Truck drivers and trucking companies must keep their vehicles in safe working condition. While most take this obligation seriously, others save time and money by cutting corners, with potentially devastating consequences. Failure to perform adequate truck maintenance can lead to collisions, resulting in injuries, property damage, and, in some crashes, loss of life. When this happens, the negligent parties can be held accountable for the harm they’ve caused.
If you suffered injuries from an accident caused by improper maintenance, contact Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, immediately. We know how to investigate a truck accident from every angle, recover evidence proving that poor maintenance was to blame and use that information to demand maximum compensation from the at-fault parties. This thorough approach to litigation has helped us recover millions of dollars for our clients since we opened our doors over a decade ago. Let us put it to work for you.
Contact Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, for a free consultation with an improper truck maintenance lawyer in West Virginia. We’ll listen to your story, review your case, and tell you what we can do to seek the justice you deserve.
Common Truck Maintenance Issues That Can Cause Accidents
Trucks are susceptible to wear and tear, given their massive size and the vast distances they cover. Maintenance oversights can become significant hazards when a truck is in motion. A sudden component failure can cause a severe, potentially deadly collision.
Because of this, the federal government requires trucking companies to follow stringent maintenance, inspection, repair, or replacement rules for most vehicle components. Drivers must inspect their trucks before travel, and motor carriers must keep these daily inspection reports for at least 90 days.
Unfortunately, some trucking companies, drivers, and related parties fail to observe these guidelines for proper maintenance. Here are the most common truck maintenance issues that can cause accidents and injuries.
Brakes are perhaps the most crucial safety component in any vehicle, especially in large trucks that carry substantial weight. Regular wear and tear degrade their efficacy over time, decreasing their stopping power. If components are not inspected, maintained, and replaced when necessary, brake systems can fail altogether, leaving the driver unable to stop or slow down.
Trucks often travel long distances and across climates and temperatures, putting considerable stress on their tires and increasing the likelihood of a sudden, catastrophic failure. A tire blowout on a truck can be devastating, primarily if it occurs at high speeds, as the driver can lose control of the vehicle. Factors like excessively worn treads, improperly inflated tires, or damage from road debris can make tires vulnerable to blowouts.
Lighting systems on trucks aren’t just for the truck driver’s visibility but also for other vehicles on the road to understand the truck’s movements and driver’s intentions. Broken tail lights, malfunctioning indicators, or defective headlights can make it challenging for other drivers to anticipate the truck’s actions, leading to potential collisions.
Steering System Failures
A sudden failure of the truck’s steering system can leave the driver unable to control the vehicle’s direction. A steering failure can lead to a severe accident, especially if the failure occurs on a highway or in heavy traffic. Wear and tear on steering components, low power steering fluid, or alignment issues can compromise the steering capability.
A truck’s suspension system provides more than just a smooth ride. It also ensures that the truck’s weight is evenly distributed across all wheels. A compromised suspension can cause the vehicle to become unbalanced, making it prone to tipping or rolling, especially during turns or when carrying heavy loads. Furthermore, a faulty suspension can accelerate wear on other components, including tires and brakes.
How Many Truck Accidents Are Caused by Poor Maintenance?
According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a problem with the truck itself was the critical reason behind about 10 percent of all commercial vehicle accidents. Furthermore, brake problems were the leading cause of truck accidents, contributing to 29 percent of all such crashes.
West Virginia’s Mandatory Truck Inspections
In addition to the federal regulations, West Virginia has implemented its own mandatory truck inspections to ensure road safety. Morgantown, being a key transit point, is particularly vigilant about these inspections. Every commercial truck operating within the state boundaries must undergo an annual inspection to meet safety criteria. The goal is to prevent poorly maintained trucks from contributing to crashes that injure motorists and others on the road.
Who’s Liable in a Truck Accident Caused by Improper Maintenance?
Generally, the trucking company is responsible for maintaining its fleet. If an accident occurs due to a failure to adhere to proper maintenance standards, the company could be liable. Increasingly, trucking companies contract with individual owner-operators responsible for their vehicles. These drivers are typically responsible for maintaining their trucks and could be liable if they cause an accident by failing to do so.
