We see them, pass by them, sometimes even dodge them those frayed rubber tire strips baking on Texas roads and highways. They represent someone’s bad day, and, sometimes, they represent someone’s last day.
If all that you see is a frayed rubber strip, then both the driver of the car and everyone else around them at the time was very fortunate. Tire failures can cause severe accidents. In some cases, both the tire failure and how the driver handled it are someone else’s fault, and the responsible party can pay for the damage that they caused.
Hundreds of People Die Each Year from Tire Failures
In a recent year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded over 738 tire-related traffic fatalities. Tire failures, especially violent blowouts, cause thousands of accidents every year, putting even the safest and most vigilant drivers at risk. In fact, a blown tire causes one in every 270 car accidents in the United States. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, this translates to about 33,000 accidents annually because of wheels that fail.
Texas Roads Have a High Rate of Tire Blowouts
Texas roads have the same problems. In 2019, there were 61 deaths in the states caused by accidents attributed to tire issues. Defective or slick tires caused over 4,000 crashes, with over 600 injuries. Since tire failure accidents often occur at high speeds, the injuries can be serious.
The threat of tire failure remains especially prominent in the Lone Star State, where copious sunlight and hot temperatures shorten tire life. Blown tires caused a double rollover crash in San Antonio. Drivers should maintain their tires to the best of their abilities to keep the roads safe, and tire manufacturers must make the safest products possible.
People and Trucking Companies Cut Corners on Tires and Maintenance
Trucking companies try to economize wherever they can, especially since the cost of truck driver compensation keeps going up during a driver shortage. Truck tires are far more expensive than you think.
The average cost of each tire is around $500. Bear in mind that each truck needs 18 tires. Cheaper options cost as little as $150, and some trucking companies jump on that to cut their overall maintenance bills. Trucks travel a lot of miles, and they need to change tires frequently. However, cost-effectiveness does not always equal safety.
For the average motor vehicle, a set of tires costs around $600, and drivers must pay for an alignment. Drivers often do not want to replace their tires, and they go as far as they can on them until they get new ones. If they buy tires, they may opt for less expensive ones or try to cut corners any way that they can.
Trucking companies also try to save money by cutting corners on their maintenance costs. They may try to outsource maintenance to third-party companies so they do not have to hire their own people to inspect and fix trucks. While federal regulations require that “parts and accessories must be in safe and proper condition at all times,” trucking companies do not always follow that rule because maintenance costs money. It may also lead to trucking companies keeping their trucks off the road, where they are not making deliveries and earning money.
Tire Blowouts Are Sudden and Severe
Tires can suddenly fail without warning. When drivers are traveling at high speed, it is incredibly dangerous. Even a minor flat tire has a likelihood of causing an accident on a city street or highway. Tire blowouts are far worse because the driver has to react in a hurry, and very few drivers have the skill to avoid trouble.
A tire blowout is when the tire has a sudden failure that so severely damages it that it causes the loss of all air immediately. Blowout refers to the sudden loss of air. This will cause the driver to lose control of their vehicle in many cases. Even the most experienced drivers will struggle to keep control of their cars without one tire.
A truck driver can move their vehicle to the side of the road after a tire blowout, but it is very hard. They need to avoid braking suddenly and must do everything that they can to keep their car on a straight course until they can slow down.
What Happens During a Tire Blowout
The following will happen during a tire blowout:
- Without one of the tires, the car will immediately begin to slow down.
- Depending on which tire has gone down, the car will pull to the right or left suddenly.
- The driver may lose control of the car and spin out across traffic or off the road.
- If the blowout happens on a truck, the vehicle may experience a rollover.
Drivers Need Experience and Quick Reflexes to Avoid a Major Accident
Experience matters in the immediate aftermath of a tire blowout, and it can make the difference between successfully exiting the situation and a major accident. The most important thing for drivers to do is not panic. They should never jam on the brakes or make sudden movements. However, many drivers will panic, and that will make a situation. The average driver has little idea what to do in this situation.
Causes of Tire Blowouts
Tire blowouts may suddenly happen due to:
- Tread separation – tires are made with several layers that must remain attached to each other. When they do not, the tire will come apart quickly, causing a blowout. Tread separation is a common sign of a defective tire that will allow you to sue the company that made it or sold it to you.
- Poor tire maintenance – drivers and companies must periodically inspect their tires, performing visual checks and gauging the pressure. Small problems can become big problems in a hurry if they go undetected. Drivers must check air pressure and pay attention to the warning lights that show low air pressure.
- Faulty design – tire manufacturers should build tires with standard material suitable for use on the road. They must also be right for the type of vehicle. This is another ground for a product liability lawsuit or a case against the mechanic.
- Cargo loading – when a worker improperly loads the cargo or loads a truck beyond the weight that it can handle, it places great stress on the tires and can cause one or more to fail.
- Road conditions – sometimes, there is little that a driver can do to avoid tire failure because they run over something on the road, or there is a pothole that wrecks their tire.
Can I prevent tire failure?
Maintaining your tires helps. Check your tires at least once a month. Scan for cracks, air bubbles, and unevenness in the sidewalls. Check the tread for wear (use the penny test) for splits and damage, and look for one-sided wear on the tread, which indicates possible vehicle misalignment. Monitor your tire pressure, especially during seasonal temperature changes, and don’t overfill your tires or drive on low tires.
Slowing down and driving safely will also help preserve your tires. Don’t spin your tires or drive over curbs. Don’t start, stop, or turn too fast. Leave plenty of following distance on the road so you can see and avoid debris, potholes, and other tire-damaging hazards. Drivers actually have a responsibility to maintain their cars for the safety of others (called “Negligent Maintenance”), and this includes tire safety practices. Protect yourself by protecting your tires!
