Can I Hold Trucking Companies Liable for Truck Mechanical Failures?

Driving a truck is difficult, even under the best circumstances. These are very large vehicles that can weigh up to 80,000 fully loaded. Even a problem with one tire can cause the truck driver to lose control of the vehicle, causing a potential rollover accident. Accordingly, trucking companies must rigorously inspect and maintain these vehicles before heading onto the road. If trucking companies fail to uphold their legal obligations, you can hold them liable in a lawsuit.

Accidents caused by maintenance issues are entirely preventable. Simply stated, they should never happen. Truck parts rarely fail spontaneously on their own. Sound maintenance will usually proactively prevent these problems before they rear their head on the roadways. The heavy weight loaded onto the trailer will worsen any mechanical problem, as the tractor struggles to pull the weight.

Federal Requirements for Truck Maintenance

Trucking Companies Liable for Truck Mechanical FailuresLike practically every other aspect of the trucking industry, federal regulations set out maintenance obligations and expectations. The base obligation for trucking companies is:

“Every motor carrier shall systematically inspect, repair, maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired, and maintained, all motor vehicles subject to its control.”

Trucking companies must follow these maintenance and inspection requirements:

  • The company must maintain all parts and accessories in proper working order.
  • The driver must perform a visual inspection before they head out onto the road (although the driver is not allowed to perform maintenance work on the truck)
  • The driver must fill out a written post-trip inspection report at the end of each driving day that lists any discovered safety issues.
  • The truck must have an annual inspection by a qualified inspector.
  • Trucking companies must keep and maintain records of truck inspections and maintenance.

There might also be maintenance requirements under state laws, as each state can set additional regulations that might be stricter than the federal rules.

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Trucking Companies May Cut Back on Maintenance to Save Money

In reality, maintenance is an area where many trucking companies try to cut corners to boost their profits. With the soaring costs of gasoline and truck drivers, companies are looking to save money however they can. Further, a truck that is off the road with a maintenance issue cannot be making deliveries and earning money for the company. Sometimes, trucking companies will try to get more mileage out of worn and aging parts to cut their expenses.

In some cases, trucking companies consciously ignore federal regulations and train their drivers to do the same. It takes some doing to learn the entire picture, but truck accident lawyers often find shocking things when they get their hands on corporate records of maintenance and inspections. Trucking companies should pay when injured drivers discover this proof.

The Consequences of Deferred or Shoddy Maintenance

A lack of proper maintenance can lead to the following problems for the truck driver:

  • Tire blowouts
  • Engine failure
  • Rollover accidents
  • Tractor and trailer decoupling
  • Brake failure
  • Steering malfunctions

Take a moment to consider the critical importance of truck tire maintenance. All of the 18 wheels on the truck require careful inspection and maintenance. Even the most experienced truck driver will have difficulty controlling a truck and safely getting it to the side of the road when there is a tire blowout.

Seemingly minor problems can cause a tire to fail when a driver is traveling at high speeds on the interstate. Trucking companies must pay particular attention to tire inspections.

Trucking Companies Must Pay for Their Negligence

In some cases, the truck driver has not done anything wrong, but the company gives them a truck not in proper working order. The trucking company can still be legally responsible because the failure to inspect and maintain the truck is still considered negligence. The trucking company is liable for practically everything that happens with the truck when its employees are responsible for it.

An experienced truck accident lawyer is a must after any crash that causes injuries, especially when it may involve mechanical failures. Your truck accident lawyer can perform an investigation of the cause of the crash and gather the evidence necessary to prove liability for the accident. Your lawyer must have a strong familiarity with trucks and the mechanics behind them to understand what caused the accident,

Truck accident cases are about the evidence. If the truck was not working properly, both physical records and evidence can help prove what happened. The trucking company has possession of these records and hard evidence, and they are under an obligation to preserve the evidence. In practice, trucking companies may make it hard to access the critical proof you need for your case.

Chris Dixon & Greg Motil

Chris Dixon & Greg Motil

Other Causes of Truck Maintenance Accidents

When dealing with a truck mechanical issue in an accident claim, the issue is not always as simple as suing the trucking company that had the legal obligation to maintain the big rig.

You can hold other defendants responsible in a lawsuit:

  • Some trucking companies will outsource maintenance to a third party because they do not have the budget for a maintenance department themselves. In that case, you will sue the maintenance company (and possibly the trucking company for negligently hiring the maintenance company).
  • The mechanical issue might have resulted from a product defect. In that event, you can file a lawsuit against the company that made or sold the truck part. Product liability lawsuits can be very complex and scientific, and they require an experienced attorney.

One of the first things that you should do after a truck accident is contact an attorney who will begin to get down to the bottom of what happened and work with you to obtain financial compensation if you can prove that the trucking company was to blame for your injuries. Truck accident compensation may be significant, depending on the extent of your injuries.

A truck accident lawyer will know how to preserve records and other evidence of inadequate maintenance or other negligence by the trucking company or driver. Never wait to start the claim process.