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Negligent Vehicle Maintenance Can be Grounds for Liability After Crash

Investigators examining the evidence in a fatal wrong-way car accident that killed two teenagers – best friends – have concluded the recreational vehicle that struck them head-on had no working headlights. Local media reports are the RV driver, 98, and his 75-year-old companion, were likely not seen by the two teens, 17 and 18, until it was too late. The RV was reportedly traveling west in an eastbound highway lane in St. Lucie County. The girls were transported to a hospital in Fort Pierce, where they were pronounced dead.

Authorities have said the stretch of road where the crash occurred was rural and poorly-lit, so without operational headlights, the RV would have been virtually impossible to see. The girls had almost no opportunity to take evasive action to protect themselves.

Negligent maintenance of a vehicle is a claim that is an extension of one’s duty to use reasonable and prudent care in operating a vehicle. The person who owns or is responsible for managing the vehicle have a responsibility to do their best to ensure it is properly maintained because it’s understood that certain parts of a vehicle are vital to safe driving. If the driver or vehicle owner knew or should have known certain components of the vehicle were in failure or even just untrustworthy and the failure of that component leads to a crash or an exacerbation of injuries, they may be legally liable for the resulting damages.¬†

Common Car Maintenance Failures Giving Rise to a Negligence Lawsuit

There are a number of common vehicle maintenance failures our car accident attorneys in Orlando see resulting in litigation and findings of liability. Some examples include:

  • Non-working lights. These could include headlights, as in the Port St. Lucie case, or they could include brake lights or turn signals. A vehicle that does not have all working lights is a threat to vehicle occupants and those who share the road. For instance, if a vehicle does not have a working brake light, it could easily be at higher risk for a rear-end collision. Those with newer model vehicles often have zero excuse for not addressing these issues because dashboard indicators warn when there is a lamp failure. But even those who drive vehicles without this feature still have a responsibility to check their vehicle before driving it, and also to pay attention to clues there may be a system failure (non-working headlights at night should be rather obvious).
  • Brakes. It should go without saying that breaks are imperative to the safe operation of a vehicle, and they require periodic repair and upkeep. Brake failure can result in serious and even fatal injuries if the driver is unable to stop or unable to slow fast enough. Brakes that squeal or feel as if they are slipping or take longer to work are probably in need of repair.
  • Horn. A horn isn’t something drivers use in every trip or maybe even in the majority of trips. However, horns are essential, life-saving devices that can help prevent a major crash. F.S. 316.271 requires motorists to keep their vehicle horns¬† in good working order, capable of emitting sound audible under normal conditions from a distance of not less than 200 feet.
  • Tires. Many people drag out tire repair and replacement for as long as possible because of the expense. However, worn tires that can’t properly grip the road put the driver, occupants and others at grave risk when they fail, particularly at high speeds.
  • Windshield wipers. Florida gets a great deal of rain, and severe rainfall can reduce driver visibility to almost nothing. Windshield wipers may need replaced as often as every six months, and it’s the duty of the vehicle owner/ operator to pay attention to this need.

If you have questions about recovering damages for injuries you suffered in an Orlando car accident we can help.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Headlights not working on RV involved in wrong-way crash that killed 2 St. Lucie teenagers, Feb. 8, 2018, By Will Greenlee,

More Blog Entries:

$250k Car Accident Verdict Upheld in Case Where Daughter Sued Mother, Feb. 9, 2018, Orlando Car Accident Attorney Blog

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