Brake failure is a common cause of car accidents in Florida. Brake failure results from negligence, design flaws, or poor maintenance by either the car owner or the mechanic. You could file a personal injury claim if you suffered damages from a car accident due to brake failure. In the following, Clay County Personal Injury Attorney explains some of the common causes of brake failure. You will also learn the actions to take after a brake failure car accident as well as whom to sue for the accrued damages.
Overview of Brake Failure
The brake system is an integral part of every car made up of several components that work together to stop the vehicle in the shortest distance and time possible. The braking system must be maintained regularly for efficiency and safety.
However, sometimes brakes fail due to various reasons such as poor maintenance and design flaws. Brake failure makes it impossible to control the car, leading to fatal accidents. The major causes of brake failure include:
Neglect arises when the car owner fails to inspect the brakes for wear and replace parts as needed. Manufacturers have set schedules on when to change the braking system. After covering certain distances, you have to have the system replaced for efficiency.
However, if a driver ignores these care practices, he/she will be liable for accidents and injuries resulting from brake failure in his/her car.
Overheated Brake Pads
Overheating of brake pads contributes to most brake failure incidences. The functioning of brakes relies majorly on friction between the rotor discs and the brake pads. However, the friction might produce heat, which damages the brake pads.
In some situations, however, overheating could occur due to:
- The use of low-quality parts
- Poor installation of brake pads
- Worn out brake pads
- Warped brake discs
Brakes are more likely to overheat if you are an aggressive driver. For example, if you have to step on the brakes hard every time, then the likelihood of excessive friction and overheating increases.
Damage to the Rotor Discs
Rotor discs are instrumental in the efficiency of the braking system of cars. The rotor discs absorb kinetic energy from the vehicle to slow it down. They are, however, exposed to a lot of friction and wear. If not replaced, they will create:
- Noisy brakes
- Excessive vibration of the brakes which could cause the shaking of the steering wheel or the whole car
- Scoring on the rotor discs
In the worst-case scenario, damaged rotor discs will lead to brake failure. Damage to rotor discs can also occur due to the substitution of high-quality parts with poor quality ones. The latter is designed to fit many car models, which affects their effectiveness.
In most cases, these inferior quality rotors have weak cooling capacities making them prone to overheating and rapid wear and tear.
Calipers can freeze due to wear and tear, accumulation of debris and rust. Other causes of frozen calipers include loss of lubrication or stuck pistons. Frozen calipers tend to pull the car to one side when you apply the brakes. This pulling creates a risky situation for you and other motorists and can lead to fatal accidents.
Leaking Hydraulic Fluid
The hydraulic fluid in a braking system is essential for transmitting pressure from the brake pedal to the front and rear brakes to effectively slow down or stop the car. Leaking brake fluid reduces the available amount to slow down or stop a vehicle effectively.
Leaking brake fluid can cause an accident in a relatively short time after you start driving. In most cases, you will detect the problem if you feel your brake pedal is soft or squishy. For example, if the pedal easily reached to the floor without a lot of pressure, then check the brake fluid for leakage.
Loss of Brake Fluid Pressure
The brake fluid is designed to withstand extreme temperatures, either hot or cold. However, if the fluid reached its boiling point, some of it might vaporize, reducing the pressure the fluid applies to the braking system.
It is crucial to determine the cause of a car accident accurately before deciding the next steps to take. In most cases, your attorney or the insurance company will hire an accident reconstruction expert. These are individuals skilled in deducing and recreating what might have happened during the accident. They use marks on the road, the nature of the damage on the vehicles, and witness statements to come up with possible theories of what happened.
Determining whether an accident occurred due to brake failure takes a slightly different approach. You have to take the car to a neutral and experienced mechanic for an evaluation. The mechanic will examine the systems of your vehicle to determine which one contributed or was responsible for the accident.
The mechanic will also identify the cause of brake failure and whether you could have avoided it. For example, if brake failure is due to negligence or poor maintenance, then you will be liable for any accidents.
Investigating the cause of a car accident should take place as soon as the accident occurs. Delaying with your car at home could result in less belief in your claim. Ideally, do not drive the vehicle from the scene of the accident. Instead, let it be towed away to a mechanic or a garage.
The examination of the vehicle after the accident also provides vital information such as:
- The speed at which the vehicle traveled
- How hard the driver applied the brakes
- The point of impact of the cars
What to Do When Your Brakes Fail
Brake failure could happen while you are on the road, thus endangering you and other users. However, you can create a safer condition or prevent extensive damage by:
- Alerting other motorists using your horn and indicator lights. This warns nearby cars about the potential problem in your car. The drivers can, therefore, maintain a safe distance from your vehicle.
