Accidents involving commercial vehicles are most often caused by driver error, but truck defects can also play a role. If you've been injured in an accident that involved a truck defect, you'll want to enlist the services of a skilled attorney to protect your legal rights.
Pre-Trip Inspections for Commercial Motor Vehicles
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) requires commercial drivers to conduct pre-trip vehicle inspections each day before they get behind the wheel. These inspections look at a number of critical safety issues, including:
- Engine compartment and cab. Every pre-trip inspection begins with a check of the engine compartment and cab. This includes checking belts and hoses, checking fluid levels, and making sure the horn, mirrors, and windshield wipers work. The driver should also verify that emergency equipment is in working order and readily accessible.
- Tires. Tires that are worn, damaged, or incorrectly inflated can cause a driver to lose control. Because of the size of a commercial motor vehicle, this type of accident can have devastating consequences. Pre-trip tire inspections should include monitoring tire wear and tread depth in addition to checking to see if tires are correctly inflated.
- Wheels. Wheels should be inspected to prevent loss of control related to collapse of the wheel assembly. This includes looking for cracks, rust, or other signs of wear. Drivers should also check for loose components and tighten them as needed.
- Brakes. A commercial motor vehicle's brakes can experience catastrophic failure or progressive deterioration without proper pre-trip inspections. Inspections include ensuring proper adjustment of brakes, verifying that low air warning devices are in working order, testing stopping performance before entering the highway, and checking adjustment before entering severe downgrades.
- Steering system. Steering systems should be checked for excessive play as part of a pre-trip vehicle inspection, with any issues documented immediately. The driver must then follow company guidelines for taking the vehicle out of service.
- Lights and reflectors, Lights and reflectors should be clean and operable for driving. Drivers pulling low profile trailers such as pole trailers, empty flatbed tractors, or empty container chassis should take extra care to make sure they have the necessary lights and reflectors for maximum visibility.
- Trailer couplings. If applicable, the driver should check that the coupling equipment is in working order and the air and electric lines are hooked up properly. Drivers should also verify that the landing gear, coupling, and axle loads are in order.
- Loads. If the truck is carrying cargo, the driver must check that the load is within the correct legal limits and compatible with the vehicle weight rating. Additionally, he must verify that the load is secured correctly to reduce the risk of a vehicle rollover.
Inspections and Truck Accident Liability
After an accident, there are several possibilities for who might be held liable for injuries. In some cases, more than one party might be named in a personal injury claim:
- The driver might be liable if he failed to conduct the inspection correctly.
- The owner of the vehicle might be liable if known maintenance issues weren't addressed promptly.
- The mechanic who performed the repairs might be held liable if the repairs weren't done correctly.
- The manufacturer of a defective truck part might be held liable if the defect can be verified as the cause of the accident.
Commercial drivers document their pre-trip inspection findings in a Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR). After an accident, DVIRs can be requested as evidence of liability for the resulting injuries.
Since the rules surrounding liability for personal injury claims involving truck defects can be very complex, it's best to seek the assistance of a skilled attorney who can advocate for your needs throughout the settlement process. Contact the dedicated legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.