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When Is a Tire Blowout an At-Fault Accident?

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It can happen when you least expect it: a loud, alarming sound as a tire blows out on the road, where suddenly you’re struggling to regain control of your vehicle. If you’re lucky, you may be able to guide your car out of traffic to a safe place to wait for help. If you’re not, however, you may wind up in a collision while attempting to regain control. To understand the answer to the question “is a tire blowout an at-fault accident,” you must first understand how such incidents occur, and what constitutes an at-fault accident.

Why do tire blowouts occur?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Americans put 3.24 trillion miles on their tires in 2019; that same year, there were 612 fatalities in tire-related crashes across the country. Tire blowout accidents can be caused by underinflated or overinflated tires, or by tires that are unsafe to drive on because they’re too old and worn down. As a driver, you are expected to inspect your tires regularly and ensure they are in good condition; failure to do so may mean you are found at fault if an accident occurs.

What is an at-fault accident?

California is an at-fault state for car collisions. This means that the driver who is found to have been negligent (or to have caused the accident) is liable for compensating other drivers involved in the accident for damages and medical bills. Whether that compensation comes from the driver themselves, or from their insurance company (and how much is covered) typically depends on various case-specific factors. If multiple drivers are found to be negligent, each may have to pay a percentage of the total damages. Nevada and Arizona are also at-fault states. Only 12 states have no-fault insurance laws: Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Several factors go into determining who is at fault in an accident. While police do not make the final determination, their reports can go a long way in deciding who is at fault. Police will interview drivers involved in the collision and any eyewitnesses. If one of the drivers is charged with breaking a law — including but not limited to driving while impaired — that is a powerful statement of fault that can be difficult to overturn.

Detail of a car tire blowout - when is a tire blowout an at-fault accident?

How many points is an at-fault accident in California?

In California, if you are determined to be at fault for an accident, the Department of Motor Vehicles may apply negligent operator points to your license. If you accrue too many points in a certain period of time, the DMV may take action, with increasingly severe penalties that can include license suspension.

The number of points applied depends on the offense that led to the accident:

  • 1 point: Any conviction “involving the safe operation of a motor vehicle upon the highway.” This includes speeding and operating a vehicle that is mechanically unsafe to drive.
    • Mechanical violations, such as not having an operational license plate light, may be assigned either 0 points or 1 point.
  • 2 points: Hit-and-run and driving under the influence. More points are given for these offences because they pose an increased traffic safety risk.

If you’re operating a commercial vehicle that requires a Class A or B license, however, the points given for a conviction are multiplied by 1.5. The California DMV can also apply negligent operator points for collisions and convictions that occur throughout the rest of the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada.

Can you be at-fault when rear-ended due to a tire blowout?

While it’s often assumed that the driver of the rearmost vehicle is at fault in a rear-end accident, there are times when this is not the case. One such case may occur if you’re the driver of the foremost vehicle and your tire blows out. If you are rear-ended because you weren’t able to pull over to the side of the road and/or turn on your hazard lights, you may be found at least partially at fault if it’s determined that you didn’t maintain the correct air pressure in your tires (or didn’t otherwise make sure they were in good condition), and that is what led to the accident.

If you do experience a tire blowout, there are a few things you can do to try and stay safe: keep a steady grip on the steering wheel, don’t slam on the brakes, move over to the side of the road while slowing down using the gearbox or natural deceleration, and turn on your hazard lights.

How do you dispute an at-fault accident due to a tire blowout?

As a vehicle owner and driver, you are responsible for making sure that your vehicle is in good condition every time you drive it. This includes checking the tread depth and air pressure of your tires. Failure to do so may result in being found at fault for a tire blowout accident.

In certain cases, tire blowout accidents may not be the driver’s fault. If a mechanic inspects the vehicle and determines that the tires are safe to drive on, or installs the wrong type of tire for the vehicle, they may be held at least partially liable for the accident. Retailers may also be held liable if they knowingly sell defective tires, just as manufacturers may be liable if their tires are designed in a way that could lead to a blowout.

For these reasons, it’s important to keep records of tire service, including the type of tires installed, and to take photos of damage to tires after an accident. It may also be in your best interests to retain a lawyer who can help sift through the many scenarios and circumstances surrounding an accident.

When is a tire blowout an at-fault accident that you can sue or recover compensation for?

Cases involving tire blowouts can be extremely complex, and often involve many unexpected factors. Avrek Law can help you understand your legal options when it comes to dealing with injuries sustained in tire blowout accidents. The consultation is free, and you’ll receive expert advice from a law firm with $1 billion recovered in more than 10,000 cases across the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada (all states that have at-fault accident laws). As a “no win, no fee” law firm, you only pay our fee if we successfully resolve your case. Contact us today – we want to hear more about your case!

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