Who is Liable for a Crash Caused by a Truck Tire Blowout?
A tire blowout is one of the most frightening things that can happen to a truck driver. When a truck tire blows out, it not only makes an extremely loud gunshot-like sound but it also often causes the driver of the truck to lose control and crash. While tire blowouts are dangerous for any type of vehicle, they are especially dangerous for trucks due to their larger size and the trailers full of cargo they haul behind them.
Causes of Blowouts
Tire blowout season runs from the middle of May through early October, when the weather is at its warmest and when motorists are driving the farthest in heavy-loaded vehicles. All three of these factors can set the stage for a blowout. However, blowouts can happen at any time of the year, and there are several main culprits behind them besides just heat and overweight vehicles.
A few other causes of tire blowouts include:
- Underinflation: Air is what allows a tire to carry the weight of a truck and its cargo. Without the proper air pressure, the internal components of the tire flex beyond their designed limited. Without proper pressure, the tire’s internal pieces will over flex, weaken, and eventually fail, causing a blowout.
- Overloading: Even when tires are properly inflated, an overloaded truck trailer can put more weight on the tires than they are designed to handle.
- Potholes: When a tire drives over a pothole, the impact pinches the tire’s internal components between the wheel and the pothole. If the tire hits the pothole hard enough, the pothole will cut through the rubber, and the tire will blow out.
- The “slow death”: Failure to properly maintain a truck’s tires can also lead to a blowout. Examples of such poor maintenance include failing to replace the truck’s tires when they wear out or putting off needed repairs.
What Happens in a Blowout?
When a truck’s tire blows out, the truck will suddenly and violently veer in the direction of the blown out tire. If it is a right tire that blows out, the truck will veer to the right. If the left tire blows out, the truck will veer to the left. If the truck driver does not handle the blowout properly, this extreme veering can cause the trailer of the truck to jackknife all over the road or even flip over, taking out any cars that are unfortunate enough to be in its path. If the truck flips over, the force of the impact can cause its cargo to spill out into the path of oncoming traffic. At the same time, large chunks of the truck’s exploded tire can also go flying and strike nearby vehicles. All of these conditions combined–the jackknifing, the projectile tire debris, the overturned trailers spilling obstacles into the road–can create dangerous and even deadly conditions for nearby drivers.
Theories of Liability
So what happens if you are injured by a truck whose tire has blown out? There are two major theories of liability that you could invoke to recover: operator negligence and products liability.
As we mentioned above, a tire blowout can be caused by improper maintenance. Trucking companies are held to very high standards of care to ensure that their vehicles operate safely on the road. If a trucking company fails to adequately maintain their fleet and this failure causes an injury, they could be legally liable for the blowout. For example, let’s say that a particular truck tire’s pressure is recommended to be 110 PSI to safely carry 12,000 pounds of cargo. To save time, the truck driver decides to check the tire pressure by using the thumping method–a commonly employed tactic used by truck drivers to check their tire pressure by hitting the tires with a club and determining how much air is in them by the sound the thump makes. Needless to say, this is not a precise measurement. In fact, it turns out that the truck driver’s ear was not as good as he thought it was, as his tires were habitually under-inflated. This under-inflation, caused by the heat of a hot summer day, causes one of the truck’s tires to blow out, resulting in injury to several nearby drivers.
In this case, the truck driver would be subject to legal liability for the blowout because he failed to maintain his truck’s tires the way a reasonably prudent truck driver should.
The second common theory of liability for tire blowouts is products liability. Under this theory, the plaintiff may allege that the accident was caused by a defective tire rather than the actions of the driver or his employer. A product defect can either be a design defect, a manufacturing defect, or a failure by the manufacturer to warn of dangers associated with the product. For example, an example of a defectively designed tire would be one in which the design causes the treads of the tire to separate too easily, thus exposing the inner wall of the tire to punctures that could cause blowouts. A defectively manufactured tire would be one that left the tire factory with a small hole in it that no one noticed until it caused a blowout. A failure to warn defect could be a tire that had a very high chance of blowing out in temperatures of over 85 degrees Fahrenheit, but whose product literature did not disclose this to the consumer. Liability for defective products can attach to the manufacturer of the product or to any other party who handled the tire before it reached the consumer, including the distributor and the seller.
Contact a Florida Truck Accident Attorney
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a truck tire blowout, you may be able to recover for your injuries. Please contact the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33756