The number of trucks on the road is ever-increasing as our demand for same-day and overnight deliveries continues to grow, and our economy depends on tractor-trailers hauling massive cargo to all parts of the country. These trucks perform much-needed services, but if not properly maintained, carry tremendous risk of serious or deadly motor-vehicle accidents.
If maintenance failure caused an accident that hurt you, get legal help from an experienced truck accident lawyer from Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC. For decades, our team has advocated for truck accident victims, helping them secure significant financial settlements.
Federal Requirements for Truck Maintenance
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established specific regulations truck operators and companies must follow to ensure trucks on the road are safely maintained. Among other conditions, FMCSA maintenance regulations require:
- Truck drivers to carry out inspections and complete inspection reports before and after each trip. Inspections must address items established by the FMCSA, such as brake and steering systems, lights, mirrors, tires, and emergency and safety features, and truck companies must keep the reports for at least three months.
- Truck companies and owners keep thorough records of any maintenance or repair work the truck undergoes.
- Truck companies and owners are subject to a thorough inspection at least annually and more often if needed. Inspections must be conducted by inspectors who meet FMCSA qualifications, and reports must be kept by the motor carrier company for at least 14 months.
An experienced truck accident attorney will discover if the driver, company, or other party failed to comply with these federal regulations and owes you compensation.
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How Failure to Maintain Trucks Creates Unsafe Roads
Any maintenance failure can cause a truck operator to lose control of the vehicle or cause the vehicle to malfunction. In either scenario, collisions, jackknifing, or tip-overs are likely to occur and result in serious accidents and injuries.
Under federal law, truck companies must replace vehicle parts at assigned intervals to prevent wear and tear. However, some companies stretch those intervals to save money. It is not hard to imagine the damage a truck whose weakened or completely worn-out braking systems or steering mechanisms can do.
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Truck Maintenance Failures
Trucks are complicated vehicles, especially when connected to tractor-trailers. When drivers do not complete their daily inspections and note any potential issues or truck companies do not comply with required maintenance and yearly inspections, the vehicles are far more likely to experience a dangerous malfunction.
Because trucks are so heavy and harder to bring to a safe stop, the FMCSA has regulations in place for braking systems. The brakes must be able to exert force in proportion to the truck’s weight so the vehicle can safely decelerate.
Drivers and companies are responsible for inspecting and replacing worn tires and keeping tires properly inflated. Failure to do so can lead to tire blowouts, causing operators to lose control of their trucks. Worn tires also reduce traction, making skid outs more probable and stopping distances longer.
Trailers must be coupled with the truck’s cab securely. Weaknesses in coupling systems can cause the trailer to separate from the cab, endangering every person in that trailer’s vicinity.
Since trailers hold cargo, the mechanisms for securing that cargo must also undergo maintenance so cargo does not shift and create imbalance or fly off the truck and into the path of other drivers.
Like any other vehicle, a truck’s oil and fluids must be properly maintained and checked for leaks, and the engine must run efficiently without overheating or seizing. Even seemingly minor defects can cause malfunctions leading to catastrophic accidents.
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Determining Liability for a Truck Accident Caused by Poor Maintenance
It is important to have a truck accident lawyer investigate your accident and determine the at-fault party or parties. To collect a settlement, you must prove the at-fault party’s negligence, and for that, you need evidence. If you file without a thorough investigation, you may misidentify the at-fault party, find yourself unable to prove their negligence, and miss out on the settlement you need to recover.
A truck accident lawyer will examine the circumstances of your accident, consult with accident reconstructionists, access the truck’s inspection records, consult with truck mechanics, review the truck operator’s history, and any other factor relevant to your case. Depending on the results, you may find the truck driver, company, or outside third party holds culpability.
Drivers who fail to perform their pre-and post-trip inspections noting maintenance issues, or continue driving a truck that they knew or should have reasonably known had a maintenance problem, may be held liable. If truck drivers conduct the inspections and do not believe the vehicle is safe for operation, they should refuse to sign off on the report and cannot be forced by the motor carrier company to drive that truck.
If truck companies do not fulfill their legal obligations to conduct yearly (or more frequent) inspections, make repairs, or replace parts as required, they may be responsible.
Third-party maintenance companies or inspectors may be liable if their repair work is shoddy or if they carried out hasty or lazy inspections, missing potential safety problems.
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Maintenance failures often produce catastrophic consequences, as truck accident victims typically face life-changing injuries. To help you reach maximum recovery and restore your financial stability, a truck accident attorney will fight to hold the at-fault party responsible and see that you are compensated for the following damages:
- Economic losses, including current and expected medical costs, lost wage and future lost earnings if you cannot work again, property damaged in the collision, other accident-incurred expenses
- Non-economic losses, recognizing your pain, emotional trauma, and reduced quality of life
In some cases, you may also collect punitive damages, and if your loved one is killed in a truck accident, your attorney can help you collect economic and non-economic damages through a wrongful death claim.
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The consequences of a truck accident are severe, affecting victims’ physical, emotional, and financial well-being. If you have been injured in a truck accident because another party failed to keep their truck operating safely, contact a truck accident attorney from Gatti, Keltner, Bienvenu & Montesi, PLC. Your lawyer will not be intimidated by the at-fault party’s insurance or legal representatives and will fight to ensure those responsible for your losses are held accountable so you get the settlement you need to recover.