Firstly, I don't remember the exact details.
This was back when I had just graduated High School. I made minimum wage working 40hrs a week, but bills took that away. Anyways I had replaced the pads a few months prior (not sure if I had replaced the rotors then or not.) The car was a late 90s Ford Taurus.
So one day I'm coming home from work on the interstate and they just started grinding, I drove it all the way home through stop and go rush hour traffic that way. Well, I got it home and noticed one side of the rear-passenger side pad was grinding down more than the other as well as a groove that was forming on the rotor. Anyways I tightened everything up because I couldn't afford to replace anything.
I drove it like that for the next week maybe, it got considerably worst. Now, here comes the good part. I left work one day and on the way to get on the interstate the pedal was feeling very light but engaged, I thought nothing of it. I got on the highway and usually there is a nice patch of road for a couple miles without traffic until it suddenly becomes a parking lot. So I'm gliding along at 70mph, haven't had to hit the brakes but probably a tiny bit if any all the way until I get to the parking lot. I'm in considerable stopping distance when I go to engage my brake and nothing... I pumped, I did everything I could to get that thing to engage but nothing. So I'm probably 70ft from rear ending someone at 60mph or whatever I was going then. So I threw on the shitty step to engage parking brake and I guess I got my one miracle in life at that moment or something. There was an exit on the right (4 lane highway) probably 15ft from the back of the cars, I was in the 2nd lane from the exit. There were no cars near me at all luckily. So when I threw the brake on I fish trailed but managed to recover and I sorta did a scrappy drift into the exit (luckily the exit was up to a bridge) and then I let it roll and it stopped almost perfectly behind the car sitting at the light in front of me.
So, I drove it to my parents house (this exit was the one right by their house as well.) and when my dad got home I had him take me to get some new rotors and pads for the entire car. I went into debt but I'd rather be in debt than injure myself or someone else.... after that incident. Turns out the cylinder needed to be replaced as well.
Now, I went back to work the next day... In my parking spot was the pad that fell off, I wish I had the picture of that. Barely any meat left on it. I don't really no how the brakes worked at all honestly, I'm not that knowledgeable about cars so I have no clue.
Too cheap to by brake replacement, I had incredible luck to save myself from crashing on the interstate.