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Example of a Mechanical Failure Case We Handled

Our client was driving in Kennebunk, Maine, approaching a red light. As she slowed to a stop, a pickup truck suddenly smashed into the back of her vehicle, pushing her car into the vehicle in front of her. The force of the collision was so violent that her car sustained major damage to both the back end and front end.

Unfortunately the operator of the pickup truck had minimal insurance coverage, not nearly enough to compensate our client for all of her injuries, medical expenses, lost income, etc. Our client also had the State minimum for underinsured motorist coverage ($50,000). Because the pickup driver claimed that the reason he was not able to stop his vehicle was due to brake failure, we investigated whether his brakes had been recently repaired. It turned out that they had been serviced within a few weeks of the date of the accident. We obtained permission from the pickup driver to have his vehicle inspected by an expert mechanic who determined that the brakes had, in fact, failed. Our expert was able to identify errors that were made by the service station that did the repairs that caused the failure.

With this information, we brought a claim against the service station on behalf of our client. The service station fortunately had a very large commercial insurance policy that was more than sufficient to provide compensation for our client’s injuries. We were able to promptly settle the case against the pickup truck driver’s insurance company for the full policy limit of the policy ($100,000). The bigger “battle” in the case was with the service station’s insurance company which aggressively fought the claim that the brakes had been installed improperly. That insurance company hired its own expert who claimed (not surprisingly) that the brakes had been installed properly and were functioning as they should at the time of the accident.

We obtained records of the service that was done on the pickup’s brakes and were able to determine the name of the mechanic who did the work. We then obtained a copy of the mechanic’s personnel file in an effort to determine whether that mechanic had ever received any discipline for shoddy work. Not only did we find evidence of prior shoddy work, we found documentation of a prior brake failure in that employee’s file that was determined to be due to improperly installed brakes. While that prior error did not result in an accident, it provided helpful “ammunition” in our negotiation with the service station’s insurance company. Although the insurance company correctly argued that it would be very difficult to introduce evidence of the mechanic’s past errors to prove that an error occurred in this case, we persuasively argued that the evidence of past errors could be admitted as evidence to rebut the service station’s claims that it had an excellent service record and that it’s mechanics were all “highly trained.” The insurance adjuster for the service station grudgingly admitted that we would be able to use the evidence of the mechanic’s past shoddy work in this way and, as a result, the case settled. Our client was very pleased with the result.