Motor vehicle accidents involving large commercial trucks are responsible for numerous deaths and injuries across the United States each year. In recent years, nationwide statistics report 4,237 fatal crashes, and another 102,000 accidents that resulted in injury. Recently, in New York state alone, commercial truck accidents caused 137 deaths over a two-year range.
Many people may assume that commercial truck accidents are primarily caused by driver error. However, mechanical failure is a contributing factor in many truck accidents. Despite the most cautious driving behavior, devastating accidents may still be caused by faulty brakes or a tire blow out.
Common Types of Mechanical Failure in Trucks
The most prevalent types of mechanical failure in trucks include:
- Faulty or worn brakes.
- Worn, bald, or blown-out tires.
- Missing, broken, or non-working lights (headlights, tail lights, turn signals, etc.).
- Missing or malfunctioning windshield wipers.
- Missing or broken mirrors.
- Defects in steering and suspension systems.
- Coupling failure.
- Hitch malfunctions.
- Transmission systems.
- Improperly installed or missing rear guards.
Who’s Responsible for a Truck’s Mechanical Failure?
When an accident involves a commercial truck and mechanical failure contributes to causing the accident, identifying potentially liable parties can be complicated. For example, if a truck’s brake failure resulted in a collision, several parties may share responsibility for any accident-related damages.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations require trucking companies to periodically inspect, maintain, and repair the trucks in their fleet. Should the company fail to adequately maintain or repair a truck, and a collision is caused by worn or malfunctioning brakes, the company may be responsible.
Many truck companies contract with third-party mechanics to fulfill the duties of truck inspection, maintenance, and repair. If a contracted company fails to adequately maintain a company’s fleet or performs improper repairs that cause an accident, the mechanics may share responsibility.
In some cases, it is not the installation and repair processes that are flawed, but rather the parts themselves are defective. If defective parts are the cause of an accident, truck or components manufacturers may be responsible.
Considering just the example of faulty brakes demonstrates the complexities associated with determining responsibility for accidents resulting from mechanical failure.
Other mechanical failures, such as blown-out tires or transmission failure can be caused by improperly loaded cargo, particularly an overweight or imbalanced load. Loading companies may share responsibility if a truck’s cargo contributes to causing the mechanical failure that leads to an accident.
Additionally, truck drivers are responsible for personally inspecting their vehicles for safety at specific points throughout their route. While truck drivers are not responsible for repairing trucks (or for full systematic inspections), they may bear some responsibility if they fail to notice an apparent existing problem.
Typically, experienced truck accident investigators must fully investigate and review truck accidents before the exact causes can be determined.
How Can I Receive Compensation for My Injuries After a Truck Accident?
As most New Yorkers know, the state has adopted a “no-fault” insurance system for injury compensation in truck accidents. Under a “no-fault” system, injured victims first contact their own insurance company for reimbursement of medical expenses related to accident injuries. Each individual initially seeks compensation for minor injuries from their own insurance provider, regardless of who was at fault in the accident.
However, New York law also provides methods for seeking additional compensation when victims’ injuries are particularly severe. When the costs of serious injuries exceed the coverage limits provided by the “no-fault” system, victims may be entitled to seek further compensation from the at-fault party’s insurance provider. If insurance companies are unwilling to compensate victims for the true value of their claim, they can seek funds for accident-related expenses by filing a truck accident lawsuit.
Examples of injuries that may be considered severe, and as a result, eligible for additional compensation include:
- Broken bones;
- Significant disfigurement;
- Injuries causing permanent limitation in the functioning of an organ or limb;
- Injuries causing significant limitations in bodily functioning; or
- Injuries causing substantial or full disability for at least 90 days.
To seek compensation for accident-related expenses, injured victims must identify who was at-fault for the accident and demonstrate that the accident caused their injuries. Further, injured victims must have contact information for the responsible party’s insurance provider. When accidents involve multiple potentially liable parties, each party may be insured by a different carrier.
Victims who have suffered serious injuries should consider consulting with an experienced truck accident lawyer. When appropriate, an attorney can facilitate an independent investigation of the accident and access records of any completed investigations. Experienced truck accident lawyers are skilled negotiators who can communicate with insurance representatives on behalf of injured victims, when necessary. Should negotiations prove to be unsuccessful, an attorney can confidently represent victims by litigating the claim at trial.
What Compensation Can I Receive for a Truck Accident Caused by Mechanical Failure?
Severely injured people can seek compensation for injuries and other harm directly related to truck accidents, as long as the accident was caused by the actions of another.
Common categories of damages sought by injured victims include:
- Medical expenses, both billed and expected in the future. Damages may include the costs of emergency transportation, emergency room treatment, urgent care, doctor’s office visits, surgeries, hospitalizations, physical therapy, prescription medications, and diagnostic tests.
- Wages lost from work, both current and expected in the future. Severe injuries often cause victims to require time away from work for treatment and recuperation.
- Property damages for personal property damaged in the accident, such as a car or personal belongings inside a vehicle.
- Pain and suffering damages for physical pain, emotional pain, and mental trauma associated with the accident.
What Should I Do if I’m in a Truck Accident?
In the aftermath of a truck accident, injured victims should first and foremost focus on their physical health and safety. Victims should move their vehicles to a safe location out of the flow of traffic, if possible. Maintaining a safe distance from the scene of the accident is important because some trucks may spill hazardous materials onto the roadway, increasing the risks of fire.
If anyone involved in the accident is experiencing pain or exhibiting apparent injuries, individuals should call 9-1-1 as soon as they have ensured their own safety.
Victims with severe injuries should allow emergency responders to provide them immediate transportation to an emergency department.
Victims who only sustain minor injuries should remain at the scene until the police arrive. Once on the scene, officers will analyze the accident and interview the individuals involved, as well as any eyewitnesses. Officers will create a crash report, which may be critical evidence in determining who or what caused the accident. Injured victims can later obtain a copy of the police report from the department in the locality where the crash occurred.
In addition, victims should exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver(s), if they are able.
Because evidence is crucial for building a successful claim, victims should take pictures of the accident scene and their injuries.
Most importantly, all accident victims, even those who feel they have only sustained minor injuries must always seek medical evaluation. Some serious injuries may not immediately exhibit symptoms, and revealing them may require diagnostic testing. Don’t risk your health by failing to seek an examination as soon as possible. For more information about mechanical failure in trucks, contact an experienced truck accident attorney today.