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Truck Brake Failure Accidents

It’s horrifying to imagine a tractor-trailer rolling up behind you, if it can’t slow down as it approaches. The resulting impact could be catastrophic and potentially fatal to anyone in your vehicle.

Unfortunately, truck brake failure accidents are all too common; about 30% of commercial truck accidents are caused by brake failures. The reasons for truck brake failures vary, but the resulting accidents are almost always serious.

If you were hurt in a truck brake failure accident, our Nix Patterson truck accident attorneys may be able to help. If the other party caused the accident, you could be entitled to compensation for your injuries, lost earnings, pain and suffering, and more.

Causes of Brake Failure in Trucks

Conventional passenger vehicles weigh between 3,000 and 5,000 pounds, and simple hydraulic pressure lines work fine in their brake systems. However, trucks weigh up to 80,000 pounds and require a much more robust braking system.

Compressor Failure

On a commercial truck, a compressor creates and feeds air pressure to tanks, which then apply pressure to the brakes. But if the driver overuses the brakes, air drains from the compressor faster than it can be replenished. Then, the brakes have no air pressure, possibly leading to a brake failure and a runaway 80,000-pound big rig.

This can be a severe problem on long descents down large hills and mountains, which is why you’ll sometimes see ‘runaway’ truck ramps on the sides of highways on a long descent. Sometimes the complex truck brake system will fail because of overuse, but lack of maintenance also is a common explanation.

Glazed Brakes

Glazed brakes are a common brake problem on tractor-trailers that may lead to failure. This refers to the glazing of the brake pads because of excessive heat and use. When you touch brake pads, they can seem hard, but they are softer than the brake rotors they press on to slow the truck. If there are long periods of heavy braking or improper brake use, the brake pad temperature can exceed design specifications, causing it to melt or break down.

Too much heat on the brake pads repeatedly can crystalize the brake pad material, making the pads harder. This reduces the friction applied to the rotors and renders them much less effective. Once the pad is glazed, it has to be replaced, but sometimes the trucker or company will not replace these defective parts, leading to accidents.

Other Reasons

Other causes of truck brake failures can be an overloaded truck, poor braking adjustment or balance, or a manufacturing or design flaw in the truck or trailer. Whatever the reason, a Nix Patterson truck brake failure accident attorney will find the cause and hold the responsible party to account.

Injuries Sustained from Truck Brake Failure Accidents

Unfortunately, a truck brake failure can lead to a terrifying, high-speed collision that can seriously injure or kill smaller vehicle occupants. Some of the most common and severe truck brake failure accident injuries are:

  • Head and brain injuries. If a truck with brake failure slams into your car at high speed, you could slam your head into the window, windshield, or steering wheel, causing a severe head and brain injury. Just the high-force impact can cause the brain to bounce inside the skull, damaging it.
  • Back and neck injuries. When a tractor-trailer hits a passenger vehicle, the tremendous impact can crush or shatter neck and back vertebrae, which can cause ruptured discs or even spinal cord damage.
  • Broken bones. A high-speed truck brake failure accident can cause broken, shattered, or crushed bones. Some of these injuries are so severe that multiple surgeries are needed to set the bones with pins, rods, and screws.
  • Burns. A high-speed truck crash can rupture fuel tanks and cause severe burns to accident victims.
  • Lacerations. Sharp metal, shattered glass, splintered plastic, and dash panels can all severely lacerate your face and body in a truck crash. Some of these injuries are so severe that you may need reconstructive facial surgery, and permanent scarring is possible.

Who Is Liable for Truck Brake Failure?

Both state and federal laws require trucking companies to obey strict safety regulations. The company can be punished with fines and penalties for violating the rules. Many parties can be held responsible for a truck brake failure accident, including:

  • The truck driver and owner
  • Trucking company
  • Truck repair shop and mechanics
  • Brake manufacturers
  • Cargo loaders

There could be more than one party at fault for the truck crash. If that is the case, you can rely on Nix Patterson’s truck brake failure attorneys to sort it out and hold them accountable.

If the accident occurred in a comparative negligence state, the insurance company could try to blame you for the accident partially. Our attorneys will stand up for your rights and ensure that the proper party is held liable for the accident.

How a Truck Brake Failure Accident Attorney Can Help

After a tractor-trailer accident caused by brake failure, Nix Patterson’s attorneys will thoroughly investigate the root cause of the accident. Evidence that our truck crash attorneys may examine in a brake failure investigation are:

  • Post-accident brake inspection. Our attorneys can hire truck accident investigators to check the brake components after the accident to determine what happened and why. Our investigators will find out if a critical component failed or if there was improper maintenance.
  • Electronic truck data. Many tractor-trailers have electronic logging devices or black boxes and GPS that record vital information as the truck is operating. Data from these helpful devices can show the rig’s brake status and speed before the crash. If there was a brake problem, a review of this data could reveal the problem.
  • Vehicle maintenance records. Trucking companies and drivers must keep detailed maintenance records of what they do on their rigs. These records could show in court that improper brake inspections and maintenance led to the accident.
  • Truck driver training records. Commercial truck drivers are supposed to have intense driver training and testing before they drive a big rig. If the truck driver isn’t trained correctly, their inexperience could contribute to a brake failure.
  • Truck accident reconstruction. Nix Patterson attorneys often work with truck crash reconstruction experts. These professionals can look at braking patterns and the accident scene to determine how and why the brakes failed.
  • Cargo loading documents. Some truck brake failure crashes happen because of overloading. An examination of the cargo loading records could show that the trailer was overloaded, leading to the brakes being overwhelmed and failing.

Contact an Experienced Truck Brake Failure Accident Attorney

If you or a loved one sustained serious injuries in a truck brake failure accident recently, you could receive compensation in a personal injury lawsuit. A truck accident attorney with experience in catastrophic injuries from truck brake failure accidents can review your case to determine the next steps.

Our truck accident injury team at Nix Patterson is ready to help with your case, so please contact us today. Remember, your initial consultation is free, and we work on a contingency basis. That means we only get paid if we win your case.


Nix Patterson only works on a contingency fee basis. Our clients pay us nothing unless we win. Schedule a free consultation today. Call 512.328.5333 or complete the form below. 

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