The brakes are perhaps the most important safety feature of all motor vehicles. The brakes allow us to operate a vehicle safely and avoid most accidents. They can prevent us from driving through the back of our own garage, and avoid an accident with a reckless driver on the highway. However, when brakes fail, the results can be disastrous. Brake failure leads to thousands of automobile accidents every year, resulting in serious injury and death.
There are a number of causes for brake failure accidents. Some brake systems are compromised through improper brake repair or vehicle maintenance. Other brakes may fail as the result of a prior accident or severe corrosion. However, a large number of brake failure cases involve design defects or manufacturing defects from the automaker or their parts suppliers.
Defective braking systems are supposed to be caught before a vehicle leaves the factory. Some braking problems will not become known to the automaker until after accidents have occurred. However, even after the automaker becomes aware of a brake problem, they may not immediately warn consumers. Unbelievably, they may undertake a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether the cost of injuries or death justifies an expensive recall. In some cases, it may take government regulators to force the automaker to recall the faulty vehicles.
Defective Brake Recalls
A number of vehicles have been recalled over the years because of defective brakes and braking systems, including BMW, Hyundai, Subaru, General Motors, and Ford. BMW of North America recalled tens of thousands of vehicles because power brake assist problems. This included 3 Series and 5 Series vehicles, the X1, X5, and Z4 Roadster. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “due to insufficient lubrication, the vacuum pump that supplies brake power assistance may fail. A failure of the brake vacuum pump results in a reduction in braking power that could increase the risk of a crash."
In 2014, Subaru recalled over 660,000 vehicles in the U.S. due to brake line corrosion. The recall affected vehicles registered in cold-weather states that salt the roads for snow. According to the NHTSA, "salt water could splash on the brake lines through a gap in the fuel tank protector, resulting in excessive corrosion of the brake lines. Brake line corrosion may result in brake fluid leakage. Fluid leakage may result in longer distances being required to slow or stop the vehicle, increasing the risk of a crash."
Hyundai recalled thousands of Sonata and Genesis vehicles over braking problems. Over 300,000 Hyundai Sonatas were recalled because the brake lines could leak braking fluid. According to the NHTSA, “The affected vehicles may experience a brake fluid leak from the two brake lines that connect the brake system's master cylinder to the Hydraulic Electronic Control Unit due to insufficient seal between the inner brake hose and metal brake-line fitting. If the brake lines leak sufficient fluid, the brake warning lamp in the instrument cluster will illuminate and longer stopping distance will be required, increasing the risk of a crash."
General Motors had to recall more than 200,000 vehicles over a braking system defect. The brake-indicator lights failed to illuminate in some vehicles when the brake was not completely retracted. Brake pads could remain partially engaged with the braking rotors, causing excessive heat in the braking system that could result in a fire.
Toyota has had a number of recalls involving braking problems. More than 4 million vehicles were recalled due to a floor mat defect that caused braking problems. The unsecured floor mats could move forward on the driver's side floor, trapping the accelerator pedal or restricting the brake pedal. These faulty floor mats were responsible for a number of vehicle accidents, including a number of fatal collisions. Almost 100,000 other Toyotas were recalled because the brakes were prone to ice buildup, reducing braking power and increasing stopping distances.
Defective Brake Injuries
When a driver realizes that their brakes are not working as intended, they have few options. A driver may try the emergency brake; however, brake failure may mean that the emergency brake isn't working either. If the driver is in a rural area, they may try and steer their runaway vehicle towards the shoulder, hoping to slow the vehicle down. However, this may also increase the risk of a rollover accident.
When brakes fail, a collision is almost imminent. The injuries sustained will depend on the speed of the vehicle, other vehicles involved, where the accident occurs, and what other safety features the vehicle has. Injuries can include broken bones, head, neck or back injuries, or even death.
After an accident caused by brake failure, the vehicle manufacturer may try and deny responsibility. Instead, they may claim that the accident was caused by operator error. Contact an experienced accident injury attorney who will fight for you to get the compensation you deserve.
Maryland Brake Failure Injury Attorneys
If you or a loved one was injured due to brake failure, the car company and any individuals responsible should pay for their negligence. It may be difficult dealing with the insurance company, identifying who is responsible, and making sure they pay for your injuries. At Gilman & Bedigian, our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience aggressively pursuing compensation for injury victims and their families. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury in a car accident in Maryland, please contact our law offices as soon as possible.