Because we use cars so often, it is easy to forget how dangerous they can be if not properly maintained and cared for. If made well, cars are built to last at least a decade of substantial use; however, certain components in a car must be repaired or replaced within this time period or they will begin to threaten the safety of the driver, passengers, and other motorists on the road. Brakes are possibly the most important safety feature on a car because they allow a driver to respond to signals, hazards, and changes on the road and slow down in the case of an impending accident to reduce the force of the collision. When brakes are not well-maintained, or a car is defectively manufactured, they will degrade, with horrifying results.
Car and truck brakes are complicated, multi-system apparatuses. They actually use two or three different physical mechanisms to slow down the vehicle. Disc brakes are located by a car's many wheels. They use tough pads to clamp the disc and force the car to slow through the use of friction, sort of like a bicycle. Unlike a bicycle, however, a person could not apply enough pressure on their own to stop the force of a car that can weigh up to a ton.
Because of the high speeds and large mass of cars and trucks, vehicles such as these are equipped with hydraulic brakes. The hydraulic system uses a series of pipes and tubes filled with fluid to increase the force exerted by the depression of the brake with your foot. The cylinders connected to the discs by the wheel are much wider and larger than the ones connected to the brake pedal which multiplies the force of the driver's movement.
As you can imagine, the amount of force and energy being converted from the energy of movement (kinetic energy) to the energy of friction (thermal energy), is enormous. There is a substantial amount of heat generated by this process and all the components of a braking system must be made of durable, heat resistant material, often ceramic, alloys, or composites. Even with these engineered components, however, brake systems will deteriorate over time, like all mechanical systems. For this reason, it is vital to get regular brake checks and to be aware of signs that your brakes are beginning to wear down or fail.
Symptoms of Possible Brake Failure
It is actually relatively rare for brakes to completely fail because automobile manufacturers are required to install multiple redundancies in the braking system to prevent this catastrophic possibility. Usually, there will be warnings for a driver that their brakes are malfunctioning or failing.
This is a common condition that signals that a brake is failing. In this condition, the brake feels soft and spongy and will usually need to be depressed more by the driver before it begins to activate. In addition, it may take longer for the car to stop under these conditions. Soft brake pedals occur because the hydraulic fluid which fills the chambers connecting the brake pedal and the discs by the wheels is leaking out at some point in the connection. This leakage decreases the pressure that the brakes can exert when applied, reducing a driver's responsiveness. It is a clear sign that the brakes are about to fail and necessitates immediate attention.
Other symptoms of impending brake failure may include a wobbling sensation when the brakes are applied, a burning smell while the car is in use, rocking or bouncing during hard stops, a grinding sound, scraping or vibration. All of these symptoms correspond to different parts of the braking system that may be worn down or failing, such as the brake rotors, hose, fluid, shock absorbers, or brake pads. Some cars will alert their drivers when the brakes need to be serviced, but on older models, the operator will need to be aware of the car's normal mechanics and respond to change.
Of course, some drivers may not heed the warnings that their car is giving them. This can result in accidents caused by either complete brake failure or an inability to brake in a timely and effective manner.
Brake Failure Responsibility
Even though brake failure is rare, it is responsible for a significant number of accidents because of how devastating the loss of brakes can be at high speeds or in congested areas. When accidents caused by brake failure occur, there are typically two classes of defendants that victims of these accidents may choose to file against.
A car owner is responsible for the basic maintenance of their vehicle including things like brakes, tires, and safety lights. This is why police officers are able to give motorists citations for failing to maintain certain equipment on their cars. If, as a plaintiff, you can prove through an inspection of their car that the other driver failed to properly maintain their brakes and created an ongoing dangerous situation, you will have a good chance of success in your lawsuit.
If the brakes failed because a mechanical component functioned incorrectly and/or a backup system failed to engage, you and the other driver may both have a case against the car manufacturer. In this case, a victim will need to prove that the car failed to perform up to industry standards and was defective in some way which directly caused the accident and injuries.
Representation for Victims of Brake Failure in Colorado
In order to prove brake failure, you will almost certainly need an experienced auto accident attorney who can enlist help to perform a vehicle inspection and evaluation, represent you against a large company, and assess the scene of the accident for evidence of this particular cause. Jeremy Rosenthal has over a decade of experience representing victims of automobile accidents in Colorado. For a free case evaluation, contact him today at (303) 825-2223 or online.