Defective tire truck accidents are the stuff of nightmares. A 40-ton vehicle blows a tire loses control, slamming into passenger cars, flipping over onto the road, and spilling the contents of its trailer or tanker. The violent crash leads to an intense fire and sets off secondary auto accidents. In a short time, it causes multiple severe and fatal injuries, millions of dollars of property damage, and untold suffering that could last a lifetime for the victims.
Who should face legal and financial responsibility for such a disaster? How can its victims hold those at-fault liable? Below, we examine some potential answers to those questions. To learn more about your legal rights about a defective tire truck accident, contact an experienced product liability and truck accident injury attorney today.
Defective Truck Tires Can Cause Dangerous Accidents
In a landmark study of the causes of truck accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) investigated the many factors that contribute to truck crashes on U.S. roads. The study broke down accidents by critical event, critical reason, and associated factors.
The critical event category described the accident itself, and the study found that the vast majority of truck crashes involved one of three incidents: the truck leaving its travel lane, the truck losing control, or the truck colliding with a vehicle in its travel lane.
The critical reason category described the primary factor that caused the crash, and the study found that while most truck accidents resulted from driver error, roughly 10 percent occurred because of a mechanical problem with the vehicle. Of those, the most common factors consisted of brake problems and tire problems.
Finally, the category for associated factors identified other factors present at the time of a crash, and again the study identified brake and tire problems as the most common vehicle-related issues present in trucks that had crashed.
The upshot of the study: truck tire problems cause, or likely play a contributing factor in, a significant number of truck accidents on U.S. roads every year. Tires that blow out, experience tread separation, lose their tread prematurely, or experience some other structural failure can easily contribute to all three of the critical events named in the FMCSA study—a lane departure that ends in a crash, a total loss of control, and a collision with another vehicle in the truck’s travel lane.
As for what causes truck tire problems, the culprit is often a defect in the tires themselves. Tire recall information for recent years shows numerous instances of tire manufacturers recalling commercial truck tires from the market after discovering defects that could cause accidents.
Although precise statistics on the frequency of tire defects that lead to accidents are difficult to come by, recent FMCSA studies suggest that, overall, tire problems may play a role in hundreds of fatal truck crashes and thousands of injury-causing truck crashes every year.
It is a strong bet that a significant number of those crashes stemmed from tire defects. The tires on heavy trucks must perform under high mechanical stress. They support the massive weight of a truck and its cargo, and they roll over thousands of miles of road at high speed in variable weather and surface conditions.
Under those strenuous operating conditions, even a small flaw in the design, materials, or construction of a tire can lead to a total structural failure such as rapid pressure loss (a blowout), tread separation, and premature tread wear.
Legal Liability for Defective Tire Truck Accidents
Victims of truck accidents frequently suffer serious and fatal injuries. In the aftermath of the crash, they often turn to experienced truck accident injury lawyers for legal representation. Lawyers for many truck accident victims have filed lawsuits for damages against parties who bear legal and financial responsibility for the crash.
To identify those legally liable parties, lawyers and their teams (which often include experts in forensic accident reconstruction and defective auto parts analysis) will often investigate the root causes of a truck accident. If the investigation reveals a total failure of a defective tire as a crash cause, this can often turn the lawyers’ attention to two groups of potential defendants.
Manufacturers’ Strict Liability
The first party who may bear legal and financial responsibility for a truck accident caused by a defective tire is the tire manufacturer. Under the laws of most states, manufacturers of automotive products face what is known as strict liability for any harm caused by a defect in a product they made and sold.
Strict liability is a legal concept in which the intent and reasonableness of someone’s decisions or actions do not matter in the assessment of legal liability. It means that the mere fact that a truck tire manufacturer made and sold a tire with a defect in it, alone, can make the manufacturer liable for harm that the defective truck tire causes.
The manufacturer cannot escape liability by showing that it followed its normal safety protocols in designing and producing the tire, or that it did not know about the truck tires’ defects when they left the factory. All that matters for the manufacturer to face potential legal and financial accountability for a crash is that a tire it made had a defect, the defect contributed to an accident, and someone got hurt.
Others’ Negligence Liability
By-and-large, only truck tire manufacturers face strict liability for the harm caused by defective truck tire accidents. However, that does not mean that others cannot also face legal liability for a defective tire truck crash. They absolutely can, if an injured accident victim’s lawyer can show that the party’s unreasonably dangerous decisions or actions contributed to the cause of the crash and/or the victims’ injuries.
In everyday life, individuals, companies, organizations, and government entities have basic obligations not to act in ways that put others at an unreasonable risk of harm. Lawyers call these obligations duties of care. The duty of care one person owes to another depends on the context of their interactions.
