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Who is to Blame for an Accident Caused by Failing Truck Brakes?

August 17, 2020

Heavy-duty trucks need heavy-duty air brakes, not only because they weigh up to 8,000 pounds, but they also require longer stopping distances. Motorists expect that these trucks will stop when they need to, but brake failures on these big rigs do happen and they can be catastrophic. The Department of Transportation reports that approximately 30 percent of large truck accidents involved braking issues, and it is common for drivers to claim that their brakes failed.

Yet, even when the driver is awake and alert, the weather is clear, and the brakes are new, any number of factors can cause the brakes to fail.

Air Brakes and Performance

Truck brakes should provide quality and reliable performance. The brakes should also decelerate the truck to stop at certain rates and meet other performance standards.

Air brakes have many parts, including an air compressor that pumps air into different reservoirs. The compressor is connected to the engine by gears. There is also an air compressor governor that pumps air into air storage tanks. When used the right way, these brakes effectively stop large trucks.

Why Do Brakes Fail?

When brakes fail, it can lead to a deadly accident. For this reason, it is important that truckers always maintain their trucks before driving. Brakes can fail for a number of reasons, including the following:

Truck Drivers

A truck driver can make a mistake, such as driving in a reckless manner. Going over the speed limit, tailgating, and allowing the cargo to be overloaded can affect how the brakes respond. Some drivers also choose to drive while intoxicated, fatigued, or when they are distracted. Distracted driving is extremely dangerous and can lead to fatal truck accidents.

Sometimes, a truck driver will either deliberately or accidentally limit the power of their brake systems. One example is a driver who unhooks their cab’s braking system. This action may help truckers save money on brake maintenance, but it puts additional stress on the truck. Another hazard is when a truck driver rides the brakes when going downhill; this can cause the brakes to overheat.

Inadequate Stopping Distance

To avoid a crash, a truck driver needs to increase stopping distance, which depends on how fast the driver is going and how heavy the truck is. A sudden stop runs the risk of brake failure. Not driving properly over time can also cause the brakes to wear faster, especially when extra force is used on the brakes. Drivers who have not been well-trained on using the brakes and how to react in certain situations can also cause crashes.

Failing to Complete Required Inspections

In addition to following the rules of the road, truck drivers also need to complete required inspections, including before and after they complete their routes. This includes checking all the vital parts, such as the brakes.

Tractor trailer brakes that are old or worn have an increased risk of failing. Drivers should also inspect brakes during trips to make sure that everything is performing as it should. They are not permitted to drive when they know that their brakes need repairs or maintenance.

Truck drivers who are familiar with their vehicles will know how they should handle different situations. Therefore, a trucker should be able to judge if their vehicle is safe. Even so, a truck driver may not address issues because they are trying to save time and money.

Installation and Repair Issues

Brake systems that are installed or repaired incorrectly can also cause accidents. Brakes need to be replaced after a certain amount of time, so it is up to a repair shop to handle this. Regular inspections can help ensure that this kind of work is completed without errors.

Poor Maintenance

Sometimes, brakes are not adjusted as they should be, which can cause the axles to have more braking force than the trailer. This can result in a jackknife truck accident, which is when the trailer swings out to the side. It can hit multiple cars, causing very serious accidents and injuries.

Defects in the Manufacturing Process

Even if the driver and repair shop do their jobs right, there could be issues with the design or with the manufacturer of the brakes. When brakes do not meet the requirements for automatic brake adjustment systems or other standards, they are considered defective. Their problems may have started in the design phase, during manufacturing, assembly, or at the product handling stage.

Who Could be Liable for Failing Brakes?

Since there are several parties that could be responsible for failing brakes, an investigation into the cause may be the best course of action. If the victim is injured or suffered significant property damage, a consultation with an experienced truck accident lawyer could be beneficial. Liable parties may include the following:

Brakes Manufacturer

It is possible that the brakes were defective. Some companies may be aware of defects but neglect to issue recalls. When this happens, plaintiffs may be able to receive compensation by filing a products liability claim against the designers, manufacturers, or the businesses involved in marketing and selling the brakes.

Maintenance Company or Repair Shop

Some trucking companies have contracts with maintenance companies and repair shops. If these parties fail to carry out maintenance and repairs or routine inspections, they could be at fault.

There are federal laws in place which mandate that truck owners keep ongoing logs of all maintenance and inspections activities. When these are deficient or have apparent inconsistencies, the maintenance company or repair shop could be at fault for the crash.

Shipping Company

Loading cargo should never be taken lightly. When a truck is loaded the wrong way, it can lead to a host of problems. Aside from shifting in transit and falling off a truck, improperly loaded goods can make the brakes wear out unevenly or too soon.


Determining the truck driver’s classification of employment is very important in truck accidents. Trucking company employees normally get taxes taken out of their pay and receive medical benefits. They also have their routes, schedules, fuel, and repairs provided by their employers.

Drivers who are independent contractors have much more control over their work, and they are paid by the route, arrange their own schedules, and they are responsible for paying expenses. Some are also owner-operators, so they lease or own the trucks that they drive.

Trucking Company

If the truck is owned and operated by a trucking company, they could be held liable for a wreck if they were aware that the truck was part of a recall or if they knew about a defective part but kept the truck in operation.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) stipulates that every motor carrier must periodically inspect, repair, and maintain their motor vehicles. The FMCSA rules also apply to parts and accessories. Trucking companies may violate maintenance, inspection, and repair requirements.

Should I Speak to a Lawyer After a Truck Crash?

If failing brakes caused a truck accident, it is important to speak to a lawyer. It can be difficult to determine who is liable for this type of accident, and a lawyer will help establish the cause.

Virginia Beach Truck Accident Lawyers Protect Victims Injured by Defective Truck Parts

Failing brakes are the root cause of many serious truck accidents, and there could be multiple parties at fault. If you were involved in a truck accident, do not hesitate to contact one of our knowledgeable Virginia Beach truck accident lawyers. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we fight for innocent truck accident victims. For a free consultation, call us at 757-352-2237 or complete our online form. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we proudly serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

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Virginia Beach VA 23452
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