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If you were injured in a tractor-trailer accident because of mechanical failure, you’re not alone. While the vast majority of large truck accidents are caused by driver error, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, around ten percent of crashes are the result of some type of vehicle or mechanical failure. Design defects, mechanical defects, and a company’s failure to adhere to proper safety procedures can cost Seattle motorists their health and their safety.
In the terrifying moments after a collision with a large truck, a victim is solely focused on their health and the health of their passengers. In the days ahead, it may not even occur to a victim that a mechanical defect may have played a role in the accident. Instead of thinking about why the accident occurred, they focus on their recovery and struggle to keep up with the mounds of resulting medical bills.
The trucking company, their lawyer, and insurance adjuster will be quick to offer the victim a settlement, but accident victims should be wary of such offers. Signing on the dotted line may net you quick cash but absolves the other party of legal responsibility. Frequently, their offer is for an insignificant portion of the compensation you deserve.
If you want to seek full and fair compensation for your injuries, contact the Seattle truck accident lawyers at Caffee Law immediately. We can investigate the accident, find evidence of the mechanical defect at play, and negotiate the maximum amount of compensation possible for your situation. Ready to talk about how we can help you? Contact our office at (206) 312-0954 for a zero-obligation, free consultation.
Common Mechanical Defects
Large trucks are the workhorses of the transportation industry. They are often involved in long-distance hauls while carrying heavy loads, which can put a strain on certain systems and mechanical parts. Maintaining the integrity and safety of these giant vehicles is also important for keeping other motorists safe on the roads as well. Unfortunately, not all companies prioritize safety over profit. As a result, sometimes defective and unsafe mechanical parts make it out of factories and are built into large trucks.
While there are a huge variety of integrated systems that must work together to keep a truck safely functioning, some parts are more prone to be defective than others. Some of the most common mechanical problems and defects found in large trucks include:
- Brake defects can cause catastrophic accidents and are, unfortunately, one of the more common types of mechanical failures in large trucks. It takes a tremendous amount of power to slow down and stop a truck weighing up to 80,000 pounds. Brake systems need near-constant maintenance and safety checks to ensure they are properly working and that no defects are present. Brake failure most often happens because of faulty brake lines, worn discs, thin brake pads, leaking fluid, and malfunctions of the antilock brake system. Without properly working parts and regular maintenance, these systems are prone to failure.
- Anyone traveling down a major interstate knows that tire blowouts are also a common occurrence, as is evidenced by the multiple tire remnants littering the roadway. Those scraps are not just from retreads; they come from new tires that are improperly inflated and subsequently blow, too. The size and weight of large trucks mean that tires must bear huge amounts of weight and stand up to significant wear and tear from contact with poorly maintained highway surfaces. Regular maintenance and tire inspections are imperative. Tire blowouts can happen if tires are not regularly rotated, monitored for proper tread, have a slow leak or puncture, and if tire recalls are ignored or not monitored.
Transmission Defects and Failures
- The transmission is vital to the safe operation of a large vehicle. Faulty or defective transmissions or transmission parts can make a truck virtually impossible to control or drive safely. Defective parts and overloading a truck beyond its weight capacity can contribute to transmission failures.
Steering and Suspension Failures
- One of the most crucial ways to avoid an accident is by correctly steering a vehicle. Steering and suspension failures can take away a driver’s ability to safely steer a large truck, which can result in an out-of-control vehicle just moments before a major accident. Identifying problems with the wheel, steering column, and steering mechanisms can be tricky, which is why proper maintenance and regular safety inspections are necessary.
- Rear-guards are the metal bars that are situated below the tailgate of the truck. These bars help prevent underride accidents, a type of accident where a smaller passenger car slides directly underneath the truck. The rear-guard prevents that from happening by hitting the smaller passenger car’s grill instead. If a rear-guard is not properly installed, it can cause an accident just as serious as an underride accident, ramming through a car’s windshield instead of hitting its grill and causing traumatic injuries or death. Improperly installed or malfunctioning rear-guards can also be safety hazards if they fall off a truck and onto the road.
