Bad Maintenance Can Cause Truck Accidents—And Truck Companies Are Liable

Regular preventive maintenance and prompt repairs are essential in maintaining the condition of commercial vehicles. While all vehicles are prone to wear and tear, commercial trucks are particularly vulnerable to damage over time. They travel thousands of miles every week and are often used to transport large amounts of heavy cargo, putting increased pressure on engine parts.  

In Missouri, trucking companies are responsible for maintaining their fleets. Tires, brakes, and engine parts contribute to the safe operation of these vehicles. If truck mechanics fail to comply with state regulations, they can be liable for any severe accidents caused by the trucks breaking down.

If you’ve been involved in a commercial truck accident due to a lack of maintenance, you may be able to hold the trucking company liable for your damages. Seek legal representation from the experienced St. Louis truck accident lawyers at Cofman Townsley so we can help protect your rights and get you the compensation you are entitled to.

Are Truck Accidents Different from Car Accidents?

When large commercial vehicles are involved in crashes, the consequences can be deadly. There were 4,479 fatal crashes and 114,000 personal injury accidents involving trucks nationwide in 2019.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) closely regulate the trucking industry to help reduce the number of fatalities on roads. These agencies collect data and investigate defective engine parts, identifying manufacturing problems and common causalities in road traffic accidents.

Some safety concerns with large trucks include:

  • No-zones: No-zones are essentially the blind spots for big-rig truck drivers. While cars also have blind spots, they are relatively small. Large trucks can have blind spots that are dozens of feet long, making it easier for them to overlook passenger vehicles traveling next to, behind, or immediately in front of them.
  • Squeeze play: When large trucks turn, cars occupying their blind spots are often squeezed or crushed between the vehicle and the curb. This is known as squeeze play.
  • Increased stopping distance: Commercial trucks require a much greater stopping distance than passenger cars. An average 4,000-pound car takes approximately 316 feet to come to a complete stop when moving at a speed of 65 miles per hour.

In comparison, an 80,000-pound commercial truck takes around 525 feet to stop. Road users should be aware of the increased stopping distance, exercising caution when driving in front of trucks.

Worn brake pads increase stopping distance, making emergency maneuvers more difficult for drivers. Bald tires are more prone to blow out, potentially contributing to a major highway wreck involving multiple vehicles. Regular maintenance can help detect and prevent these issues. 

Truckers and trucking companies must carry liability insurance to cover medical costs, injury damages, fatalities, and other compensation resulting from a crash. Depending on the type of freight a truck carries, the minimum coverage ranges between $750,000 and $5 million.

Determining Liability in Truck Accidents

Missouri is an at-fault state, meaning the insurance carrier of the driver responsible for the accident absorbs the cost of injuries and damages. When the damages are so severe that insurance coverage isn’t sufficient, the injured driver may choose to file a lawsuit against the truck driver or trucking company directly.

Missouri recognizes pure comparative negligence in auto accident cases. For a trucking accident, this means that if multiple parties are at-fault (for example, the company that owns the truck and the company that employs the driver, if they are not the same), they all need to pay a proportional percentage of the damages.

Who is Responsible When Bad Maintenance is the Cause of the Crash?

In Missouri, all commercial vehicles, including trucks, must be equipped with parts and equipment that meet safety standards outlined by the DOT and the FMCSA. These organizations present strict outlines for equipment standards, ensuring truck carriers know the requirements. Commercial trucks must be well maintained, from the brakes to the seat belts.

Missouri’s Department of Transportation Safety Compliance Manual outlines the responsibilities of motor carriers in the state. They must retain the following information and documents for vehicles in their possession for 30 days or more:

  • Identifying information (company number, make, year, serial number, and tire size)
  • A schedule of which inspections are performed, including type and due date
  • Inspection, repair, and maintenance records
  • Records of tests conducted

To comply, carriers must maintain all records of tests for one year while the vehicle is in their possession and for another six months if it changes ownership or facilities.

All Department of Transportation roadside inspection reports must be reviewed by a trucking company official so that necessary repairs and upgrades can be made promptly. The company must retain a copy of the inspection report for twelve months.

If a trucking company fails to repair a damaged engine part or is found negligent regarding their truck maintenance, they may be liable for an accident caused by their truck or driver. Trucking companies are also responsible for your injuries if they’re found to be in breach of federal law, such as overloading the vehicle or assigning drivers too many hours.

Contact Our St. Louis Truck Accident Attorneys for a Free Consultation

If you’ve been involved in a truck accident caused by poor vehicle maintenance, you should seek maximum compensation for your losses. When you hire Cofman Townsley, you get legal representation from experienced truck accident attorneys who know how to go toe-to-toe with big trucking companies and their insurance.

With over four decades of experience handling truck accident claims, we can help you build a strong case and help you receive the compensation you deserve.

Cofman Townsley attorneys are experienced negotiators and will fight on your behalf to get you a fair settlement. If your case goes to trial, we can represent you there too. Schedule a free case review to discuss your situation and learn your options.