t know how to use their brakes properly.
- Accident reconstruction: Lawyers frequently work with accident reconstruction specialists in complex cases. These experts can examine braking patterns and determine what may have caused a truck’s brakes to fail when an underlying cause may be difficult to prove.
- Cargo loading records: Bills of lading, delivery documents, and dispatch instructions can all contain evidence that a trailer was overloaded or improperly loaded. These documents can be used to demonstrate that excessive or shifting weight contributed to brake failure.
Who is Legally Responsible for a Truck Brake Failure Crash?
Both federal and Michigan laws require the truck industry to adhere to strict safety standards. Violations are punishable by extensive fines and penalties. Qualifying victims may also be entitled to seek compensation through civil lawsuits in Michigan.
Any of the following parties may be held legally responsible for a brake failure truck crash:
- Truck drivers and owners
- Trucking companies
- Truck mechanics or repair shops
- Brake manufacturers
- Cargo loading companies
As a no-fault state, Michigan law requires drivers to first seek compensation for their truck accident injuries through their own insurance company. If they have trouble obtaining benefits from their insurer, it may be possible to file a first-party lawsuit demanding full and fair compensation.
In cases where no-fault benefits do not fully cover the losses of a seriously injured accident victim, it may also be possible to file a third-party lawsuit for pain and suffering against the trucking company or other entity responsible for the crash.
Keep in mind that because state and federal laws apply in truck accident cases, there may be additional complications that arise as you work toward an acceptable settlement. Multiple insurance policies often come into play, which makes the claims process even more difficult. A truck accident lawyer can be your greatest ally in navigating the intricacies of such a complex claim.
Contact Our Michigan Truck Accident Attorneys Today
The dedicated team at Christensen Law is exclusively focused on personal injury law, including cases involving commercial truck accidents. We have three decades of experience handling truck accident claims, so we know the tactics trucking insurance companies and lawyers use to deny responsibility and protect their own interests. We obtained the largest jury verdict in Michigan for a highway trucking accident when our client was awarded $17.8 million for her injuries by a Wayne County jury.
We are committed to protecting our clients from being bullied or manipulated by big trucking entities and their insurance representatives. If you are struggling to get by after a Michigan truck accident, let us seek maximum compensation for you.
We provide confidential consultations at no cost to you, and there’s no fee unless we recover money for you. Contact us today to discuss the details of your Michigan truck accident case with a qualified attorney.