When a truck accident happens, it is only natural to focus suspicion of liability on the truck driver. Big rig trucks are large, potentially dangerous vehicles that can cause major damage when they collide with vehicles, drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Accidents often may be caused by driver error; however, another common cause of commercial trucking accidents is the failure to properly inspect and maintain the vehicle.
Any automobile that operates regularly on America’s streets and highways requires routine repairs. In the case of semi-trucks, inspections and maintenance are not only prudent but also mandated by federal and Texas state laws.
This is only natural given the complexity of commercial trucks. They have far more mechanical components and technical aspects than passenger vehicles — more wheels, more weight, and they require special training and expertise to operate. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of not just the driver but also the owner-operator of the commercial truck to properly give the truck a full inspection on an annual basis, as well as to keep comprehensive records of maintenance and repair.
Failure to perform any of these required tasks may mean the truck driver or commercial trucking company is liable for injuries and damages in an accident.
Federal Regulations Govern Maintenance
Fortunately for drivers or passengers involved in Texas truck accidents that include a commercial tractor-trailer, many of the trucking regulations that are enforced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) are designed specifically to address issues around inspection and maintenance. Many of these regulations also have been adopted into Texas law.
For example, one of these federal regulations requires drivers of commercial big rig trucks to perform a vehicle inspection of the truck before taking it out for the day as well as a post-trip inspection at the end of each day to find any possible mechanical issues.
Mechanical failures in a commercial truck are a very common cause of accidents involving these types of vehicles. This is one reason that the records a trucking company is required to keep under federal law are so important to obtain quickly following an accident before they can be destroyed or altered. A trucking company must maintain records for each vehicle that it owns, leases or operates that include:
- The identification of the owner and style of the vehicle
- A list of the nature and due date of various inspection and maintenance tasks to be performed on the vehicle
- A record of inspections, repairs, and maintenance performed on the vehicle
These records must be maintained for a minimum of one year while the vehicle is in use by the commercial trucking company and for six months after the commercial truck leaves the company’s control. A commercial trucking operation can be held responsible for any injury caused by its failure to appropriately and legally inspect, maintain, or repair any commercial tractor-trailer that it operates.
For example, if a truck’s brakes are faulty and cause a trucking accident in Houston, and the trucking company did not conduct a pre-trip inspection that would have discovered the defect, the trucking company may be liable for any injuries and damages resulting from the accident. Even a former owner of a commercial big rig who sells the vehicle to another carrier can be held legally liable for negligent maintenance of the vehicle if it is found to have been out of compliance with federal law.
Common Maintenance and Repair Issues in Commercial Trucks
A variety of mechanical and technical issues can be a factor in causing accidents. However, these accidents often may have been prevented by the regular required maintenance of a commercial truck. Just a few of the issues identified by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration as common maintenance problems in trucks include:
- Brake failure
- Failure of a commercial vehicle’s trailer hitch
- Single or multiple tire blow-out due to worn treads or poorly aligned wheels
- Suspension failure
- Steering column problems or failures
- Broken headlights, signal lights, or missing reflective surfaces
- Unsecured cargo compounded by trucks being illegally heavy
- Parts falling from a truck and into the roadway or other vehicles
- Increased stopping distance due to worn, faulty, or unmaintained brakes
These types of maintenance-related issues make commercial vehicles harder to stop, especially when traveling at a high speed, as well as harder to control or more difficult for other motorists to see. If a truck suddenly veers into adjacent or oncoming traffic due to a maintenance issue, it can cause severe damage or devastating injuries in the event of a collision.
How Our Lawyers Can Help with Negligent Truck Maintenance Accidents
The Houston truck accident lawyers at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. who work with truck accidents and lawsuits take action immediately to ensure that a truck involved in an accident is inspected and, if needed, preserved so that the vehicle is not repaired or scrapped prior to an investigation. We also collect inspection, repair, and maintenance records to demonstrate any perceived safety issues or to portray the ways in which the driver or operator failed to legally inspect and maintain the commercial truck.
We know that disputes involving liability in a trucking accident with multiple parties involved can be challenging. It is because we understand the legal issues in commercial trucking accidents, as well as the investigatory process, that we are able to fight on behalf of the victims of catastrophic trucking accidents to obtain compensation they deserve.
If you or a family member have been the victim of a collision with a large truck, find out more with a free case evaluations about what the Houston truck accident attorneys at The Krist Law Firm, P.C. can do for you by calling us at 281-283-8500 or contact us using the form below. We offer a free consultation and there are no fees unless we recover compensation for you.