- Downshift your gears to get the car to slow down naturally. You can also take your foot from the accelerator to slow down the car
- Pump the brakes hard several times to attempt to bring it back to action
- Gently pull or push your emergency brake to help you slow down the vehicle. Jerky movements with emergency brakes could lead to an accident.
- Pull off the road and call a towing company. Do not attempt to drive when your car has a brake failure.
Sometimes, brake failure happens so suddenly, and you cannot save the situation. In such a case, here is what you can do:
- Stay at the scene of the accident. Leaving an accident scene could lead to criminal charges. Instead, stay at the scene and help the injured access emergency medical care.
- Report the accident to the police especially if there are substantial injuries and property damage
- Exchange your contact information with the other drivers involved in the crash
- Do not admit guilt or apologize for the accident. You should also not assign blame to the other driver.
- Gather information and contact details of witnesses at the scene of the accident
- Take pictures and videos of the accident scene
- Contact your insurance provider and provide an honest account of the crash. Do not take or assign blame for the accident. The insurance company will hire an investigator to determine the at-fault party in the accident. While communicating with the insurance company, do not accept any offers or make formal statements without your attorney.
- Hire a personal injury attorney to help you in determining the at-fault party as well as the damages you could receive from the brake failure accident
- Refrain from posting on social media sites about the crash or details of the crash. You could say something that the insurance company and the at-fault parties could use against you.
- Get medical attention within 24 hours of the accident. The sooner you see a doctor, the more likely the doctor will detect any less obvious injuries. When visiting a doctor, explain that you have had an accident so that he/she knows what injuries to look for when you visit. In some cases, you will be taken to the hospital as an emergency, especially if you suffer serious injuries. Some of the common injuries in brake failure accidents include facial injuries, broken bones, head, neck, and back injuries and death.
Liable Parties in a Brake Failure Accident
Several parties can be liable for a car accident resulting from brake failure. Determining liability in brake failure accidents is a complex process that requires the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney. Your attorney will review the facts of the case and the mechanic's reports about what could have caused the brake failure.
Some of the steps in determining the liable parties in a brake failure accident include:
- Speak to witnesses at the scene of the crash to determine what happened
- Take photographs and videos of the scene of the accident. Such visual materials will be used by accident reconstruction experts when reconstructing the scene of the accident. In addition, it removes the guesswork from the process.
- Record the comments, your testimony, and words from other parties at the scene of the accident. Keep a record of the witnesses, drivers, and passengers involved in the crash
- Assign the contributory negligence of each party
Some of the parties who could be responsible for a brake failure accident in Florida include:
You could be responsible for a brake failure accident for failing to maintain your car. The law requires that every car owner take reasonable care of his/her vehicle for the safety of all road users. Recklessly placing a car with problems on the road is an indication of negligence. Although you might be at fault, other parties could also have contributed to the accident.
You could also be negligent if you were driving while distracted or were violating traffic rules at the time of the accident.
Other Driver in the Accident
The driver of the other car could have breached his/her duty of care towards you by engaging in reckless or negligent conduct. For example, if the other driver does not maintain his/her car, and the braking system fails, then they are responsible for the accident and associated damages.
Other ways in which a driver could be responsible include:
- Reckless driving
- Traffic violations
If the driver received a traffic citation after the accident, you could use it to prove the driver's fault in the accident.
If the source of the brake failure was a defective part, the manufacturer could be held liable for the accident.
The manufacturer of the parts used for your braking system could also be found responsible if he/she sold you defective parts.
Mechanics are responsible for brake failure accidents that occur due to their negligence. For example, if a mechanic installs the parts incorrectly, then he/she will be liable for the resulting crash and damages. Mechanics are also responsible for additional damages they might cause when repairing the car.
Multiple parties could be responsible for your accident. Florida is a comparative fault state, meaning that it allows you to sue multiple defendants for the same accident. You must prove that each of these parties contributed to the crash.
For example, if a parts manufacturer creates and sells defective parts, and the mechanic installs them incorrectly, then both of them are liable for the accident.
The court will first determine the full value of damages and the percentage contributory fault, and then divide the damages among the defendants.
Product Liability Lawsuit for Defective Brakes or Parts
A product liability lawsuit is one you bring against the manufacturer of the car or the parts used in maintaining the brake system. First, you have to establish that the manufacturer is liable, even partly, for the brake failure.
Manufacturers must create and market effective, reliable, and safe brake parts. They are expected to provide warnings in case the product has known defects. When filing a lawsuit for defective brake parts, you have to decide whether to file against the manufacturer’s negligence or a product flaw.
