Tractor-Trailer Accident Cases: Do Not Overlook the Tractor-Trailer With Defective Brakes
Breit Cantor Grana Buckner—October 3, 2013
Many tractor-trailer collisions are caused because of the defective nature of the brakes of the tractor-trailer. Tractor-trailer brake systems typically use air pressure rather than hydraulic fluid to engage the brakes. Such brake systems must be in proper working condition, with all valves, gages, and pressure supply systems in proper working condition. Moreover, the truck’s brakes must be balanced such that the axles receive the same level of braking force when the system is engaged.
Tractor-trailer drivers are often heard after a crash to blame the collision on a sudden loss of braking by the tractor-trailer. Rarely are such failures spontaneous total losses of the braking system. On the contrary, such failures are the result of the brake system not reacting as quickly as the driver expected when the driver suddenly applied a high level of braking force. These failures are typically due to miles and miles of usage and improper inspection and maintenance of the braking system.
The trial lawyer handling a tractor-trailer accident case in which defective brakes are suspected should obtain an immediate forensic inspection of the braking system if feasible. The trial lawyer should also obtain all police and motor carrier safety inspections of the tractor-trailer, all records from the tractor-trailer company that deals with the inspection, maintenance, and repair of the tractor-trailer, and all driver logs and records. Additionally, the physical evidence from the scene of the crash may provide clues as to the braking or lack thereof by the tractor-trailer, including skid marks, yaw marks, scuffs, crash debris, and crash analysis of the vehicles. It is almost always advisable to retain a truck expert at the outset of tractor-trailer cases involving suspected defective brakes to assist the trial lawyer in obtaining and analyzing the critical evidence.