Blowouts and flat tires are associated with thousands of tow-away crashes every year.* The latest yearly government statistics show an estimated 414 people killed and 10,275 injured in these crashes, 49 percent of which were rollovers during pickup truck, sport utility vehicle (SUV) and van accidents. Many of these accidents can be attributed to defective tires. Millions of defective tires have been recalled in recent years by tire manufacturers, including, among others, Firestone, Bridgestone, Dunlop, Michelin and Foreign Tire Sales, an importer of tires made by Chinese rubber company Hangzhou Zhongce.
Victims who sustain harm or financial losses due to defective tires may be able to reach a settlement with those responsible or receive compensation in the form of a court award to reimburse accident-related expenses and other damages. Continue reading to learn more about the legal issues surrounding defective tires. For further information, contact a personal injury lawyer who can help facilitate your claim and provide additional legal help with your injuries.
Defective tire attorneys work diligently to earn compensatory and punitive damages for their clients. Juries and insurance companies award compensatory damages in order to reimburse victims for accident-related expenses. These can include medical expenses, lost income, lost prospects, and physical and psychological pain. Compensatory damages are usually determined by a formula, with the extent of injuries and recovery times considered.
Punitive damages are intended to punish the parties at fault and deter them from additional wrongdoing. They are also meant to deter others from making similar errors. The amount of punitive damages, which are often large, are determined differently in each state, so make sure to hire a car accident lawyer who is familiar with the laws in your state.
Tire Defects and Strict Automotive Product Liability Law
Defective tires and other defective automotive products are handled under strict product liability laws. Unlike other tort cases, product liability cases do not require the victim to prove negligence in order to receive compensation. Instead, victims must simply demonstrate that the tire defect was "unreasonably dangerous" and caused harm.
Design flaws, errors made during the manufacture or installation of tires or insufficient warnings or directions can all be grounds for a defective tire lawsuit.
To prove harm done, a personal injury must be directly linked to the tire-related accident. Because so many tire-related crashes end in vehicle rollovers, injuries are often severe. Among others, they may include:
- Broken bones
- Head and neck injuries (including traumatic brain injuries)
- Spinal cord injuries (paralysis)
- Road abrasions
Causes of Tire Failure
Car and light truck wheels are mounted with pneumatic (air-filled) tires constructed of rubber, steel, fabric, and certain chemicals. Every tire is engineered to bear a specific vehicle weight and provide an appropriate degree of traction, depending on its intended use. Traction is the tire's ability to grip the road without slipping during travel.
Most tires are reliable and function the way they are intended. Nevertheless, some tires do malfunction and cause serious harm. Often errors in tire design, manufacture (i.e., materials and workmanship) and installation cause tire failure. So does wear and tear. Because tires are made of rubber, they have a limited use life. According to the British Rubber Manufacturers Association (BRMA):
- An unused tire over 6 years old is too old to be placed in service
- All tires should be replaced within 10 years of manufacture, whether or not their tread shows wear
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tires can fail in a variety of ways, including the following:
- Belt-to-belt separation
- Belt edge separation
- Broken cords
- Open splices
- Sudden loss of inflation pressure
- Separation of tread, sidewall, ply cord, inner liner, or bead
In recent years, tread separation has caused the recall of, among others, defective Goodyear tires, defective Dunlop tires and defective Michelin tires.
When You Might Need an Attorney
Insurance companies are experienced in handling minor tire injury claims, but unique situations require the expertise of a defective tire attorney. Product liability attorneys have experience evaluating claims, negotiating settlements and trying cases that help victims earn compensation. Victims who have experienced delays settling a claim, or who have been denied full or partial reimbursement for expenses, should contact a defective tire attorney to determine whether they may be eligible for compensation. Families of victims who have passed away due to an accident caused by a defective tire should also contact a fatal accident lawyer who can help determine if a wrongful death claim can be made.
* National Automotive Sampling System-Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS)
Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1939. Today, vulcanized rubber, made by heating together rubber and sulfur and various other chemicals, makes it possible for modern tires to retain their shape and flexibility over a wide range of temperatures.