Negligence in a manufacturer occurs when:
- The manufacturer has a duty of care towards you
- He/she breaches this duty
- You suffer an injury due to this breach of duty
If you file a lawsuit against the manufacturer's negligence, you have to prove that he/she acted in negligence. The court will apportion the responsibility for the accident among multiple parties, including the plaintiff if all are responsible.
When filing a strict liability lawsuit, you do not have to prove that the manufacturer acted in negligence. You can base the lawsuit on the:
- Design defects
- Insufficient warning
- Manufacturing defect
Design defects occur when manufacturers attempt to reduce the cost of production or improper testing of the effectiveness of the braking system or parts. In some cases, a design defect occurs when the braking system does not perform as expected, even with a flawless design.
Manufacturers could be liable for accidents that happen if they fail to warn consumers of potential problems with the braking system. If a manufacturer knows that a particular problem could arise, even with reasonable use of the product, the manufacturer should provide the correct instructions for use or a warning. By failing to provide a sufficient warning, the manufacturer places consumers at an unreasonable risk of a brake failure accident.
Manufacturing defects arise from a braking product, which, though designed safely, does not match the concept of their functionality.
If a brake failure accident occurs due to product liability, you have up to four years within which to file the lawsuit. If you are filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, you have two years from the date of death to file for damages.
Compensation for Brake Failure Accidents
You deserve compensation for damages from a brake failure accident from the negligent parties. Some of the damages you can recover in Florida include:
In most accidents, you have to incur medical expenses for an evaluation, emergency room fee, therapy, and medication. When the injuries last longer, you will incur more medical bills, which can strain you financially. However, you are entitled to compensation from the at-fault party.
Add up the costs of all medication, surgeries, and procedures you had to go through to recover from the accident. You can also calculate the medical costs your loved one incurred before succumbing to the injuries.
Note that you are entitled to get compensation from your insurance company for medical expenses under the personal injury protection cover. You can get up to $10,000 for your medical expenses. However, you will have to file a lawsuit if you suffered extensive injuries that increase the medical costs.
Repair and Vehicle Maintenance Cost
Repair and vehicle maintenance costs either to repair the damage your car suffered or to replace it.
Compensation for the wages you lose while recovering from your injuries. You can calculate the lost wages by adding up the days or hours you missed work to recover from your injuries. In most cases, the court awards you lost benefits that come with your employment.
If the injuries are extensive and require considerable recovery time, the court will calculate the value of future wages as part of your compensation plan. When determining the value of future wages, the court will also examine how the accident affects your future earning potential.
When calculating the value of special damages, make sure to include the household and childcare expenses, which you incurred due to the accident. These could consist of the cost of baby sitters you had to hire due to the injury, cleaning services, and meal preparation. You can also include the transport costs you incurred to get to the doctor for treatment.
The court may award pain and suffering damages to account for the emotional pain and trauma you have to go through due to the accident. Pain and suffering will include the physical pain you go through due to the injuries. For example, if you suffer constant headaches due to head injury, you can be compensated for the pain.
In cases of extreme negligence or gross misconduct by the at-fault party, the court might award punitive damages to discourage others from engaging in such actions.
The skill of your attorney and your willingness to settle determines the success of a lawsuit.
Hiring an attorney depends on the nature and approximate cost of your damages. For example, if only your car suffered damages during the accident, you can represent yourself to recover the value of the car.
However, some cases are not as straightforward. For example, if you have to prove the manufacturer was responsible for the accident, you will need an attorney who understands product liability lawsuits.
Your attorney can estimate the value of your damages by analyzing the situation and past cases similar to yours. Therefore, he/she is likely to negotiate a higher settlement than you would by representing yourself.
Insurance companies often calculate the cost of your damages then present an offer at the lowest possible amount. If you are representing yourself, the likelihood of settling is very high. However, an attorney can get you a better deal with patience and persistence while you recover from your injuries.
Find a Personal Injury Attorney Near Me
If you are injured in a brake failure accident, you need professional assistance in determining the at-fault party, proving fault, and negotiating for a fair settlement. You will need the help of a personal injury attorney to help you understand the different laws that apply to your situation. Your lawyer will also advise you on the dos and don’ts after an accident. The Clay County Personal Injury Attorney law firm prides itself on providing up to 98% customer satisfaction in their personal injury lawsuits. The firm applies more than 55 years of experience and knowledge in Florida’s personal injury laws. If you are injured in a brake failure accident, contact us at 904-494-8242 for an evaluation of your case.