The biggest question many 18-wheeler accident victims ask is, “How did this happen?”
Some are shocked to discover they were doomed from the start by faulty equipment the driver didn’t find because he didn’t do his pre-trip inspection right—or worse, he didn’t do it at all. Truckers and trucking companies can be held legally accountable for crashes caused by defective equipment that should’ve been found or repaired.
The first thing to know about a big truck wreck is: this isn’t your typical auto accident case. Vital information from pre-trip inspections is easily overlooked, but an experienced trucking accident lawyer knows how to find it and how to determine whether the trucker did a proper pre-trip inspection. Here are some basics about the law, what truckers must look for, and why we rely on inspections to prevent roadway tragedies.
The Law: Strict Requirements Protect Innocent Drivers
Federal regulations forbid driving a tractor trailer until the driver inspects certain safety equipment. If a trucker finds defects affecting safe operation or potentially causing a breakdown—or even if those defects are reported to the driver—he must list them on a report and sign it.
Before the truck can be driven, the trucking company must make the repairs, then certify them on the report. The next trucker to drive it must review the report and sign it to confirm the certification of repairs.
These reports must be kept three months.
The Inspection and What it Can Prevent
Before every trip, the trucker must inspect:
- All brakes, including trailer brakes. Imagine a trucker cresting a hill in his 50,000-pound machine at 50 miles an hour who discovers a traffic jam just ahead, then can’t stop. Despite the legal inspection requirement, bad or failed brakes cause big rig accidents all too often.
- Steering. If that goes out, a semi-trailer is as safe as a runaway freight train.
- Lights and reflectors. Anyone who’s stopped at a stop sign on a dark highway and been shocked to hear an 18-wheeler fly right in front of them without really seeing it knows the danger posed by dim lights and dirty reflectors. People have died by running straight through the bottom of a trailer stopped in the middle of a highway.
- Tires. Slick or bald tires are just as bad as no brakes, especially on a wet road. These inspections can also prevent blowouts, which can cause the 18-wheeler to careen violently out of control.
- Horn. This can mean the difference between life and death for you when he a speeding trucker runs up on you from behind on the interstate.
- Wipers. Few things are as dangerous as a trucker who can’t see in a storm.
- Rearview mirror. It’s bad enough riding next to one of these monsters of the highway. But if the truck driver can’t see you when he changes lanes at 65 mph on the interstate, the only place for you and your family to go is into the guardrail.
- Coupling devices. The coupling attaches the trailer to the tractor. Nothing good comes from a trailer going from 60 to 0 in an instant, even if you are a safe distance behind.
- Warning devices for emergency stops. These warn innocent drivers of a pulled-over truck, to keep them from slamming into it on a dark highway.
Finding the Cause
An experienced trucking accident lawyer’s investigation can reveal the semi’s trip was doomed before it started by the trucker’s failure to inspect equipment to be sure it worked, or to be sure repairs were made by the trucking company.
If you’ve been seriously hurt or had a family member pass away as a result of an 18-wheeler crash in Spartanburg, Greenville, Gaffney, Union, or anywhere in South Carolina, you owe it to yourself to have the most thorough investigation to determine the cause and get the maximum relief available for your case. At Holland & Usry, we know these crashes are not your typical car wreck, so we don’t treat them that way. Check out our other articles on the subject elsewhere on this website, starting with the related pieces listed below.
If you need help with your trucking case, do call us at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 888.230.1841 to discuss how we can begin investigating and building your case. If you’re too hurt to come to us, we’ll come to you.