The average passenger car weighs about 4,000 pounds, which is a lot of weight. When you compare it to the 35,000 to 80,000 pound weight of a semi-truck, it pales in comparison, and that is why the aftermath of a brake failure can be so catastrophic. Smaller vehicles can be heavily damaged or totaled, not to mention the serious and possibly fatal injuries that can occur to occupants.
Most large commercial trucks have three-part braking systems. A truck’s air brakes use friction. When this is applied to a brake pad, it compresses air stored inside the tank and pushes a piston and applies pressure to the brake pad. A truck’s emergency brakes can be manual of automatic and are used in serious situations. Parking brakes are just like the ones in cars and keep the vehicles from moving or rolling when parked.
A common reason for truck brakes to fail is improper maintenance. This could be the responsibility of the trucking company or the driver; some truckers own their own rigs.
A big part of regular semi-truck upkeep is keeping the brakes balanced. Brake shoes come in pairs and have to wear evenly to stay balanced. If one side is weaker than the other, there will often be scraping, squeaking, and a slower response to braking. The air brake’s airline can also become damaged with cracks, breakage, or punctures, and when that happens, the air will not be pressured properly. If a brake shoe gets stuck, the truck will accelerate slower than expected. Truck drivers and their employers should be alert to these brake problems and take the steps to address them as soon as possible.
Defective brakes are another reason why truck accidents happen, even though truck brake manufacturing companies are heavily regulated. The brakes must meet a long list of performance standards, but some end up on the market even though they do not have the proper braking force and deceleration rates. Trucking companies and drivers should be aware of all recalls.
Although truck drivers should be well-trained and experienced before ever getting behind the wheel of a semi-truck, they still make mistakes. One is over-braking, which is when too much pressure is applied once or too often. This overworks the system, possibly causing it to wear out. Over pumping the brakes and using them unnecessarily can lead to brake fade, causing the drums to overheat. The proper method is to apply hard, short, and intermittent brake applications as opposed to holding the pedal down for long periods of time.
Improperly loaded cargo can also lead to brake-related truck accidents because an unbalanced truck is more likely to cause an emergency situation. In addition to that, cargo that is not secured can shift from side to side, causing the driver to make split-decision maneuvers, like braking without enough time or room to prevent a crash. Trucks have longer stopping distances than other vehicles, and when road conditions are slippery and they need to stop quickly, driver error or poorly-maintained brakes can lead to a dangerous situation.
During training, truck drivers are taught how to respond in the event of a brake failure. They are instructed to downshift first and then employ the emergency brake system. If the brakes are hydraulic, they can be pumped. This does not always work quickly enough, so they can try to find a quick escape route, like pulling over to a safe location.
What Should I Do After a Truck Accident?
Truck drivers and their employers are responsible for keeping their trucks maintained and for following safe driving practices, no matter the road conditions. Truckers should always be prepared to use their brakes as quickly as they can. They should also use their lights and reduce speed in traffic and poor weather conditions. They should stay focused on the road at all times.
Fortunately, brake-related truck accidents are not particularly common. However, when they do happen, you will want to attend to your injuries and make sure that everyone in your car is safe. When you can, call 911 and wait for help to arrive. An ambulance may be needed if the injuries are serious.
Do not refuse medical care, even if you do not think that you or others are badly hurt. Many times, injuries take several hours or days to show symptoms, and waiting too long can impact your recovery and also potential personal injury case.
It is possible that the driver, company, or brake manufacturer acted negligently, which ultimately caused your truck accident. There is also the possibility that a mechanic or someone who loaded the cargo caused the accident. As you can imagine, these cases can become complicated when there are so many parties involved, so proving negligence can take significant time and effort.
In a personal injury suit, you must prove the following:
- The defendant had a duty of care to drive responsibly and safely.
- The defendant failed to exercise that duty of care.
- That breach of duty caused your injuries, damages, and losses.
A direct link needs to be established between a defendant’s actions and your resulting injuries and/or damages. An example would be a plaintiff proving that the truck’s brakes had not been maintained as required and failed, and the driver did not respond quickly enough to avoid the crash. As a direct result of those actions, the plaintiff experienced a spinal cord injury.
Evidence for Your Claim
With brake design problems and other mechanical defects, a manufacturer could be held liable for the damages and injuries. In these situations, the brakes and/or its parts must have been faulty at the time they left the manufacturer’s facility. Considering all of the factors that can contribute to truck accidents, it is hardly surprising that these cases can quickly become complicated.
Evidence for personal injury claims can be obtained from driver logs, inspection reports, maintenance records, and other sources. It is not unusual for evidence to get lost, altered, or destroyed. It is critical to gather evidence as soon as possible. Your lawyer can assist and can help preserve your evidence.
Statute of Limitations
It is also important to know that the statute of limitations for filing a claim for a truck accident in New Jersey is two years. If you wait too long, your case will likely be dismissed. Even though you might feel overwhelmed after a truck accident, time is of the essence, and you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible.
Cherry Hill Truck Accident Lawyers at DiTomaso Law Provide Legal Guidance to Those Injured in Brake-Related Truck Accidents
If you have been seriously hurt because another party’s negligence resulted in a brake-related truck accident, speak with one of our Cherry Hill truck accident lawyers at DiTomaso Law. Complete our online form or call us at 856-414-0010 to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey, including Mt. Holly, Camden County, and Vineland.