Can Drivers Avoid Liability for a Car Crash Because Their Brakes Failed?

mechanic repairing car brakesWhen a vehicle’s brakes fail, it may be impossible to prevent a collision with another vehicle, fixed object or pedestrian. The driver of the vehicle that caused the crash may claim he or she should not be held liable because there was no way to prevent the accident.

On the surface, this may seem like a solid argument. The question is whether the driver knew or should have known there were problems with the brakes that may have caused them to malfunction.

There are often signs that a vehicle’s brakes are in danger of failing, such as warning lights on the dashboard or noises when the brakes are applied. If the driver could have been reasonably expected to notice problems with the brakes, he or she can still be held liable for damages from a brake failure crash.

The experienced Lafayette-based vehicle accident attorneys discuss brake failure crashes, including why they happen and who could be held liable. In some cases, drivers may share liability with a repair shop that failed to fix the brakes.

Free consultation and no upfront fees. Contact us at (337) 984-8020.

What Causes Brake Failure?

Your brakes have multiple components and over time one or more of those components can break down. When this happens, your brakes may be at higher risk of failure or of not working as well as they should, particularly in a crisis.

These are some of the problems that could lead to failing brakes:

  • Old brake pads – When you apply your brakes, the brake pads clamp on the rotors on your wheels to slow your vehicle. Over time brake pads wear down and need to be replaced. Old brake pads do not work the way they are supposed to.
  • Overheated rotors or brake pads – When the pads or rotors overheat, they are not going to work as they should. Your brakes will not have as much power, which is also called brake fade.
  • Grease or oil leaking into your brakes – Grease or oil from your engine compartment could get onto the brake pads or rotors, which reduces friction when your brakes are applied. This makes it harder for your brakes to function at a high level.
  • Brake fluid leaks – The fluid in your brake lines transfers the force applied to the brake pedal to the pads that clamp onto the rotors. However, if fluid is leaking, the force will not transfer as well as it should.
  • Air bubbles in brake lines – If there is air in your brake lines, the pedal may feel soft when you press down on it.

If you drive the same car for a few years, your brakes may experience some of these problems. Fortunately, these are all issues that can be fixed. In some cases, components can be repaired. Other times these components must be replaced. However, if drivers to not address brake problems, they can get worse and eventually the brakes will fail.

It is also important to note that brakes can fail because of a manufacturing or design defect. Even if a driver follows his or her vehicle’s maintenance schedule, and tries to address problems that arise, the brakes could fail.

Common Signs of Brake Failure

Unless you have a car that is particularly old, your dashboard should have a warning light that will come on if your brakes are in bad shape. You should also watch out for common signs of brake problems, such as:

  • Vibrations when you apply the brake
  • Your car veering to one side when you brake, or the pedal feeling spongy when it is pressed
  • Grinding as you press the pedal down
  • Puddle on your driveway because of leaky brake fluid
  • Needing to apply more pressure than usual to get your brakes to work
  • Burning smell

If you notice any of these things, you need to take your car to a qualified mechanic to investigate and determine what is going on.

Car Accidents Caused by Brake Failure

One of the most common types of crashes caused by brake failure is a rear-end collision. The rear driver may have applied the brakes soon enough to avoid a rear-end crash, but the brakes failed.

Brake failure could lead to running a red light or stop sign, which could cause a T-bone collision.

Drivers may also hit pedestrians or bicyclists because they are unable to stop.

It may also be possible for failing brakes to cause a rollover or sideswipe collision. For example, a driver may try to avoid a rear-end collision by swerving because braking is not an option. Swerving at too high a speed could cause a vehicle to rollover or swipe a vehicle in an adjacent lane.

Commercial Truck Crashes Caused by Brake Failure

The danger of failing brakes on a commercial truck cannot be overstated. It is already difficult to make these vehicles slow down and come to a stop. If the brakes fail, the results could be deadly. A commercial truck could hit a passenger vehicle at a high rate of speed and cause catastrophic injuries.

Commercial truck brakes can have some of the same problems as passenger vehicle brakes. However, commercial truck brakes could wear down more quickly because trucks are so much larger.

Sometimes trucks are overloaded with cargo, which puts tremendous strain on the brakes. Trucking companies often cut corners with servicing these vehicles. This could result in a vehicle with worn down brakes being on the road to make a deadline.

If you were injured in a crash with a commercial truck, you will need an experienced lawyer to help you determine the cause. This may involve obtaining maintenance records to determine if the brakes or other vehicle components were properly serviced.

Who is Liable if Brakes Fail in a Car Accident?

Brakes are like any other vehicle component; they wear down over time. Drivers need to have their brakes serviced when their vehicle maintenance schedule calls for it. They also need to have their brakes checked out if they are not working as well as they once did, or if their brakes are making any funny noises.

Typically, there are many signs that a vehicle’s brakes are unsafe and need to be repaired or replaced. There is a reasonable expectation for drivers to know about problems with their brakes. Even if the driver can prove he or she did not know, your lawyer may be able to show the driver did not get the vehicle serviced in accordance with the maintenance schedule.

This means it would be quite difficult for the at-fault driver to avoid liability by citing brake failure. The only exception may be if the brakes failed because of defective design or manufacture.

Drivers may also be able to avoid liability if they can prove a mechanic did substandard work. For example, maybe the mechanic was supposed to work on the brakes and he or she said they were functioning properly. In that situation, the mechanic and/or repair shop might be liable.

If you were injured in a crash with a commercial truck, multiple parties could be held liable. For example, the driver could be at fault, along with the trucking company, the company that overloaded the trailer or the repair shop that worked on the truck.

Compensation May be Available. Call Galloway Jefcoat to Learn More

Your injuries could affect you for a long time, and ongoing medical treatment is not cheap. If you were injured by another driver’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation to cover your medical expenses and other damages.

Galloway Jefcoat has secured hundreds of millions in compensation on behalf of our clients. We have helped those injured in many vehicle collisions. Our services come with no upfront fees so there is no risk in contacting us to learn how we may be able to help.

Experienced Lawyers. No Upfront Fees. Call Galloway Jefcoat: (337) 984-8020.