When a commercial truck is involved in an accident, the usual assumption is that the trucker is at fault. However, the reality is often far more intricate. Yes, truckers shoulder significant responsibility for safe operation. But mechanics also play a role in maintaining these behemoth vehicles. Although it is hard to establish, they may also be at fault. Understanding the distinct responsibilities of truckers and mechanics paves the way for a fair liability assessment.
Duty of care
Mechanics are legally obligated to exercise reasonable care when working on commercial trucks. Most states have a citation on motor vehicle equipment requirements. Mechanics must ensure that these are properly inspected, maintained and repaired according to industry standards: They may be held liable if there is evidence of:
- Inadequate brake repair: Failing to inspect, repair or replace brake components properly. This can result in brake failure while the truck is in operation. It increases the risk of collisions because the driver may find it difficult to stop or slow down.
- Faulty steering system repair: Neglecting to address issues with the steering system, such as worn-out or loose components. This can compromise the driver’s ability to steer the truck properly.
- Improper tire maintenance: Negligence in checking and maintaining the condition of tires. This includes inadequate tire pressure, worn-out treads or improper installation. This can increase the risk of blowouts or loss of traction.
- Neglected engine repairs: Failing to address engine-related issues. Examples include fuel system problems or faulty ignition systems. This can result in sudden breakdowns. And if the truck loses power while in motion, it can create hazardous situations on the road.
- Incorrect installation of safety equipment: Mishandling the installation of safety equipment can render them ineffective in the event of an accident. It may put the driver and other road users at more risk.
- Inadequate trailer hitch repairs: Neglecting to inspect or repair trailer hitches properly can lead to improper attachment or detachment of trailers. Imagine if these get detached while in transit. It will not only put the driver at risk but may also endanger nearby vehicles.
- Faulty electrical system repairs: Poorly conducted repairs or installations in the electrical system can compromise the truck’s visibility. Malfunctioning headlights, brake lights or turn signals can increase the risk of collisions.
It is important to note that these are just a few examples, and other negligent repairs may contribute to accidents.
Proving mechanic liability
Certain elements must be demonstrated to establish mechanic liability in a commercial truck accident. These include establishing that:
- The mechanic owed a duty of care to the truck owner or operator
- The mechanic breached that duty through negligent actions or omissions
- The breach directly caused or contributed to the accident and resulting damages
Expert testimony and thorough investigation are often necessary to prove these elements. Sometimes, liability for a commercial truck accident may be shared between the driver and the mechanic. The extent of each party’s liability will depend on the accident’s circumstances.
While drivers are often held responsible in a commercial truck accident, there are situations where the mechanic who serviced or repaired the truck may also be held liable. Establishing mechanic liability requires demonstrating a breach of duty of care. It also needs to have a direct causal link to the accident.