A driver’s duty of care consists of following the rules of the road so as not to cause a crash. A property owner’s duty of care consists of fixing, warning about, or keeping people away from hazardous property conditions that could cause someone an injury. These are just a couple of examples.
When someone fails to live up to these duties that results in physical, emotional, and/or financial harm to someone else, they could be liable for negligence.
When it comes to preventing truck accidents arising from tire defects, plenty of individuals and entities could face legal liability for negligence.
For any given defective tire truck accident, they may include:
- Truck drivers, trucking companies, and other truck fleet owners/operators who fail to inspect a truck’s tires for obvious defects before operating the truck on the road, or who fail to train drivers to react appropriately to a tire failure.
- Truck tire suppliers that fail to inspect shipments of tires they receive from manufacturers for defects before selling them to truckers and trucking companies, or that cause a defect in tires they sell, such as by mishandling them or storing them incorrectly; and
- Truck maintenance contractors whose job it is to maintain trucks for truckers and trucking companies, in the event they fail to do that job with an appropriate standard of care and as a result, fail to fix or replace a defective truck tire.
Those are just some examples of parties who could have legal liability for failing to fulfill their duty of care in connection with preventing a defective tire-related truck crash.
In addition to those parties, other individuals, companies, and entities could also face legal liability for a defective tire truck crash, even though their decisions or actions have nothing to do with the defective tire. After all, sometimes truck crashes have more than one cause, and anyone who breaches a duty of care that contributes to the crash could face liability.
These other parties could include:
- Other motorists whose dangerous driving behaviors around a truck trigger a chain reaction that ends in a defective tire’s failure and a crash;
- Local government agencies and contractors if their actions in connection with building and maintaining roads contributed to a defective tire truck crash, such as if they fail to clear construction debris from the roadway, and that debris pierces a defective tire;
- Bars and restaurants that serve alcohol to truck drivers, who then drive under the influence and cannot react appropriately behind the wheel when a defective tire fails.
Again, this is only a partial list of potential parties. One important job for experienced truck accident injury lawyers is to pick apart the facts and circumstances of a crash to pinpoint every dangerous condition, decision, or action that contributed to its cause. While a tire defect constitutes an important clue to who may face legal liability, other factors and parties can also play a role.
How Experienced Lawyers Could Hold Parties Responsible for Defective Tire Truck Accidents
A truck that crashes causes widespread damage on the road, which often leads to complicated and difficult legal tangles in the ensuing weeks and months that follow. Unlike many run-of-the-mill two car accidents, defective tire truck accidents often involve multiple vehicles, multiple victims, and multiple millions of dollars in damages.
In their aftermath, victims hire lawyers to pursue claims for compensation, and the parties with potential legal liability hire lawyers to defend them against those claims.
More parties, more lawyers, and more dollars-at-stake inevitably lead to more disputes and complications. Victims need experienced, skilled, well-resourced lawyers to meet those challenges.
The services those lawyers provide will vary from crash-to-crash and victim-to-victim, but in a defective tire truck accident case they often include:
- Investigating the crash with the help of forensic experts to identify all potential parties with legal liability;
- Monitoring the progress of official investigations into the truck crash, coordinating and sharing information with official investigators when appropriate;
- Planning an effective legal strategy to meet a client’s needs and priorities, and in anticipation of legal complications common for large crash events, such as a party filing for bankruptcy protection or defendants trying to blame each other for the cause of a crash;
- Filing lawsuits against the parties with potential legal liability, and collecting evidence from them through the legal discovery process;
- Working with forensic and materials scientists to develop detailed reports that prove that a tire defect existed and that it contributed to the cause of a truck crash;
- Negotiating settlements with defense lawyers and insurance companies, when possible, to achieve full and fair payment of a truck crash victim’s claim;
- Communicating with clients in easy-to-understand language about the progress of the case and any important developments;
- Advising clients whether and when to accept or reject a settlement offer; and
- Arguing a case in court in front of a judge and jury, if settlement negotiations do not yield a favorable financial outcome.
A defective tire truck accident case combines two of the most complicated types of personal injury matters into a single legal action. On their own, truck accident cases and product defect cases both present significant challenges that experienced and skilled lawyers can handle. Combined into a single case, those challenges multiply exponentially.
That is why truck accident victims should always consider hiring an attorney. They must choose their attorney carefully, insisting on one who has years of experience handling both truck accident matters and product defect matters. By selecting only a lawyer with that combined set of skills, victims can help to ensure that their legal team has the know-how and resources to help get them the money damages they need and deserve.
Contact an Experienced Tire Defect Truck Accident Lawyer Today
If a truck accident caused by a defective tire leaves you or a loved one badly hurt, then you need a lawyer who has the knowledge and wherewithal to identify the parties who bear legal and financial responsibility, and to hold them accountable under the law. Contact an experienced lawyer today for a free case evaluation.