A tractor trailer that is carrying a full load in California can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds. When such a large vehicle is traveling at 30, 40, 50, 60, or even 70 miles per hour (MPH) it takes enormous force to bring it to a quick (and safe) stop. For this reason, it is imperative that all semi-trucks in California have properly working brakes. Bad brakes can contribute to catastrophic, even deadly crashes. In this article, our Stockton semi-truck accident lawyer offers a comprehensive guide to the most important things to know about liability for a tractor trailer crash caused by failed brakes.
Brakes are a Critically Important Safety Feature on a Truck
Good brakes are critically important in managing the truck’s momentum, especially during emergencies. They allow safe stopping distances, prevent skidding, and offer control during descents. Proper maintenance ensures brakes function optimally, safeguarding against accidents. Despite advanced safety features like ABS and brake assist, the core value of well-maintained brakes is irreplaceable. Neglecting this vital safety feature can have catastrophic consequences. Here are some of the most notable reasons why brake issues can contribute to semi-truck accidents:
- Delayed Stopping Time: Trucks are heavyweight vehicles. When brakes are not in top shape, the stopping distance increases, leading to potential collisions.
- Loss of Control: Defective brakes can lead to loss of control over the vehicle, especially at high speeds or during turns. This can result in rollovers or jackknifing accidents.
- Uneven Brake Wear: If brake pads wear unevenly, it can cause the truck to pull to one side during braking, making it difficult to control, potentially causing an accident.
- Outright Brake Failure: In extreme cases, bad brakes can completely fail. A truck barreling down the road with no ability to slow down or stop is a disaster waiting to happen.
- Downhill Travel: Descending on slopes puts enormous strain on truck brakes. If they are already compromised, the risk of brake failure increases dramatically, which can lead to runaway truck scenarios.
- Adverse Weather Conditions: In rain, snow, or icy conditions, well-maintained brakes are even more crucial. Bad brakes can significantly amplify the risk of skidding or losing control.
- Unusually Heavy Loads: Trucks often carry heavy loads. If brakes are not in optimal condition, they might not be capable of managing this extra weight, leading to potential accidents.
California is a Fault-Based Commercial Truck Accident Jurisdiction
In California, liability for a truck accident is based on fault. In effect, the party at fault for causing a crash is legally responsible for the resulting damages. Every crash involving a large semi-truck should be comprehensively investigated by an experienced truck accident lawyer. Truck companies and their commercial insurers are focused largely on protecting their own interests.
Several Parties May Bear Liability for a Crash Caused By a Truck’s Bad Brakes
A number of different defendants may potentially be legally liable for a semi-truck crash caused by bad brakes. Some of the most common parties that are held liable in these cases include:
- Truck Driver: The driver might be held responsible if they continued to operate the truck despite knowing about the brake issues, or if they failed to conduct necessary pre-trip inspections which should have identified brake problems. Negligence or ignorance of warning signs can potentially shift the blame to the driver.
- Truck Company: The trucking company bears significant responsibility for maintaining their vehicles in safe, roadworthy conditions. If the company has neglected regular brake checks and necessary maintenance or pressured drivers to continue using trucks with worn brakes, they may be found liable. Beyond that, if they fail to ensure drivers perform their required inspections, this could contribute to their culpability.
- Brake Maintenance Company: If a third-party maintenance company is employed to inspect and repair the truck’s brakes, and they either negligently perform their duties or make errors leading to brake failure, they could be held liable. Proper documentation of maintenance procedures can be critical in establishing fault in these cases.
- Vehicle Manufacturer: Finally, the manufacturer of the truck or the brake system itself might be liable if a defect in the design or manufacturing process led to the brake failure. In such situations, victims might have a claim for product liability. It could also include manufacturers of brake parts if those components failed and directly contributed to the accident. Truck accident product liability claims are especially complex cases.
Notably, California is a comparative negligence state. An injured victim can still recover financial compensation if they are partially at fault for their own truck accident—though, their settlement or verdict will be reduced proportionately to their degree of blame for the crash.
We Help Injured Truck Accident Victims in Stockton Fight for Financial Compensation
Hurt in a semi-truck accident caused by faulty brakes or an outright brake failure? It is imperative that you are able to secure the full and fair financial compensation that you need to pay bills and support your families. California allows truck accident victims to recover compensation for economic and non-economic losses. Our Stockton, CA semi-truck accident lawyers fight hard to help victims and families obtain the absolute maximum settlement or verdict. In a bad brakes truck accident case, you may be entitled to recover financial compensation for:
- Vehicle repairs;
- Emergency room care;
- Hospital bills;
- Other medical costs;
- Physical therapy;
- Lost wages;
- Loss of future earnings;
- Pain and suffering;
- Mental distress;
- Disfigurement; and
- Wrongful death.
Set Up a Free Case Review With a Top Stockton, CA Truck Accident Attorney
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton semi-truck accident lawyers have what it takes to hold negligence truck companies accountable. If you or your loved one was hurt in a commercial truck accident and bad brakes played a role, we are here as a legal resource. Contact us today for your free, no obligation case review. We fight for the rights of commercial truck accident victims in Stockton, Stockton County, and all across the wider region in the San Joaquin Valley.