When you are in an auto accident, even if you do everything right, you could still end up hitting another vehicle if your brakes fail. It’s estimated that brake failure causes 5% of the 5.6 million car crashes each year in the United States.
In this type of situation, there are a number of legal issues that come into play. Here is what you should know if defective brakes were the cause of, or contributing factor, to your automobile accident.
If brake failure was a cause for the accident, a first place to look to is the car manufacturer, to determine if there was negligence before the car hit the market. There are a number of ways that a manufacturer could be held liable for faulty brake systems.
For example, if the brake system was poorly designed, there could be defective brakes in the entire line of cars on the market. Alternatively, your particular vehicle may have been poorly manufactured, leading to an improper brake system in your car.
Often, manufacturers discover these defects and issue a voluntary recall of vehicles, in order to repair or replace faulty systems. In order to check if your vehicle or equipment is subject to a recall, visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s recall website.
However, if a manufacturer fails to correct defects, they can be held liable for any car accident injuries incurred due to brake failure. Similarly, the auto repair shop that services your car may also be found liable, if a mistake they made led to the brake failure.
In order to make a case against either the manufacturer or the auto repair shop, you will need to show that:
- Action, or inaction on their part caused the unreasonably dangerous condition of the brake systems,
- The condition of the brakes caused the accident, and that
- The vehicle had not substantially changed in between when the manufacturer or auto repair shop last had the vehicle.
Although it may sound like an uphill battle, an experienced personal injury attorney will work with you each step of the way, to ensure that you are fairly compensated for your troubles.
Brake failure may also be indicative of negligence on behalf of the driver whose car malfunctioned. As drivers, we are responsible for ensuring that we adhere to certain levels of safety in our vehicles. If someone is driving a car they know has faulty brake pads, the other driver could be found negligent for creating an unsafe condition. Similarly, failure to take your car for required maintenance could indicate driver’s liability.
Arizona is a Comparative Negligence State
In Arizona, juries take the comparative negligence of each party into account when giving awards. This means that they will determine the relative fault of each individual in a car accident, and subtract the percentage of fault from the verdict award.
For example, if Mary and John are in a car accident and the jury determines that Mary was 30% at fault in the accident, her verdict would be reduced by 30%.
This is important to consider in cases where brakes fail, because often one driver is not completely at fault. In another example, Nancy runs a red light because she is texting. Karen, who had a green light, collides with Nancy due to brake failure. Even if Karen knew that her brakes needed maintenance, her contributions to the car accident pale in comparison to Nancy’s.
Because of Arizona’s comparative negligence laws, there is no “smoking gun” that will solve a case. Instead, it is highly beneficial to work with an experienced attorney, who can sift out all relevant facts in order to make your claim as strong as possible.
Common Injuries in Brake Failure Cases
Typically, brake failure injury victims have similar injuries to passengers in speeding accidents. This is because, without proper brakes, the driver cannot mitigate the accident with lower speeds.
As a result, common injuries include:
- Broken bones
- Injuries to the head, neck and back, including whiplash, concussions, or other traumatic brain injury
- Facial injuries caused by airbag deployment
If you were in a car crash due to brake failure, it’s advisable to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Because automobile accidents are traumatic events, our bodies are flooded with adrenaline. As a result, accident victims may not notice common car accident injury symptoms until several hours after the accident. Even minor symptoms, such as a headache, could be a sign of a severe traumatic brain injury.
Compensation for Brake Failure Accidents
Regardless of whether you pursue the manufacturer, auto mechanic, or other driver, you can seek damages to compensate you for the accident. Typically, accident victims begin by filing a claim with the other party’s insurance company for the amount they are seeking. If the insurance company refuses to pay, or if the insurance limits are too low, you may decide to file a lawsuit to reclaim the remainder of your expenses.
Arizona allows accident victims to seek two types of damages: special damages and general damages.
This type of damage is also known as “economic damages.” Special damages include any expense incurred as a result of the accident. Typical items recovered here include:
- Medical bills, such as emergency room fees, specialist visits, and medications to manage pain
- Repair and replacement of personal property, including your vehicle that was damaged during the accident. You can also seek compensation if your cell phone was damaged during the accident, and for any clothing that was destroyed.
- Rental car fees incurred if you need a vehicle while your car is in the shop, or while you purchase a new car
- Lost wages due to time spent recovering from the accident. This may include time spent completely away from the office, or the time spent leaving work for physical therapy or other appointments while you are healing. This category can also include loss of future wages, if you had to leave a job indefinitely while recovering, or missed earning commission or other compensation as a result of the accident.
- Child care expenses taken on if you need additional assistance with your children while recovering from the accident.
While you are recovering, it is important to keep track of every bill and receipt documenting where you spent or lost money as a result of the accident. This is the best way to ensure that you receive full compensation for your injuries. You can store receipts digitally, or you can keep a physical folder with all of the documents. Any receipt, no matter how small, should be included because the bills will add up quickly.
This type of compensation is also known as “non-economic damages.” General damages are designed to compensate you for things that were damaged but aren’t repaired with money. These can include:
- Pain and suffering – if you physically hurt after the accident, or if your aches keep you up at night, you can receive compensation that is meant to offset this pain. While it won’t make the pain go away, it can help make you whole again.
- Loss of enjoyment – if, after the accident, you are unable to enjoy your normal hobbies or activities, you can seek compensation. For example, if you are an avid runner but now can barely hobble for a mile before your knee starts aching due to injury, you may be able to recover under this category as well.
- Psychological trauma – car accidents are particularly stressful events and can cause PTSD, insomnia, or anxiety. If you suffer from one of these conditions as a result of the accident, this can also be included in your general damages calculation.
General damages can be much more difficult to calculate than specific damages. As a result, we often base the general damage calculation on the number arrived at when calculating specific damages. This is why it is especially important to maximize your special damage award, by carefully tracking all your expenditures incurred as a result of the car accident.
This article is for informational purposes only. It does not provide legal advice, nor does it form an attorney-client relationship. If you were injured in a car accident due to brake failure, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers today to discuss your options for recovery.