Though responsible vehicle owners maintain them, tires are subject to harsh road conditions, temperature changes, and extreme weight. Manufacturers design them to withstand such things during their lifespans when coupled with proper maintenance. However, some tires are safer than others, and some are not safe no matter what the driver does.
Are vigilant drivers still at risk for blowouts?
Unfortunately, yes. Many blowouts are completely unavoidable. Sometimes a neglected tire violently reaches the end of its lifespan while a driver is on the road. Other times tires will blow regardless of driver precaution due to external variables or manufacturing defects.
Real-world accidents, not product testing, too often uncover manufacturing defects in tires. Tires are manufactured en masse and distributed to the market; manufacturers issue a recall after a defective tire has already caused an accident.
Potential Defendants in a Tire Blowout Accident
There are several people or companies that you can sue after you have suffered an injury in an accident caused by tire failure:
- The car driver – if your accident was with a car, the driver is responsible for maintaining their vehicle and how they operate it. You can file a claim with their insurance or sue them in court.
- The trucking company – they have an obligation to inspect and maintain their trucks and to keep them in sound working order. They are also legally responsible for all acts of the truck driver when they are on the road.
- The tire manufacturer – their legal responsibility is to design and sell a product that is legally safe for its intended use. If they have manufactured and sold a defective product that caused an injury, a lawyer can make them pay for it. We will discuss this more below.
- The maintenance company – if a trucking company has outsourced their maintenance, you can add the maintenance company to the lawsuit if the tire blowout was the result of a lack of inspection.
- The government – some tire blowouts happen because of poor road conditions. The state or municipal government has a legal responsibility to keep the roads in reasonable condition, and a lawyer can sue them if they do not
Lawsuits Against the Tire Manufacturer
Product liability lawsuits are complex legal actions that require an experienced attorney who knows how to take on big companies.
Manufacturers can be held strictly liable for defective products if you can prove any one of these three defects:
- Design defects – here, the product was made correctly, but something about the design made the tire unreasonably dangerous.
- Manufacturing defects – the product was designed properly, but the manufacturer made a mistake in the production that made the tire more dangerous.
- Marketing defects – the manufacturer knew or should have known that there was a danger to their tires, but they failed to take action or warn the general public.
You can also win a lawsuit if you prove that the manufacturer (or anyone involved in selling the tire) was negligent or breached any warranties.
Tire Manufacturers Have Faced Large Lawsuits for Defective Tires
Large product defect lawsuits against tire manufacturers
- Cooper Tires – one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, used unsafe manufacturing practices in the early part of this century, resulting in over 200 deaths. The company lost several major product liability lawsuits related to these defects.
- Goodyear – the company’s tires have been subject to many recalls over the years. Recently, Goodyear lost a bid to overturn a $7.2 million verdict in Louisiana in a defective tire case. A family had won a wrongful death verdict when a Goodyear tire exploded.
- Michelin – this tire giant has been sued many times in high-profile cases for alleged tire defects. In one case, a jury awarded the family of a 17-year old girl killed in a rollover accident almost $42 million in a lawsuit against Michelin.
Suing the Trucking Company for a Tire Caused Accident
Even if it was the driver who made a mistake, the trucking company can be held liable. Drivers must operate their vehicles reasonably and check their trucks and tires for any signs of damage. When they take a truck out onto the road, they are considered the same entity as the trucking company that employs them. They are an agent of the company, and their actions are that of the trucking company.
Stand up to the Insurance Companies or the Defendant When They Will Not Pay What They Owe You
Trucking companies have large insurance policies to protect them in the event of accidents like these. This does not mean that the insurance companies are running to write large checks to pay for the damages that you have suffered
You have every right to demand payment for the damages that you have suffered. If the insurance company does not offer you enough money, you can demand it from them. If they will not pay, that does not eliminate the obligation of the trucking company to pay for your injuries. This is when you can file a lawsuit against the trucking company for your damages.
How a Lawyer Helps in a Tire Failure Lawsuit
There is much that needs to happen between the time of your accident and a lawsuit.
Even if your lawyer presumes that wheels that fail played a role in the accident, a lawyer will need to establish:
- That someone was negligent in the accident.
- That the tire blowout was the proximate cause of the accident.
- Who was responsible for the tire blowout. This is a critical step that can take some time.
When investigating a tire blowout, your lawyer will need to get their hands on a lot of information in a hurry. One thing is to analyze the tire itself to figure out how and why it failed. Suppose you were involved in a crash with a truck. Your lawyer will also need to subpoena the maintenance logs for the truck to learn when someone last changed the tires and the driver’s daily inspection notes that they are required to take under federal regulations.
Tire failure accidents can end catastrophically. Blowouts send one vehicle careening suddenly into another or veering off the road. Many tire blowouts also occur at high speeds from heated rubber, causing turbulent rollovers and head-on collisions. Serious injuries and fatalities stem from tire failures, and resulting accidents can be completely life-changing.
You will need to collect enough money to pay for these damages for the rest of your life. It is not always easy to estimate now what you may need years in the future. This is why you need our legal expertise on your side.
You may have legal recourse if you have suffered an injury or a loved one lost their life in an accident caused by a tire failure. Call us today at (210) 340-5550, or submit a confidential contact form via our website.
Our car accident attorneys at the Wyatt Law Firm have successfully litigated several high-profile tire failure cases. We have the experience and expertise needed to win, knowing full well that the defendants will fight you everyn step of the way.
We don’t let our clients pay for someone else’s mistakes. We tell their stories and make them heard. Let us tell your story. Let us fight for you. You can hold someone accountable for what they did and obtain the compensation that you need after the accident.
To learn more about our firm and areas of legal practice, explore our website and legal blog.