Mechanical Failures in Single-Vehicle 18-Wheeler Accidents

By Michael GrossmanOctober 13, 2015Reading Time: 3 minutes

Single-vehicle 18-Wheeler Accidents happen far too often. Sometimes, the cause is one for which the truck's driver would be considered at fault: failing to maintain speed, failing to adjust to weather conditions, distracted driving, driving while intoxicated, or some other factor loss of control. These are all common reasons for an 18-Wheeler getting into a serious single-vehicle accident, but just as common are single-vehicle accidents where the driver actually isn't at fault. These situations are even more devastating to the injured drivers or family members of those who died, because the accident was caused by something beyond their control. I'm not talking about simple "accidents" though. I'm talking about someone else's negligence being the cause of one of these crashes.

Before we get into the discussion of that negligence, we'll look at some common mechanical issues with 18-Wheelers. Some such issues which can lead to truck accidents are failed brakes, failed steering, blown-out tires, or a tire that completely falls off of the vehicle. All of these situations make such a large vehicle hard to control under normal driving conditions. However, imagine a situation in which not only do the brakes fail, but the road is also slick from a recent rain. The driver in a situation like this doesn't stand a chance.

So Then --If the Truck Driver Isn't At Fault -- Who's to Blame?

At this point, if you have any familiarity with commercial trucking, you may wonder how dangerous mechanical conditions like this can be allowed to exist. Doesn't a commercial truck have to pass inspections with its trucking company in order to be on the road? Yes, in fact, it does. Most commercial vehicles such as 18-wheelers and delivery trucks have to pass both a federal and state inspection (for Texas, the state DOT inspection and the federal FMCSA inspection). If this is the case, then why are so many commercial trucks still in such dangerous condition?

Well, difficult as it may be to imagine, the truth is that many companies don't want to take the time to have the vehicles in their fleet properly inspected and serviced, because they see each hour off the road as a loss of revenue for the company. What they don't consider about the lack of care this represents is the loss of life or standard of living it can lead to, and the effects on both their employees and drivers' families.

So far we've only discussed mechanical issues that cause semi-trucks to wreck. But there are additional cases where the mechanical issue may not be the cause of the accident, but may cause a wreck with other causes to become fatal, when it might otherwise not have been. For example, imagine that the driver of the 18-wheeler did fail to maintain his speed during rainy conditions, lost control, and overturned. In this scenario the driver was wearing his seat belt, so he may reasonably expect some minor to serious injuries from the crash. Now imagine the same scenario, but with the seat belt failing and coming unattached from the seat, or the airbags failing to deploy, or the faulty design in the truck causing it to catch on fire. A crash that under normal circumstances would have caused an injury has now unnecessarily caused the truck driver to die, all because of the truck's mechanical failures.

Liability For Single-Vehicle Mechanical Malfunction 18-Wheeler Accidents

Liability for mechanical failures in trucks might depend on who the truck driver works for and where the truck was manufactured. If the truck driver works for a commercial truck company, that company is responsible for making sure those vehicles have been inspected and maintained. If it turns out the company was negligent in this regard, they are going to have to be accountable for their actions. If the mechanical issue was in the design or production of the vehicle, like our driver whose seat belt failed during his collision, the manufacturer might be liable, and this would fall under "products liability".

What Steps Should an Injured Truck Driver Take After a Single-vehicle Accident?

Would you expect the company that didn't want to take the time or money to maintain their vehicles to then feel obligated to any injured parties? Of course not. The same companies that avoided making sure their trucks were maintained are also going to avoid taking responsibility for that very same negligence. In order to find out what really happened, the injured parties or the families of people wrongfully injured or killed will need help from an attorney to do further research into the matter. Among other things, he should obtain a record the vehicle's most recent inspection report, and the tractor-trailer itself should be inspected for any possible mechanical failings.

If the company the truck driver works for has workers' compensation, then the driver will be eligible to receive benefits. If they don't have workers' comp, then the driver and any innocent injured parties may be eligible to file a law suit against the company. Either way, it's a good idea for any injured parties to do research and ask questions to make sure they're on the right path to receiving compensation for their injuries.