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Brake failure as a reason in Atlanta tractor-trailer accidents

Donald Singleton
December 29, 2023

Trucking accidents are unique because they often lead to substantial injuries, complicated claims, and significant losses all around. The main reason for this is because tractor trailers are usually heavily loaded, which means a collision with one can be extremely devastating.

As a result, if you experience a truck accident, then you may need to research your legal options to see if you can file for financial compensation from someone who caused the crash.

One major cause of tractor trailer accidents is brake failure. If a truck’s brakes fail and that leads to your accident, then you could have recourse. In almost every case, brake failure is the result of someone’s negligence.

Learn more about brake failure, what causes it, and your options for legal recovery if you experience a brake failure-related trucking accident below.

A heavily-loaded semi truck travels the interstate

What is Brake Failure? What Causes Brake Failure?

Brake failure happens when a trucker’s braking system suddenly does not work as it is expected or intended to. In many cases, braking failure happens while the truck is in operation and at a time when the brakes are needed the most. In general, when brakes malfunction, it means the tractor-trailer is unable to stop or slow down.

Braking failure can happen for many reasons. One of the biggest causes of trucking accidents is brake overuse. When a truck driver overuses their brakes, especially when they are carrying very heavy cargo, the air gets drained from the compressor faster than it can be replenished, which means the brakes won’t have any air pressure to feed the system. As a result, the truck can break away, leaving the trucker to operate the truck without any working brakes.

Another common reason for brake failure is a lack of proper maintenance. Commercial trucks need to be road-safe, which means they should be maintained regularly. A lack of proper maintenance on the brakes can cause an accident. In these situations, the truck driver or company responsible for the truck’s upkeep could be considered responsible for the crash.

Brakes can also be defective when they are manufactured. Defective designs or poor manufacturing can later lead to a serious crash when the brakes malfunction.

Understanding the Dangers of Truck Brake Failure

As you can imagine, a truck without an operating braking system is an extreme hazard. Tractor trailers that can’t slow down can easily smash into unknowing cars that are in front of the trucker. After all, other traffic will assume that a trucker’s brakes are operating as expected.

Trucks that can’t stop might also strike other vehicles in an attempt to navigate to the shoulder or off-road. Even worse, the truck could flip or roll over in an attempt to get off the road, causing a serious traffic incident.

Since braking issues are such a common cause of tractor trailer accidents, there are several “runaway” ramps that exist on the sides of highways and massive hills that require a lot of braking. Properly trained truckers know to drive in the right lane while descending on the hill in case they need to swerve into one of these ramps due to brake failure. Also, due to the frequency of tractor trailer accidents truck drivers should be fully instructed on how to handle brake failure.

How Many Tractor-Trailers Experience Brake Failure?

You’d be shocked to learn just how many tractor trailer accidents a year are caused by brake problems. According to a report to Congress from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, brake issues were reported in about 30% of truck accidents but only about 5% of traditional car accidents back in 2006.

These tractor trailer accidents statistics are very concerning because they show that braking is an issue in almost one out of every three trucking accidents. It also suggests that far more tractor-trailers experience brake failure than previously thought.

What’s more, many brake failures don’t lead to an accident. Tractor-trailers might experience a brake failure and be able to safely navigate to the shoulder or stop their vehicle without a crash. These brake failure incidents are not included in traffic accident data, so it’s likely that the 30% statistic doesn’t account for every brake failure incident.

How are Brake Failure Inspections Being Carried Out State by State?

Considering how often brakes fail, it makes sense that regulations are in place to prevent brake failure incidents. In general, tractor-trailer braking systems should be inspected every three months. More in-depth inspections should occur every six months or every 100,000 miles.

Many states are incorporating performance-based brake testers, which can help measure a vehicle’s overall braking capability. This type of test is much more efficient than the visual testing completed every three months.

Who is Responsible for a Brake Failure Accident?

Since there are so many tractor trailer accidents today, you will need to analyze the specific details of your accident to determine who might be responsible for the brake failure. In general, the party who failed to act with a reasonable level of care towards others will be considered the financially responsible party.

Often, the truck driver, the trucking company, the trucking maintenance company, or the truck manufacturer will be held liable in a trucking accident involving braking issues.

Why You Need an Attorney After a Truck Accident

Since the law is on your side, you might think that you can handle the legal aspects of your claim on your own. You are under no obligation to hire a lawyer, and you can file a claim without the help of a legal representative. Despite that, hiring an attorney is usually in your best interests. Below, we’ll go over a few reasons why.

Your Losses are Likely Substantial

One of the biggest reasons you may need an attorney is due to the severity of your losses. Trucking accident injuries often require long-term recovery periods. During your recovery time, you may lose a substantial amount of money in wages you could’ve earned. You might also incur significant medical bills. Depending on what happened, your car might be totaled, too. Considering the extent of your losses, it might be worth it to hire an attorney to represent you.

Your Claim Will be Complicated

Another reason you’ll likely want to hire a lawyer is because your claim will likely be complicated. Unlike a traditional car accident, multiple parties may come into play when it comes to a brake failure crash. The truck driver, the trucking company who hired them, the trucker’s manufacturer, the maintenance repair company, or other drivers could all be potentially liable parties. What’s more, your own negligence could’ve also contributed to the crash, too. Considering the complexities of your case, it might be best to rely on an experienced lawyer for help.

You Don’t Want to Accept a Reduced Settlement

When a trucking company knows the claims against them are valid, they may surprise you by completely agreeing to pay off your claim. Rather than attempting to fight your arguments for compensation, they might instead try to quickly get you to agree to a settlement amount that they determine.

Be very careful with accepting these initial settlement offers. Often, these offers are far below what you really deserve. Once you accept a settlement, you forfeit the right to seek out future compensation for the same accident. A lawyer will help ensure that you don’t accept less than what your claim is really worth.

You Could be Going Up Against a Trucking Company’s Legal Team

Unfortunately, with such a significant claim for compensation, you’re likely to face some opposition. Depending on who you are going up against, the opposition may be intense. For instance, a bigger trucking company might have their own legal team in place. These legal professionals will have an incentive to minimize your claim or outright deny it. Considering that the trucking company likely has access to more money and resources than you, it can be extremely challenging to go up against them unless you also hire a lawyer to level the playing field. The right lawyer won’t be intimidated by the trucking company’s money, prestige, or power. Instead, they’ll leverage the law to your advantage to secure justice.

Are You Ready to Speak with an Atlanta Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorney?

Have you recently been involved in a trucking collision that led to serious losses? Do you have reason to believe that someone’s negligence might have contributed to your accident? One major cause of tractor trailer accidents is brake failure, and brake failure is almost always the result of someone’s negligence.

To learn more about your legal options, it’s best to consult with a tractor-trailer accident attorney. The right lawyer will go over all the facts surrounding your accident, the losses you’ve endured, and what might have caused or contributed to the brake failure. From there, they’ll help you make an informed decision on how to move forward after your accident.

Are you in the Atlanta area? Schedule a consultation with our firm now to learn more about how we can help after your accident.

Donald Singleton

Donald Singleton


A Georgia native, Don founded Singleton Law Firm in 1999 as a continuation of his lifetime commitment to serving his state and community. He has concentrated his trial practice to representing victims of serious injury and wrongful death arising out of trucking, car, bus and motorcycle accidents, premises liability and a wide variety of other causes.

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