Sometimes, more than one party bears responsibility for the crash. Depending on the circumstances, any or several of the following could be to blame:
- Truck drivers who were aware of a maintenance issue and chose to ignore it or did not conduct required routine checks
- Maintenance contractors who fail to service or repair the vehicle properly
- Parts manufacturers for defective parts, like brakes or tires
- Cargo loaders who overload or fail to load cargo properly
- Truck owners (if different from the trucking company that leases or rents them)
- Inspectors who overlook potential issues or fail to perform a thorough inspection
Truck accident attorneys can investigate the situation to determine all potentially liable parties.
How To Prove Improper Maintenance Caused a Truck Accident
Proving that a truck accident was caused by improper maintenance can be more challenging than establishing that a driver made an operational error behind the wheel. That’s because it requires careful analysis of the vehicles and documentation in the hands of the truck driver or carrier.
An experienced truck accident lawyer for maintenance issues has the knowledge and resources to gather the requisite evidence to prove liability, such as:
- Police reports often detail the possible causes of an accident.
- Maintenance records can show if trucking companies were neglectful about proper repairs.
- Post-accident assessments by mechanics can uncover the component that failed and why.
- Photos and videos can show the damage resulting from an improperly maintained truck.
- Other drivers or witnesses can often provide crucial information about the state of the truck before the accident.
- Onboard digital information systems from the truck can provide data to help identify potential mechanical failure.
- Expert testimony from a reconstructionist can posit a likely chain of events leading up to the crash.
For best results, talk to an attorney as soon as possible so they can gather this evidence.
How Our Morgantown Truck Accident Attorneys for Maintenance Issues Can Help You
If you’re a truck accident victim in Morgantown and suspect inadequate maintenance was to blame, you need experienced legal representation on your side. When you hire a truck maintenance accident lawyer, they can:
- Get started at no upfront cost – Most personal injury lawyers, including us, work on a contingency fee basis, which means we don’t charge an upfront fee for our services. Instead, we receive a percentage of whatever we recover on your behalf. Contingency fees allow everyone to seek justice, including those facing financial hardships.
- Leverage their knowledge of truck-specific laws – Trucking accidents aren’t just typical road accidents. They involve a complex web of state and federal regulations. An experienced lawyer knows these rules inside and out and can use them to establish liability.
- Launch an independent investigation of the accident – Lawyers have the resources and skills to collect evidence effectively. They can access maintenance logs, driver’s logs, and other relevant records that might be challenging for an individual to obtain.
- Work with experts to strengthen your case – Truck maintenance accident lawyers have a network of experts they can work with, like crash reconstructionists who can demonstrate how an accident happened and medical doctors who can speak to its effects.
- Establish all liable parties – Once they’ve investigated the accident and determined what happened, your lawyer can determine who is to blame. Parties beyond the truck driver and the trucking company could be liable, and your attorney can explore claims against them.
- Calculate the full extent of your losses – Just as crucial to establishing everyone potentially liable for your injuries is putting a dollar figure on your losses. Victims without experienced representation risk leaving money on the negotiating table.
- Negotiate for a settlement – Insurance companies minimize their payouts to protect their profits. Having a lawyer means having a skilled negotiator who can counter low-ball offers and strive for a settlement that adequately covers medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
- Fight it out in court – If the insurer doesn’t offer a fair settlement, your case might go to trial, where your lawyer’s litigation experience comes into play. They can protect your legal rights, present evidence persuasively, and help ensure the other side follows legal protocol.
Working with a truck maintenance accident attorney can also relieve stress. After an accident, victims and their families are often overwhelmed. Having a lawyer handle the legal aspects can provide peace of mind, allowing you to focus on recovery.
Talk to an Experienced Improper Truck Maintenance Attorney in Morgantown, WV Today
Truck accidents involving improper maintenance are complex. You should not try to deal with the insurance company alone, especially if you are recovering from accident-related injuries. Instead, turn to Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, for the dedicated legal representation you deserve. We’ve recovered millions of dollars for injured West Virginians and are ready to put our considerable skills and resources to work on your behalf.
This article was previously published in June 2021 and updated for relevance in September 2023.