In most vehicle accidents, a mistake often made is to simply blame the other driver for “causing” the accident. While the driver may be at fault, other factors, such as defective tires, may have also contributed to the accident. In defective tire accident cases, it’s important to bring an action against the tire manufacturer, the vehicle manufacturer, and/or others who may have some degree of liability or responsibility for the tires so that they may also be held accountable for their share of the damages sustained.
Liability of Tire Manufacturers and Vehicle Manufacturers
Tire defect cases are a special subgroup of automotive products liability. Tire defects provide an independent product liability cause of action against the tire manufacturer. If the tires are part of the original equipment on a vehicle, a claim may also be made against the vehicle manufacturer.
The Ford/Firestone litigation a few years ago brought the issue of tire defects into the forefront of public knowledge. Until then, people did not know a tire could simply fail in the normal course of use because of a defect. In these cases, injured parties (and the representatives of those killed) were able to successfully bring lawsuits against Firestone (for making the defective product – the tire) and Ford (for also making a defective product – such as Ford Explorers which contained those tires).
How (and Why) Do Tires Fail?
There are many factors in a tire defect case that should be examined. A tire defect, often referred to as a tire delamination or tire detread, usually involves the bottom layer of steel belts separating from the second layer of steel belts and outside tread. A large strip of tread (and sometimes accompanying smaller pieces) separating from the tire while in use often identifies a tire delamination. A delamination will significantly decrease a person’s ability to control the vehicle and may result in a collision or rollover.
As tires age, they become more susceptible to tread separation. Even when a tire is unused and sitting on a tire rack, the aging process makes tread separation more likely.
For this reason, the current owner’s manuals on Ford vehicles urge the owner not to mount a tire on a vehicle if the tire is six years old or older. Notwithstanding this industry‑wide knowledge of the hazards of tire aging, we still see aged tires being mounted on vehicles.
If a person at a tire shop or car repair shop installs a tire that is six years or more old, and that tire fails which results in an accident and injury, the shop that installed the tire may also be liable for damages. Thus in a tire defect accident case, it’s important to understand how the tire came to be installed on the vehicle in order to better ascertain liability.
It is common for people to refer to tread separations as “blowouts.” A blowout is a sudden loss in air pressure. A tire delamination does not necessarily entail the loss of air pressure. Sometimes, the tire will lose the tread but retain its air pressure throughout the accident.
What Other Parties May Be at Fault? Tire Installer Liability
In addition to a potential product liability claim against the tire manufacturer, we investigate to determine whether other companies or individuals may also be at fault for their role in maintaining or installing defective tires.
In addition to installing old tires, these claims can stem from an improper installation concerning tire size, rim size, or tire/rim combination. A claim can also be based on an installer’s failure to inform a customer of signs of impending failure of a tire.
Proving Tire Defects – Our Investigation and Use of Experts
Tire cases are uniquely technical in terms of the chemistry and other science involved. Tire cases are expert-intensive cases, as only an expert will be able to make a proper determination regarding why, or if, the tire failed.
In a potential tire defect case, we carefully investigate all aspects of the accident to first determine whether a defective tire may have contributed to the cause of the accident. If we believe this to be true, we then investigate the history of the tire design, storage, installation, and all other pertinent factors so that those responsible for the injuries and damages can be identified and held accountable for their role.
If you or a loved one was involved in an accident that involved a defective tire, please call me. I will meet with you at your convenience to learn about your case. I can then explain the legal options available to you, and how we will work hard to win your case and take on the big automobile companies and tire manufacturers on your behalf
This consultation is free, and there is no fee for us unless we recover damages for you.