The brakes are arguably the most important safety feature on a motor vehicle. They are an essential part of controlling how fast the vehicle is going and are the most important way for drivers to avoid an accident or mitigate the damages if there is no way to avoid it.
When the brakes on a car are defective or do not work properly, innocent people are put at risk. When they get hurt through no fault of their own, victims should be compensated by the person or the party that was ultimately responsible for their losses. The personal injury and products liability lawyers at the law offices of Gilman & Bedigian in Philadelphia can help victims recover what they deserve.
NHTSA: Around 10,000 Accidents Caused by Brake Problems Every Year
While defective auto parts seem like they should occur only very rarely, that is far from the case. Recalls are made nearly every single day that impact thousands of cars routinely driven on the roads of Pennsylvania. Many of those recalls deal with the brakes on a vehicle, with many of those issues raising some serious doubts about the ability of those brakes to prevent an accident.
Figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) put a number on this problem. According to a study released in 2015, the NHTSA estimates that 10,000 accidents are caused by brake-related problems every single year. These accidents are not the fault of the drivers involved in the crash, and often happen in spite of their best efforts to avoid the collision.
Types of Brakes that Can Be Defective
There are four types of brakes in use today in most motor vehicles that can be defective and cause an accident:
- Drum brakes
- Disc brakes
- Anti-lock brakes
- Emergency brakes
Each of these devices works by applying pressure to the spinning metal disc – also known as the rotor – that is the centerpiece of the wheel of a motor vehicle.
A drum brake is comprised of a smaller disc on top of the rotor, or located within a metal rim on the outside of the rotor. Between the two, there are two “shoes” that act as braking pads. When the brake pedal is depressed, the smaller disc is either squeezed towards the rotor until the shoes come into contact with it, or the shoes are pressed outwards and into the rotor's rim.
Drum brakes are an older type of brake and are rarely used on new cars. They are, however, commonly used on trucks.
In a disc brake system, the rotor is slowed down by pinching brake pads against its outer edge with a piston set into a caliper. The friction and pressure that this causes brings the rotor and the wheel to a stop.
A visual example of a disc brake is on most bicycles.
Brakes Equipped with Anti-Lock Braking
Anti-lock systems are safety features on both drum and disc brakes. When the brake is activated, anti-lock brakes will rapidly release and then re-attach the brake's pressure to the rotor to prevent the rotor from locking and causing a skid. If the anti-lock system fails, the vehicle's wheel and tire might stop rotating, but the momentum of the car may continue as the stationary tire is dragged on top of the roadway.
Finally, vehicles are generally equipped with a separate set of brakes that can be activated using a lever or switch inside the car. These emergency brakes are usually used to keep a car from rolling after it has been parked.
Poor Brake Designs Can Cause a Crash
While comparatively rare, brake designs can be bad enough that they create a very foreseeable possibility of failure. When they do, the company that designed the brakes should be held accountable for their poor conduct.
Like with any other product, the companies that make the braking systems for motor vehicles have a legal obligation to make them reasonably safely. This requires using designs and materials that do not pose a significant threat to consumers and innocent bystanders. It also requires them to include safety features whenever the benefits of those features outweigh the costs of including them.
Defective designs are rare, though, because brake systems have been built along nearly identical lines for years, now, with relatively little innovation. When changes are made to existing designs, though, there is the chance for an increase in car accidents because of the novel design. Should that happen, the victims who get hurt by the defective brake deserve to be compensated for the injuries that they would not have suffered, were it not for the poor design.
Manufacturing Problems Can Lead to Defective Brakes
The braking system in a motor vehicle is far more likely to fail because of a manufacturing defect.
Manufacturing defects are mistakes that happen during a product's manufacture that make it less safe than it should be. Those mistakes lead to a product that does not comply with the original design, causing it to be less effective and potentially dangerous.
When a car or truck's braking system has a manufacturing defect, the result can be catastrophic. The defect may not present itself until a moment of need when the driver suddenly has to rely on the brakes to avoid a crash. The pressure that this can put on the brakes can reveal the defect, lead to brake failure, and end with an accident.
Installation and Maintenance Problems Can Lead to Brake Failure
In some cases, the brakes themselves might be fine, but the way they were installed or maintained can prevent them from working properly, causing a crash. If the brake's maintenance was ignored by the driver, it may fail to shift the blame for the crash to someone other than the driver. However, if the brake was not installed correctly, the mechanic or auto body shop may be held liable for their negligence.
Philadelphia Auto Defect Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian
The lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian represent victims in Philadelphia who have been hurt by an auto defect. Contact them online for legal help.