While most traffic accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs are a result of driver error – either on the part of the truck driver or the driver of another vehicle involved in the accident – a small but significant number of traffic accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs are a result of equipment failures on the semis. According to federal statistics, poor vehicle maintenance is a factor in many accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs. This is true despite stringent regulations governing the upkeep of semi rigs. These regulations have reduced the rate of tractor-trailer accidents caused by maintenance shortcomings, but maintenance nonetheless still is a factor in many accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs.
Even though the percentage of such accidents is relatively small, the issue of maintenance-related accidents involving tractor-trailer rigs is an important one. The difference in size and weight between tractor-trailers and passenger vehicles makes it abundantly clear that all causes of truck-auto accidents are important, and preventable causes must be addressed. The incredible size advantage enjoyed by semis virtually ensures that, when truck meets car, cars lose, often fatally. For that reason alone, any actions that can reduce the likelihood of semi-auto crashes should be pursued. Maintenance issues remain relevant to that effort.Poor Truck Maintenance Could be a Cause of Your Accident with a Semi
Federal statistics indicate that only about 2 percent of accidents involving tractor-trailers involve a maintenance issue affecting the tractor-trailer. Of those accidents, tire problems were a factor in about 35 percent, brake issues were a factor in about 22 percent, and issues related to steering, suspension, transmission, and engine problems were a factor in only about 3 percent. About 40 percent of such accidents involved other vehicle-related issues.
On the other hand, a 2007 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found brake problems to be the top vehicle-associated factor involved in truck crashes during the 2001-2003 study period. That study found that there were roughly 120,000 traffic accidents involving at least one tractor-trailer rig that resulted in a fatality or injuries, with 141,000 tractor-trailer rigs involved in those crashes. That study found that brake problems were an “associated factor” – not necessarily a cause – in 41,000 of the trucks involved in those accidents, or about 29 percent. While the study did not name brake issues as the cause of those accidents, it found the brake issues to be “associated” with the cause of 29 percent of the accidents.
Private organizations also have studied the issue, and likewise, have found that maintenance factors play a role in many tractor-trailer accidents. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute conducted studies in the 1980s that found semi rigs that had defective equipment were two times more likely to crash as were trucks with no defective equipment. Further, a 2012 IIHS study found that post-crash examinations revealed three out of four trucks involved in traffic accidents had vehicle defects. Of those trucks, those with defects that would have resulted in being taken out of service were four times more likely to be involved in an accident than were trucks with no such violations.
Nearly three-quarters of the crash-involved trucks had vehicle defects identified during a post-crash inspection. Trucks with out-of-service violations for any type of defect were more than 4 times as likely to be in a crash as trucks without such violations. Inspectors can cite an out-of-service violation for any mechanical or loading issue that is likely to cause an accident or truck breakdown. Such violations can include faulty brakes, worn tires, as well as burned out headlights, taillights, or brake lights.
The 2012 study found that any kind of vehicle defects increased the risk of an accident, with trucks cited for brake violations 50 percent more likely to be involved in an accident, while out-of-service brake violations made a truck three times more likely to be involved in a crash.There are Steps Drivers can Take to Protect Their Rights When Involved in an Accident with a Semi
If you are involved in an accident with a semi, you should always first determine whether anyone in your vehicle requires medical attention. After that, if you are able, you should
- Call for emergency medical assistance, if needed;
- Call the police to report the accident
- Document as much as possible, including license plate numbers of involved vehicles, witness information, and insurance information of involved parties. These steps can be critical to protecting your rights. If possible, take pictures of the accident scene, as well.
Taking these simple steps can go far in helping you protect your rights in the event you are involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer. These steps cannot establish whether an equipment defect on the semi was a contributing factor, but they can help clarify for accident investigators what happened and whether such a defect did contribute to the cause of the accident. Accident investigators will examine the rig and look at the truck’s maintenance records, obtaining the information you cannot in order to determine whether the condition of the truck played a role in the accident. Nonetheless, you can take the above steps to both assist with the investigation and to assist with protecting your potential rights to compensation. The final step you can take in that regard is to consult with an accident attorney experienced with accidents involving truck defects. If such defects are found, you will want a lawyer with the experience to give you proper guidance on the next steps you should take to obtain compensation.Contact an Atlanta Accident Attorney
If you have been involved in an accident with a tractor-trailer rig and have suffered injuries, you should consult with an attorney to discuss your options. This is especially true if you believe defects in the truck’s equipment was a factor in the accident. You might be able to recover damages for your injuries and property loss. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling (404) 255-6677. Our attorneys serve the entire state of Georgia, including Smyrna, Decatur, and Marietta. You also can reach us through our online contact form.