Commercial trucks are just like any other piece of complex machinery in that their parts can and do malfunction on occasion. When a critical safety component fails—such as the truck’s brakes—there’s a high chance that a devastating and potentially fatal accident will result. If you were injured or lost a family member in such a collision, there are several parties who may be liable for your damages.
Read on to learn the answers to some frequently asked questions about truck accidents caused by brake failure:
1. Who Might Be Liable for a Truck Accident Caused by Brake Failure?
Motor carriers and the truck drivers they employ are required to follow strict regulations regarding vehicle maintenance. When they fail to inspect and replace their brakes after a particular timeframe or mileage, the chance of a brake failure becomes unreasonably high; however, there are circumstances when the brakes could fail on even a properly maintained truck.
The party or parties against whom you bring the accident claim will depend on what led to the brake failure. One or more of the following parties may be liable for your damages:
- The Truck Driver: If the truck driver owned the vehicle and worked as an independent contractor, they would have had a duty to perform reasonable inspections and maintenance on the vehicle. If they breached this duty and this negligence was a proximate cause of the accident, you would have grounds for a claim against the trucker.
- The Motor Carrier: Courts in California recognize the doctrine of respondeat superior. That means if the trucker was an employee of a motor carrier, then the employer may be vicariously liable for any damages caused by the trucker’s negligence. Even if the trucker was not an employee, the motor carrier may be liable if it owned the vehicle or otherwise had a duty to inspect the vehicle but failed to do so, and this led to the accident.
- The Maintenance Contractor: Some trucking companies contract out their vehicle maintenance to third parties. In this scenario, the maintenance contractor may be liable if their inspection or maintenance procedures were negligent.
- The Designer or Manufacturer of the Brakes: If the brake failure was caused by a design or manufacturing defect, you may have grounds for a claim against the company that designed or manufactured them. Depending on the source of the defect, there are other parties who might be liable such as an engineer or the distributor.
2. What Evidence Might Contribute to My Claim?
For your case to result in a settlement or verdict, you will have to prove liability, causation, and damages. Below are a few kinds of evidence your truck accident lawyer might use to prove these three elements:
- Evidence of Liability: If the brake failure occurred due to inadequate vehicle inspection or maintenance, you will need evidence of this negligence in order to hold the defendant liable. The police report (also called an “incident” or “accident” report) will serve as valuable evidence if the trucker admitted to responding officers at the scene that the brakes did not work. Other evidence of negligence may include vehicle inspection or maintenance records, or documentation of the defendant’s inspection or maintenance procedures. Your attorney may also use the brakes themselves to show that they had excessive wear and tear and should have been replaced sooner. If the opposing party disputes liability, it may be necessary to bring in an auto part specialist to provide deposition about when the brakes should have been replaced. If the brake failure occurred due to a manufacturing defect, it may be possible to hold the manufacturer strictly liable for the resulting damages. Strict liability means a finding of negligence is not necessary in order to impose liability; however, your attorney will still have to prove that a manufacturing defect was more likely than not the proximate cause of the brake failure. Essential evidence may include blueprints, schematics, recall data, the actual brakes, and the deposition of an auto part specialist.
- Evidence of Causation: You will not be able to recover compensation unless it can be shown that the alleged tort was the cause of the damages. The defendant might dispute causation, for example, if you had a pre-existing condition that was aggravated by the accident, or if your vehicle already had significant damage prior to the crash. Your lawyer may use the following evidence to prove causation: pictures of visible injuries and property damage, photos of the crash scene, your medical records from before and after the accident, deposition of an accident reconstruction expert, deposition of a medical expert, surveillance and dash cam footage of the collision, the police report, and percipient witness deposition.
- Evidence of Damages: What costs have you incurred as a result of the accident? How have your injuries affected your enjoyment in life? What are your symptoms and how severe are they? Have you been diagnosed with a psychological disorder since the accident? These are just some of the questions your attorney will seek to answer when determining the kinds of damages to pursue. Evidence of damages may include photos of injuries; your medical records; your financial records; receipts for accident- and injury-related expenses; and deposition from your treating physician, loved ones, retained medical experts, and an economist.
3. What Should I Do Before Contacting a Truck Accident Lawyer?
There are only two things you need to do before contacting a truck accident attorney: gather evidence at the scene if you are able to do so, and undergo an immediate medical evaluation. After this evaluation, you should contact a lawyer right away. Even if you haven’t had the opportunity to compile evidence, your lawyer can gather relevant evidence on your behalf, much of which may be time sensitive. Your attorney can also take over correspondence with the opposing party and help you avoid critical mistakes that might harm your claim.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Truck Accident Lawyer in Long Beach
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