View from the driver's seat of a truck of the highway and a landscape of fields at dawn.
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By Jonathan Bechtel
Founding Partner

Truck accidents can be caused by human error, such as distracted driving or overloading a truck beyond its recommended weight capacity. But many of these cases point to failed safety mechanisms, which usually means that the root cause lies with the manufacturer, inspector, or some other party that is less obvious than the driver or trucking company. If you’ve been in a truck accident, an essential part of your damages claim will be uncovering how the wreck happened and who is responsible. You can count on the personal injury team at Stanfield Bechtel Law.

The devices that keep trucks safe (but sometimes don’t)

Modern commercial trucks are equipped with a number of features designed to enhance safe operation. Some of these have been around for a long time, while others are relatively new. A few common examples are:

Braking and automatic braking systems. Application of the brakes can avoid or minimize the impact of an accident. Some trucks even have automatic emergency braking if an object is detected and the driver doesn’t manually apply the brakes. Brakes don’t always prevent an accident. But even where they don’t, they can at least make the accident less catastrophic.

However, to ensure the braking works properly, trucking companies must take steps to ensure that safety inspections are regularly performed. Defects and faulty repairs can also cause systems to fail.

Anti-jackknifing technology. One particular type of braking system is designed to prevent jackknifes, which are common causes of truck accidents. Anti-lock brakes for the tractor, trailer, or both keep the wheels from locking up. Sensors can even detect unusually heavy braking and respond accordingly to avoid an accident.

As with any other safety feature, sensors and brakes can fail if they are not installed properly, inspected regularly, and fixed promptly after detecting an error.

Warning capabilities. Newer trucks include devices that warn the driver of forward collisions, lane departures, and vehicles in blind spots. These systems are fairly reliable but could be defectively installed or assembled. On the other hand, inspection errors may fail to catch a problem with a warning system, or an oversight may lie with a repair or maintenance shop.

Although drivers are always required to apply their training to the safe operation of their vehicles, these warning systems are designed to prevent wrecks. When they fail, therefore, lives can be put at risk.

Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS). This term applies to any number of safety features intended to prevent accidents, including:

  • Active steering, which provides “micro-steering” functionality to make slight adjustments to the steering wheel
  • Adaptive cruise control, designed to monitor objects immediately in front of the truck to maintain consistent speed and distance between other vehicles
  • Lane keep assistance, which keeps the truck centered in the lane with little effort from the driver
  • Automatic headlights, high beams, and wiper blades, for turning on and adjusting lights and wipers depending on the conditions

Heavy traffic and poor weather are two contributing factors in truck accidents, and these systems are designed to compensate for them. But that requires proper installation and inspection of critical safety components.

Who may be responsible?

Considering all that could go wrong to cause a safety feature to fail, where might the blame lie? There are a few possibilities:

  • The manufacturer of the truck or components of the truck’s safety features. This could be the result of a design defect (meaning a part was inherently flawed) or a manufacturing defect (the design worked, but the part or system was installed or assembled incorrectly)
  • An inspector. Private and government inspectors (e.g., the Connecticut Commercial Vehicle Safety Division) may play a role in negligently permitting a truck to operate with a defective safety feature. Crashes can occur when company or government regulations aren’t followed.
  • Repair or maintenance shop. Repairing and maintaining trucks is no simple task, and commercial trucking companies rely on professionals to inspect, repair, and maintain their critical safety systems. If this doesn’t happen, lives could be lost as a result.

It is also possible that the driver or trucking company did something that essentially canceled out the effectiveness of the safety system, like neglecting to have the truck inspected. After all, safety features are not absolute.

Determining Who Was At Fault in Your Trucking Accident

With all of the individuals and entities who may cause a trucking accident, it is important to learn how the wreck happened so the at-fault parties can be identified. Input from an expert witness, such as an accident reconstructionist, will also prove helpful. Our firm will investigate, acquire relevant evidence, and assemble a case against those who caused the accident to help you win the compensation you deserve. Call Stanfeld Bechtel Law now.

About the Author
Jonathan believes the client should always come first, and aims to deliver a positive experience to exceed client expectations.