Although the vast majority of truck accidents are the result of driver error or distraction, there are quite a few that stem from defects within the trucks themselves. A significant percentage of those defects involve brake failures.
When brakes malfunction, there are several different parties that could be to blame, including the driver, the manufacturer of the brakes, the party that is responsible for maintaining the brakes (usually the owner-operator) and the company that loaded the truck. Usually, these potential defendants will attempt to deflect blame on the others for the accident, so having a thorough investigation of what caused the brake failure is an important first step in personal injury cases involving brake failure accidents.
Manufacturers are most likely to be responsible if they fail to meet federal requirements for braking systems, which include:
- Trucks must be able to have a certain braking force, which is determined based on a percentage of the weight of the vehicle
- Trucks must be able to come to a stop from 20 miles per hour at a specific rate related to its size
- Trucks must meet the requirements for automatic brake adjustment systems
Drivers or trucking companies are more likely to be held liable in situations where they failed to make appropriate checks of braking systems before driving, or failed to engage in general maintenance. Additionally, improper loading or overloading of the vehicle can place unnecessary stress on the brakes, causing failure.
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