Liability For Brake Defect Accidents In Northern Virginia

By Peter DePaolis

Brakes are one of the most essential features of an automobile and can cause serious catastrophe or death if they are not working properly. Not only can defective brakes get you and your loved ones seriously hurt, but they can cause you to crash into other vehicles and be sued by their drivers. Fortunately, the attorneys of Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP can help you recover compensation and hold the responsible party accountable after a brake defect accident.

Modern vehicles come with warning systems to notify drivers of various issues with the brakes. Squeaking brakes or difficulty using the brakes (e.g. having to press the brake pedal all the way to the floor) may also give drivers advance notice that something is wrong. Sometimes drivers disregard these warnings and don’t get their brakes fixed, which could prove a fatal mistake. Always have a qualified mechanic take a look if you detect something is wrong with your brakes.

Brakes are complicated systems, composed of brake pads, shoes, pedals, rotors, and other parts. Many issues are the result of normal wear and tear, not defects. These problems are typically found in older vehicles or those that haven’t been serviced in a while. An accident caused by a routine brake issue is more likely to be the responsibility (and liability) of the driver since all motorists are expected to keep their vehicles in reasonably safe operating conditions.

Was the brake defect caused by the design or manufacturing?

Brake defect cases could be the result of bad design or manufacturing, among other causes. The materials used in the various components may be shoddy, for example. Poor maintenance can also render the brakes defective and lead to an accident. Some of the parties that could therefore be held liable for the accident include the following:

  • The automobile manufacturer. Mistakes on the production or assembly line at the automobile factory may cause a problem with the brakes. As a recent example, General Motors in 2019 issued a recall for about 3.5 million vehicles due to a faulty brake system.
  • The brake manufacturer. Various companies are responsible for manufacturing the different parts of the automobile, including brakes. It’s at this point that several problems can occur with defective components, poor materials, etc.
  • The mechanic. If you took your automobile to a mechanic for a look at the brakes, the shop could be held liable for a brake defect. This may be because the mechanic failed to fix a problem with the brakes, failed to replace a broken component, and so forth.

Because brakes are so complicated, it may not be immediately clear after an accident what exactly caused it. Even if the braking system is pinpointed as the cause (as opposed to poor tires, for example), establishing who is responsible is another challenge. Sometimes liability is shared among multiple parties. And in other cases, liable parties try to point blame at the driver.

It’s Important to Have a Strong Legal Advocate on Your Side

This is where having a skilled Northern Virginia accident attorney is critical. An attorney understands how to obtain the necessary evidence to hold the responsible party accountable for the brake defect. This requires a thorough understanding of the applicable rules of evidence, civil procedure, and discovery.

It’s also critical to seek the input of an expert witness. This is an individual with technical expertise in relevant scientific fields that involve automobile accidents. For example, an expert witness might include an accident reconstruction expert who can explain how the crash scene indicates a problem with the brakes. Another expert might be able to identify the specific part of the brake system that failed, and how the manufacturer or other party was responsible for it.

The sooner you act following any kind of car accident, the more likely it is that the liable party will be held to account for what happened. Reach out to Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP today if you’ve been involved in an accident where defective brakes may have been to blame.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.