- Broken, missing, or malfunctioning lights and turn signals are a major safety hazard. These are key safety features installed on all cars and trucks, large and small. They are a form of communication and they help the truck driver see and be seen. Inspecting lights should be a part of a regular maintenance and safety schedule.
Faulty Windshield Wipers
- Windshield wipers don’t seem like a major concern in the grand scheme of things, but they are vital to the safe operation of a vehicle in inclement weather. Downpours, especially in the Seattle area, can come out of nowhere. Faulty blades can greatly reduce a driver’s vision and make it impossible to see where they are going and how and when to avoid hazards.
- The cab of the truck itself and the trailer that it pulls are connected by a hitch. Coupling malfunctions happen when the hitch either becomes loosened or unhinged. A coupling malfunction can lead to serious jackknife and rollover accidents, as well as a trailer’s hitch hitting the pavement if the truck coupling comes completely apart. That event can result in the vehicles behind ramming the rear of the trailer, as well as the trailer having unpredictable behavior of its own, depending on the incline of the highway and the speed at which it was moving when it broke free.
Who is Liable for an Accident Caused by a Mechanical Defect?
In typical collisions, one driver points the finger at the other driver. Liability is established, and compensation may be distributed based on the percentage of fault each driver bears for causing the crash.
Mechanical defect accidents with large trucks are different. While the driver may still be partially liable for the accident, other parties may also be responsible for the circumstances of the crash as well. One or even all of the responsible parties may be held accountable for paying compensation to victims. Who could be liable for an accident caused by a mechanical defect? Consider the following:
The Truck Driver
- Truck drivers are responsible for the safe operation of their vehicles. While a defective part may play a role in an accident, a safe and experienced driver can use their training to negotiate the situation as best they can and try to mitigate the damage. Drivers are also responsible for stopping at all weigh stations and having their vehicles inspected regularly for safety and mechanical issues. Drivers and trucking companies must keep detailed records of the truck’s safety inspection reports as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
The Trucking Company
- Federal regulations dictate that all trucking companies are required to conduct regular safety inspections on all fleet vehicles. They must also conduct routine maintenance on trucks and record inspection and repair data as well. Ignoring recalls, failing to keep up with routine safety inspections, or ignoring regular truck maintenance could be considered negligent and is just plain reckless from a safety standpoint. Companies that violate these regulations may be liable for compensating victims if these behaviors result in a serious accident.
The Truck’s Manufacturer
- Some vehicle manufacturers put vehicles on the market that are inherently dangerous because of a design or mechanical defect in their product. If a defect causes an accident, the manufacturer could be held responsible for the resulting damages.
The Part Manufacturer
- Many companies and truck manufacturers don’t make all their parts in-house. If a third-party company makes a defective product or part, and the failure of that part causes an accident, then that third-party can be liable for damages.
The hard part of getting full and fair compensation after a mechanical defect accident is proving that the defect caused the accident. It takes a complete and detailed investigation into the accident to uncover the defect and all the underlying causes that ultimately resulted in the collision. Trucking companies employ lawyers and insurance adjusters to work on their behalf, mitigating the damage of an accident and attempting to minimize their culpability. This way, they can keep more of their money in their pockets, and less of it goes into your hands.
Hiring an attorney after a suspected mechanical defect accident is the best way to seek the full and fair compensation that you deserve. At Caffee Law, we have the resources to fully investigate the circumstances of a serious truck accident. We can gain access to vital evidence, such as a truck’s black box recorder, dash-cam video, safety inspection reports, and trucking company inspection reports, before this evidence is lost or destroyed. We can then begin the process of establishing liability, building a solid case, and seeking compensation from the at-fault parties or their insurers.
Contact Our Experienced Truck Accident Attorneys Today
At Caffee Law, we understand the pressure you are under to have this accident resolved quickly and effectively. However, accepting the trucking company’s fast and first offer is seldom the best option. Before you settle for far less than what you’re entitled to, talk to an experienced Seattle truck accident attorney with Caffee Law. We want to help you get the money you deserve. Call us today for a zero-obligation, free consultation.