While accidents involving 18-wheelers can happen for a variety of reasons, many big rig wrecks occur when a mechanical breakdown in the truck leads to a dangerous failure of the vehicle on the road. While mechanical breakdowns in 18-wheelers can result from design or assembly failures, they also often occur because the trucking company has failed to properly maintain the vehicle. If that is the case, then you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the trucking company if you were injured in an accident with the truck or a wrongful death lawsuit if you lost a loved one in an accident with the poorly-maintained vehicle.
The ways in which 18-wheelers can fail mechanically causing wrecks are too numerous to list them all, but some of the most common include:
Brakes – If the 18-wheeler’s brakes fail then it can rear-end another vehicle or slam into stationary objects like a bridge, a guardrail, or even a house. When the 18-wheeler picks up a large amount of steam, the effect of such a collision can be devastating. This is why steep downgrades on mountainous highways will often feature run-off lanes for trucks.
Steering – When the steering ability of the driver is lost, then the truck turns into a an uncontrollable battering ram
Tires Blowing Out – An 18-wheeler is cumbersome enough to operate when all of its tires are doing their job. However, a blowout or tire delamination can send the 18-wheeler bouncing unexpectedly into the next lane. Sometimes tire blowouts occur due to bad luck, but other times they happen because retread tires have been mounted on the 18-wheeler when new tires are required.
Tires Fall Off – While a tire blowing out can make an 18-wheeler hard to handle, a tire falling off altogether makes the behemoth truck nearly impossible to control.
Headlights Burned Out – If it’s night time, then you need to be able to see oncoming trucks. If the headlights on the truck aren’t operating properly, then you won’t see the 18-wheeler until the last second when being cognizant of a semi-truck in your path does you very little benefit.
Brake Lights Malfunctioning – While it’s important to know when a truck is coming toward you at night, it’s also important to know when the truck in front of you is slowing down. If the truck’s brake lights are broken, then your car may collide with the truck.
Turn Signals Malfunctioning – Trucks take wide turns, so you need to know when one is about to make a right-hand or left-hand turn, or your car may get clipped.
Truck Trailer Lights Out – Every trailer beyond a certain length is required to have reflector lights running along the body of the trailer. The purpose of these lights is to allow oncoming traffic to spot the truck when it’s making a turn and crossing the road. Without these lights, the trailer can be virtually invisible in certain lighting conditions, making it a danger to any approaching vehicle.
When these types of mishaps occur, however, how can you know if the 18-wheeler was properly maintained or whether the upkeep was neglected?
According to rule 396.3 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) guidelines: “Every motor carrier and intermodal equipment provider must systematically, inspect, repair, and maintain, or cause to be systematically inspected, repaired and maintained, all motor vehicles and intermodal equipment subject to its control.” The rule goes on to state that: “Parts and accessories shall be in safe and proper operating condition at al times,” Additionally, the trucking company is required to keep records of maintenance for any vehicle that it owns for longer than 30 days, and these records must be continually filed and stored while they own the vehicle and for one and a half years after the motor carrier leaves their control.
If you’ve been injured in an accident with an 18-wheeler due to an apparent breakdown in the vehicle, you need to find the assistance of an experienced Dallas 18-wheeler accident attorney whom you can trust to get down to the bottom of whether or not the trucking company had adequately maintained the vehicle. If it did and the accident was caused by a mechanical malfunction, then the trucking company will likely blame the manufacturer of the vehicle. If it didn’t maintain the vehicle as required to do so by the FMCSA, then you can pursue compensation from the trucking company with a personal injury lawsuit, and that’s when you’ll need a competent lawyer, who can subpoena the records of the trucking company.
However, the case isn’t over when your lawyer gets his or her hands on the maintenance records. If a trucking company has negligently refrained from maintaining upkeep on the vehicle, then it might also try to fake its maintenance records. While we don’t mean to suggest that all trucking companies operate in such a nefarious way, we have encountered some who do. By the same token, we’ve learned a way to catch them. These maintenance records must keep track of the odometer readings on the truck on the given dates the vehicle was allegedly serviced. More importantly, these aren’t the only records that keep track of the truck’s odometer readings. The FMCSA limits how far a given trucker can drive his 18-wheeler in a given day, with 11 hours being the maximum amount of time allowed behind the wheel and 14 hours allowed on the job total before a mandatory 10-hour rest period must go into effect. Also, for every eight hours driven, the truck driver must take at least a 30-minute break. In order to enforce these rules, the truck driver must keep a log of his rest stops. Sometimes, this record is kept in a handwritten log, but other times the record is kept with an Electronic On-Board Recorder that does the task automatically, keeping a record of the location, time, date, and odometer reading on the truck.
On more than one occasion, our firm has encountered a trucking company that has attempted to fake maintenance records but has not been clever enough to make sure the odometer readings on the fake record matched the real odometer readings on the same dates for their driver’s EOBR readings. By reviewing both records, we’ve been able to prove the negligence of the trucking company, and its intentional deception in falsifying the records. With that kind of evidence in hand, the case is easily won.
If an 18-wheeler failed mechanically, leading to you suffering an injury or your loved one being killed, then don’t take the trucking company at its word that the vehicle had been properly maintained. There is simply too much on the line to do so. You need to secure the services of a skilled Dallas 18-wheeler accident lawyer who can tell you for certain. At Grossman Law Offices, we’ve been fighting the deceptions of negligent trucking companies in the Metroplex for more than 23 years. To find out how we can help with your case, call us today for a free consultation at 1-855-392-1234 (toll free).