Tire Defects in Personal Injury Cases
When a tire is believed to be defective, the lawsuit is usually filed against the manufacturer. In some cases, however, the suit might also be filed against the dealer of the tire or even a mechanic who performed maintenance on the tire.
Tires may appear to be simple parts made of nothing more than rubber, but they are certainly complex and made of many different materials, including oils, silica, steel, and adhesives. If the manufacturer uses cheaper adhesives or does not cook the tire properly in the production process, a defect can occur. Contaminants can also enter the rubber during production and cause problems with tires. These would be considered manufacturing defects.
On the other hand, in some instances, the design of the tire itself is the problem. The steel belts, for example, might be the wrong size. This is a common reason for the separation of the tread from the belts, which is implicated in a number of accidents every year.
Not long ago, a great many accidents occurred after tire blowouts in SUVs when the tire tread separated, causing the vehicles to roll over (SUVs are particularly vulnerable to rollovers because the bottom of the vehicle is lighter than the top.) Blowouts may also be the result of a defect in the tire’s rim that then punctures the tire.
While it is rare, a tire can sometimes explode while it is being inflated, causing serious injuries. When this happens, the reason for the explosion can be tough to pinpoint. It could be a tire defect, or it could be a problem with the air compression device, for example.
As you can see, tire defects can be responsible for serious accidents that can lead to permanent, debilitating injuries or death.
A number of types of tire defects can cause accidents:
- Tire explosion
- Tread separation
- Belt separation
These defects can create a variety of accidents, such as:
- Loss of control
- Running off the road
Any of these issues can easily involve other vehicles or lead to a car slamming into or jumping a median. If a tire blows or falls off while on a dangerous stretch of road, the car can fall over an embankment and explode. When drivers lose control of their cars, they can hit other cars and cause a pile-up. Pieces of a tire can also fly off and injure people outside of vehicles, as well as damage other cars on the road or cause other drivers to lose control of their cars.
As a result, these cases can sometimes involve a number of lawsuits with many plaintiffs. The possibilities are numerous and because running off the road or losing control of the car can be attributed to more than one reason, a full investigation must be conducted of the accident scene, the car, and the tire involved.
Product Liability Lawsuits Due to Tire Defects
The attorneys who handle these kinds of personal injury lawsuits are often called “product liability lawyers.” Of course, tire defect cases can involve anything that uses a tire – cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, and construction equipment.
Manufacturers sometimes become aware of a defect and recall a particular model of tire. Such a recall is not necessarily an admission of guilt or a slam dunk for a plaintiff in a lawsuit, however. The plaintiff must still prove that it was the tire defect that caused the accident and the resulting injuries.
A recall by Bridgestone/Firestone in 2000 was due to a model that was prone to tire separation. This defect led to nearly 300 deaths and the manufacturer recalled more than 14 million tires as a result.
It is also important to note that not all tire-related accidents are a result of tire defects. If a tire blows out due to debris on the road, that is not the tire manufacturer’s fault, nor is it the driver’s fault. In that case, unless the debris was left on the road by people, the injured party’s own insurance would have to take care of the cost of the injuries, as there would be no one to sue.
An object like a nail can also become lodged in a tire, causing it to blow out. Therefore, unless there has already been a recall with an established defect in a particular model of tire, it can be difficult to prove that a defect caused the accident.
Air pressure that is too low or too high can cause blowouts as well, and this situation cannot be blamed on a defect. High air temperatures in some regions of the world can also lead to tire failure.
If the driver reacted to a tire blowout in a way that caused the accident – such as putting on the brakes suddenly – the driver might also be found to be at least partially responsible for the resulting injuries and damages. The driver could be found somewhat at fault if he or she was aware that there was a problem with the tire and chose to drive on it anyway.
Warning signs that a tire failure is imminent include cracks in the sidewall or tread, uneven tread, bulges in the tread that are an indication of potential tread separation, shaking while on the road, a thumping in the tire while driving, and/or radial pull to one side while driving.
Also, if a commercial vehicle – such as a van or truck – is involved in the accident, the cause could be improper maintenance of the tires rather than a manufacturing defect. Once again, the manufacturer would not be the defendant in that case, but the company responsible for maintaining the vehicle might be sued.
Of course, attorneys for the manufacturer will do everything in their power to prove that an accident was not caused by a defect in the company’s tires. This is why expert investigators are a necessity for the plaintiffs, who might have suffered very expensive catastrophic injuries or wrongful death in the accident. Lawyers who handle product defect cases, particularly in automobiles, will have experts available to provide reports on behalf of the plaintiff(s).
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