Truck accidents often leave a path of destruction in their wake, from the extensive property damage they cause to devastating injuries. Unfortunately, it is often the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accident who suffer the most severe injuries. Some of the most common causes of truck accidents include negligent driving, like distracted driving, drowsy driving, and a failure to obey the rules of the road. However, when truck drivers and trucking companies fail to properly maintain their trucks or make sure that they are inspected regularly, the truck can malfunction, causing the driver to lose control of the truck and cause a serious accident.
What Truck Components Must Be Inspected Regularly?
When a commercial truck blows a tire or the brakes or steering mechanism malfunctions because it was not properly maintained, it can have devastating consequences. In order to avoid this kind of accident, truck drivers and truck companies must ensure that the following truck components are inspected each year by a qualified inspector. Any repairs should be made so they are taken care of before the truck is used. It is important to inspect:
- Brakes systems, including pads, lining, springs, and other components.
- Condition of loading.
- Coupling devices, including hooks, drawbars, towbars, safety devices, and fifth wheels.
- Exhaust systems.
- Fuel systems.
- Motorcoach seats.
- Steering mechanisms.
- Wheels and rims.
- Windshield and windshield wipers.
Approximately 25 percent of all truck breakdowns are caused by tire issues, and they are the second most common cause of violations. So while it is extremely important that all components of the truck are inspected, it is particularly important that the tire treads are not worn, that the air pressure is at the appropriate pounds per square inch (psi), and that the truck is not overloaded.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Maintenance-Related Truck Accidents?
According to the Large Truck Crash Causation (LTCC) study, faulty brakes are the most common cause of fatal maintenance-related truck accidents. Since large trucks require significantly more time and road space to slow down or come to a complete stop, even minor brake problems can increase the risk of a serious truck accident. In addition to malfunctioning brakes, the following are other common factors that can cause a truck accident:
- Broken headlights.
- Broken or missing mirrors.
- Faulty turn signals.
- Light failures or missing reflectors.
- Parking brake failures.
- Poorly maintained coupling devices.
- Powertrain failure.
- Running out of fuel which can cause damage to diesel engines.
- Steering failures.
- Tire blowouts.
What Are Examples of Improper Truck Maintenance?
If a truck driver or trucking company does not follow a recommended maintenance schedule and make any necessary repairs to the truck, there is an increased risk of a serious truck accident. The following are examples of truck accidents that can occur as a result of improper maintenance:
- A large commercial truck slams into the back of a passenger vehicle after the truck driver could not slow down because they failed to properly maintain the brakes.
- The tractor and trailer become separated due to a defective fifth wheel coupling that was not identified during an inspection.
- The truck driver failed to inspect and maintain the vehicle’s tires, which resulted in them becoming shredded and causing a serious tire blowout accident.
- Commercial trucks have very large blind spots. If the mirrors are not properly installed and adjusted during a routine maintenance and the truck driver does not see a passenger vehicle, there is an increased risk of a serious truck accident.
- If the truck’s tail lights are broken and the truck driver fails to have them repaired and maintained, vehicles that are following the truck may not see it until it is too late, resulting in a rear-end accident.
- A failure to inspect a truck that is missing the proper reflective tape may result in an accident if another motorist did not see the truck.
What Truck Maintenance Laws Must Be Followed?
There are a number of federal and state laws that regulate truck maintenance. The following are examples of federal laws that are regulated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA):
- All commercial trucks must be inspected every year by a qualified inspector who is certified or has been trained to inspect commercial trucks.
- Each unit of the tractor trailer must be thoroughly inspected, including the tractor, the semitrailer and the full trailer.
- Every component of all trucks in the fleet must be inspected once a year.
Despite these regulations, however, maintenance issues continue to cause devastating, yet preventable accidents that cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities.
What Types of Injuries Do Truck Accidents Cause?
When a passenger vehicle is involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, it is unlikely that they will walk away from the crash without a scratch. In fact, according to the FMCSA, approximately half of all truck accidents cause injuries that require hospitalization. The following are examples of some of the most common injuries caused by truck accidents:
- Back injuries.
- Broken bones.
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).
- Musculoskeletal injuries.
- Spinal cord damage and paralysis.
What Should I Do if I am Injured in a Truck Accident?
Because truck accidents tend to be quite serious and cause potentially life-threatening injuries, it is crucial that you take the following steps to ensure that you receive the medical attention you need and to secure a future claim:
- Call 911 to report the accident. Notify dispatch that there are serious injuries so that they can send an ambulance to the scene.
- If you are physically able to do so, take pictures of the accident scene, including damage to the vehicle, your injuries, the position of your car and the truck, any debris or skid marks on the road, the weather conditions, and any other evidence that may help prove fault.
- Exchange information with the truck driver, including license plate numbers, contact information, and insurance information. Do not say anything that could be interpreted as an apology, as this may be used against you during the claims process. If there were witnesses who saw the accident happen, ask if they would be willing to provide a statement and ask for their contact information.
- Report the accident to your insurance company. Only provide the basic information about the accident. Insurance companies are in the business of making money, so they will look for reasons to avoid paying a large financial settlement.
- Contact an experienced truck accident lawyer. They will assist you with every step of the claims process, determine whether maintenance issues caused the accident, and protect your rights.
What Damages May I Be Entitled to if I am Injured in a Truck Accident?
If you were seriously injured in a truck accident, you may be eligible for financial compensation by filing a personal injury claim. Depending on the nature of the accident and the severity of your injuries, you may seek compensation for the following:
- Economic damages: These are the actual monetary losses you suffered as a result of the accident, including medical bills and lost wages.
- Non-economic damages: These are more difficult to quantify, as they are related to the impact that the accident has had on your quality of life. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss of consortium.
- Punitive damages: These are awarded if the court finds that the truck driver’s actions were particularly egregious. In addition to the economic and non-economic damages, the driver may be required to pay punitive damages as well as a form of punishment.
Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers Represent Those Who Have Been Injured in Maintenance-Related Truck Accidents
If you have been seriously injured in a truck accident that was caused by poor maintenance, one of our Virginia Beach truck accident lawyers can help. Our dedicated legal team at East Coast Trial Lawyers will address all of your questions. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 757-352-2237 or contact us online. Located in Virginia Beach, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.