How Does Poor Truck Maintenance Increase the Risk of Accidents?April 12, 2021
The average commercial truck weighs approximately 10 times more than a regular passenger vehicle, and even more when the truck is fully loaded with the cargo it is transporting. That means that the occupants of a passenger vehicle have little chance of walking away from a truck accident without serious personal injury if they are lucky enough to survive the accident at all. Although truck drivers can also suffer a range of injuries in a truck accident, it is the occupants of the passenger vehicle who tend to suffer the most severe, often fatal injuries. In fact, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), when a truck accident involves fatalities, the occupants of the passenger vehicles make up 97 percent of the fatalities. Unfortunately, many of these accidents could have been prevented if the truck had been properly maintained. If a motorist suffered a serious injury or a tragic fatality in a truck accident involving a poorly maintained truck, he or she is urged to contact an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible.
There is no question that truck accidents are some of the most devastating and destructive accidents on roads and highways across the United States. As a result, one would think that truck drivers and truck companies would take every precaution necessary to avoid such catastrophic accidents, including taking proactive steps to ensure that all of their trucks are properly maintained. However, maintaining a fleet of large trucks can be very expensive, particularly when extensive upgrades and repairs are necessary. Too many truck companies prioritize making money over safety, and they do not want to spend a large sum of money on truck maintenance. In addition, truck drivers are under a great deal of pressure to meet very tight delivery deadlines, so they may skip important maintenance checks. Unfortunately, this means that there are far too many trucks on the road that could have potentially dangerous maintenance issues.
What are the Common Maintenance Issues that Cause Truck Accidents?
Federal law requires all commercial trucks to undergo inspections and pre-trip checks. Proper maintenance of these massive vehicles is important for a number of reasons. The average commercial truck can easily drive over 100,000 miles per year. This can put a significant amount of wear and tear on the wheels, brakes, and other parts of the truck. Not all truck companies cut corners when it comes to truck maintenance, but some do in an effort to save money and make deliveries on time. Unfortunately, this can lead to serious, yet preventable truck accidents that can cause massive property damage, a range of serious injuries, and tragic fatalities. The following are examples of some of the most common maintenance issues that result in serious truck accidents:
- Brake failures
- Broken or missing mirrors
- Couple device failures
- Faulty windshield wipers
- Horn problems
- Light failures or missing reflectors
- Parking brake failures
- Stability system failures
- Steering failures
- Suspension failure
- Tire blowouts
- Unsecured cargo
What Maintenance Items are Required Under Federal Regulations?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), truck companies and truck drivers are expected to ensure that trucks are inspected and maintained, and that the necessary repairs are made before the truck is back on the road. In addition to having a thorough understanding of the federal regulations, truck driver and truck companies are expected to follow these federal rules:
- In order to ensure that all trucks and truck parts are in good working order when the truck is on the road, truck companies and the companies who manufacture the truck’s equipment must inspect, repair, and maintain all of the trucks in the fleet.
- If a truck is in poor condition or at risk of causing an accident or breaking down, the truck driver or trucking company is prohibited from operating the truck.
- Trucks that are likely to break down or cause an accident must be marked with an Out of Service sticker by authorized personnel of the trucking company. The truck may not be driven until all necessary repairs are made that the Out of Service sticker is removed. The sticker may not be removed until all repairs are complete.
- All truck drivers must conduct pre-trip inspection of the truck before each trip to ensure that the truck is in good condition and the cargo has been safely secured. The truck driver must also review the last inspection report, verify that all of the necessary repairs were made, and sign the report.
- At the end of each shift, truck drivers must complete an inspection of the truck and prepare a thorough written report that identifies any defects or maintenance issues that need to be addressed. If maintenance issues have been documented, the truck may not be driven until the issues are repaired and the truck is safe to drive.
What Maintenance Issues are Truck Drivers Required to Inspect?
According to the FMCSA regulations, truck drivers must inspect the following maintenance issues on a daily basis and include them in a daily report:
- Coupling equipment
- Emergency equipment
- Lights and reflectors
- Parking and service brakes
- Rear view mirrors
- Steering mechanisms
- Wheels and rims
- Windshield wipers
Who is Liable for a Maintenance-Related Truck Accident?
When it comes to truck maintenance, the truck driver is responsible for performing inspections before and after each trip. Before the truck driver gets back on the road, he or she must be satisfied that the truck is safe to drive. If the truck driver fails to perform a thorough maintenance check or does not make the necessary repairs before getting back on the road, and the truck is involved in a serious accident, the truck driver will likely be held liable for any injuries that the accident caused.
In addition to the truck driver, there are other parties who may also be held liable for a maintenance-related truck accident. For example, if a parts supplier sends the incorrect part or a faulty part, or the mechanic responsible for installing the part is unqualified or poorly trained, there are three parties that could be held liable, including the supplier, the mechanic, and the maintenance company that hired or failed to train the mechanic. A skilled truck accident lawyer will work closely with the truck accident victim and collect the evidence necessary to build a strong case and reach a successful settlement.
How Do I Prove that a Maintenance Issue Caused a Truck Accident?
Proving negligence in a maintenance-related truck accident case can be a complicated process. Trucking companies often have a team of high-paid lawyers at their disposal who will use a range of legal tactics to avoid being held liable and paying a large financial settlement. An experienced truck accident lawyer will be able to anticipate these tactics and take the necessary steps to hold the negligent parties liable for failing to properly maintain the truck. This involves securing the following documents, which the truck company is required to maintain:
- Identification of the truck’s owner and style
- List of all due dates of inspections and maintenance tasks that are required for each truck
- A complete record of all inspections, maintenance, and repairs done on the truck
All maintenance records must be kept for at least one year if the truck is in use by the trucking company, or for six months after the truck is no longer owned by the truck company. These documents may be very valuable to a truck accident case if they prove that there was a lack of maintenance or that the necessary repairs were not made.
What Damages May I Receive in a Maintenance-Related Truck Accident?
If a motorist is severely injured in a truck accident that was caused by maintenance issues, he or she may be eligible for financial compensation by filing a personal injury claim against the truck driver, the truck company, or any other party that may be responsible for the maintenance issue. A skilled truck accident lawyer will communicate with the truck company’s insurance company and negotiate the best possible settlement amount based on the nature and severity of the victim’s injuries. Truck accident victims may be eligible for the following financial damages:
- Medical expenses related to the accident
- Lost wages
- Loss of future earning capacity
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of quality of life
- Wrongful death if the truck accident caused fatalities
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Truck Accidents
If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a truck accident that was caused by maintenance issues, do not hesitate to contact the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. Truck drivers and truck companies are required to keep their trucks well maintained at all times. A failure to do so can result in injuries and fatalities. We will conduct a thorough investigation into the details of the accident, address all of your questions and concerns, and secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.