Can an At-Fault Driver Avoid Liability By Claiming Brake Failure?
Your brakes are one of the most important parts of your car. If they fail to stop your vehicle or do not work properly, a dangerous collision will result.
That said, drivers cannot typically blame a crash on failing brakes. The reason for this is that brakes rarely fail without exhibiting some type of warning signs. This means the driver of a vehicle with brake failure would probably have known his or her brakes needed maintenance, repair or replacement long before they actually “fail”.
If the driver who caused a crash knew there were problems with his or her brakes, he or she is liable for damages. For instance, a driver may have known his or her brakes needed maintenance because they made unusual noises when trying to stop. Another example might be is if the driver received a vehicle recall for a brake issue or a mechanic told the driver the brakes needed to be serviced.
Below, we discuss liability for a crash caused by failing brakes. At TSR Injury Law, our Minneapolis car crash lawyers offer a free legal consultation and there is no obligation to hire our firm after meeting with us. There are also no upfront fees for our services.
Schedule your free consultation today by calling (612) TSR-TIME.
Why Brake Failure Happens
The brakes in your vehicle will not last forever. The age of your brakes combined with how you use them can cause components to wear down and become less effective. That is why your brakes should be regularly checked and serviced according to your vehicle maintenance schedule.
There are times, however, your brakes might wear down sooner than expected. Drivers may find out about this in a number of ways. In newer cars, your vehicle may have a warning light for your brakes. If that light comes on, you should be sure to get your car to a mechanic as soon as possible.
Drivers also need to take notice of any strange or unusual noises that sound when they apply their brakes. For example, screeching, squealing, grinding or squeaking noises could indicate worn brake pads or shoes. If your brakes feel a little too loose or spongy, it could also be a sign of wear and tear.
Another sign of possible brake trouble may be if you see a trail of yellowish-to-brown-colored leaks coming from the underside of your vehicle. These should always be investigated right away. It is possible the leak is brake fluid, which could impair the proper functioning of your brakes and make a crash much more likely.
In addition to unusual sounds or leaking brake fluid, other signs of malfunctioning brakes could include:
- A burning smell
- Your vehicle moving to one side when you hit the brakes
- Your steering wheel shakes or roughly vibrates when brakes are applied
However, even if you get your brakes serviced, it will not matter if the mechanics do poor work. That is why it is important to only allow qualified mechanics to work on your vehicle. Some people only allow the dealership to work on their vehicles, while others may use certified mechanics to do any maintenance or repairs.
Sometimes the brakes installed on a vehicle might have been made with defective or low-quality parts. They may also have been poorly designed. If known, these defective parts may result in a recall of brake components.
Brake Failure in Commercial Trucks
While brake failure creates a crash risk no matter the size of the vehicle, it is particularly dangerous with commercial trucks. These vehicles are large and heavy, so if they cannot slow down or stop when needed, the results can be catastrophic for any passenger vehicles in their path.
Commercial truck brakes can get worn out from overuse or improper use. For example, drivers need to be careful about the overuse of brakes on inclines or when going downhill.
Truck brakes may also be much less effective if the trailer on a commercial truck is overloaded. The extra weight can make it harder for the truck to stop.
Believe it or not, commercial truck brakes may also be less effective when the truck is not carrying any cargo or when it has no trailer. The reason for this is that the brakes of a large commercial vehicle are designed and calibrated to stop a fully loaded trailer. An empty truck also has less traction than one that is fully loaded. This means it takes more time and a longer stopping distance for an empty truck to stop than for one that is fully loaded. Additionally, a truck driver operating an empty vehicle could lose control if he or she slams on the brakes too hard or too quickly.
Liability in a Brake Failure Crash
One of the central questions in a brake failure crash is whether the driver of the vehicle with failing brakes knew there was a problem. If the driver knew or should have known, then he or she cannot use failing brakes as an excuse to avoid liability for the collision. If the driver did not know or could not have known, he or she may not be fully liable for damages from the crash.
Other parties that may bear liability for a collision due to brake failure may include:
- Vehicle or vehicle parts manufacturers, such as if a part was defective
- Commercial truck drivers
- Commercial truck companies
- Cargo-loading companies
- Mechanics or auto repair shops for doing poor work or not repairing worn brakes
Even if the driver or another liable party knew or should have known about problems with the brakes, the victim and his or her attorney will still need to prove it. For example, your lawyer may be able to obtain maintenance records or information about an open recall. An analysis of the vehicle by an accident reconstruction expert may also show that issues with the brakes were preexisting.
Injured in a Minnesota Car Crash? Call Today
Our attorneys have been assisting crash victims for many years. We know this is a difficult time and we are committed to taking on the insurance company on your behalf. We know how important it is to obtain full compensation for damages from a car crash.
TSR Injury Law. No upfront fees. Call: (612) TSR-TIME.