Owning a car is no small thing. For many consumers, a vehicle is one of our largest investments. We all assume that our cars were manufactured and designed with care. At the same time, we understand that vehicles are inherently dangerous, that accidents can happen.
Unfortunately, car crashes occur every single day. Sometimes, those crashes are caused by negligent drivers who fail to pay attention to the road or get behind the wheel while intoxicated. None of us expects for our tires to be dangerous, but in some cases, that's exactly what happens. Every year, hundreds of car accidents occur a part of the car is defective. Of all the parts of the car that could fail, the most common is the tire.
What Kinds Of Tire Defects Cause Accidents?
Tires are comprised of rubber, steel, wiring and fabric. These materials aren’t just thrown together haphazardly. Over the decades, scientists, engineers, and manufacturers have found new ways to build tires, increasing the amount of time the tire can be used, increasing the speeds that can be maintained, and allowing harsher terrain to be explored by vehicles.
During the design and manufacturing process, companies building and selling tires are obligated to do everything they can to ensure their product will perform as advertised and keep consumers safe. Despite this, every year tires are sold that have defects such as:
- tread defects
- tire tread separation - the most common cause of defective tire failure, occurring when the tread of the tire separates from the tire's body
- belt defects
- tire bead failures
- foreign materials included in the rubber
These defects frequently cause tread separation, belt separation, and tire explosions, causing unsuspecting drivers to lose control of their vehicle.
Drivers Can Hold Tire Manufacturer’s Responsible
Tire safety isn't just a nice thing to expect. Legally, tire manufacturers are responsible for the safety of their tires under product liability laws.
America's strong history of product liability law requires manufacturers, distributors and retailers to provide consumers with safe products, free of unreasonable defects, that protect them from unreasonable risks of harm.
That means that if someone is involved in an accident caused by a defective tire and they sustain injuries, they may be eligible to file a defective tire lawsuit against the company who created the tire.
Steps To Take After An Accident
After the trauma of a severe car accident, it can be difficult to think about anything but ensuring that you and your loved ones are safe. Needless to say, your immediate health, along with the health of your family, are paramount. But if possible, there are several steps to take directly after an accident that can help support a subsequent lawsuit. Evidence, as in any legal action, is critical to securing compensation in a defective tire lawsuit.
It's crucial that the defective tire is preserved after the accident. In the case of a blowout, fragments from the tire should be retained so they can be scrutinized by an expert accident analyst. The vehicle should also be maintained in the condition that was present at the time of the tire failure.
If possible, take pictures of the vehicle and the scene of the crash. All of this evidence can be provided to an expert tire engineer for later analysis. Finally, make note of the make and model of the tire that failed; these details can often be found inside the tire's sidewall. These details can be important later on to determine if the tire was defective and recalled at some point.
Proving A Product Liability Case
When taking on a product’s manufacturer, there are three elements that need to be proven in order to win the lawsuit. These factors include:
1. That A Product Defect Existed
It’s important that evidence of the defect be obtained to show that a defect did, in fact, exist in the tire which caused it to be dangerous during its intended use.
In pursuing a lawsuit, most plaintiffs will be required to present expert testimony that the tire was defective in either design or manufacture. To secure this expert testimony, plaintiffs' attorneys will retain an independent tire engineer to perform an exhaustive inspection of the tire.
If possible, the tire engineer should perform a myriad of tests on the tire, looking for possible defects that could have led to the accident. This testing process can be extensive, and most tire engineers rely on specialized equipment, including fluorescent lights and microscopes, to thoroughly inspect the tire and determine what caused the crash.
The independent inspection conducted by a tire engineer may also identify additional defendants who can be added to the lawsuit. In some cases, defective tire accidents can be linked, not to a manufacturing or design defect, but to a mistake made in the installation or servicing of tires. As a result, some tire defect lawsuits come to include negligent repair shops, auto dealers or service centers as defendants.
Repair shops, dealerships and tire outlets also bear some responsibility for disclosing the dangers of the tires they use. In some cases, these shops can be held accountable for failing to warn consumers about the risks of a defectively-manufactured or -designed tire.
2. That The Defect Caused The Accident
Just because a defect exists doesn’t mean that it caused the accident. Evidence must be presented that shows that the accident wouldn’t have occurred if the defect didn’t exist.
Again, the expert testimony of a competent and well-trained tire engineer will prove invaluable in accomplishing this second step. Using evidence derived from their analysis of the tire, including evidence of tire separation, bead bending or broken belt cables inside the tire, the tire engineer can present evidence to prove that the accident was caused by a tire defect.
3. That The Plaintiff’s Injuries Were Caused By The Accident
The injuries that the lawsuit is attempting to obtain compensation for must have been sustained during the accident caused by the defect.
Since tire separation, the most common form of defective tire accident, often leads to vehicle rollovers and on-road blowouts, the injuries described in defective tire lawsuits can be extensive and debilitating.
Tragically, some lawsuits take the form of a wrongful death claim, in which surviving loved ones file suit over the death of a family member.
What Does Compensation Cover?
Compensation in product liability cases may come from either a carefully negotiated settlement or a successful jury verdict. When determining how much should be awarded, the plaintiff’s losses are examined. In cases where the plaintiff is the person who was injured, compensation may cover losses such as:
- past and future medical expenses
- lost wages
- physical pain and suffering
- emotional trauma
Sadly, sometimes the victim does not survive the accident. In these instances, the loved ones of the deceased may chose to file a wrongful death lawsuit which is similar to the lawsuit which would have been filed by the victim if they had survived. Compensation from these cases may also cover:
- funeral and burial expenses
- loss of benefits
- loss of consortium
- loss of inheritance
Typically, the parents, spouses, and children of the victim may pursue legal action, however, other relatives who were dependant on the victim may also be eligible to file.
Can I Sue If The Product Was Recalled?
Yes, it may still be possible to file a lawsuit even if a recall has been issued.
A recall simply means that the manufacturer is acknowledging that there is a safety issue with their product which needs to be fixed. It does not mean they are no longer responsible for any injuries that occur because of that issue. In fact, a prior recall can often be used as evidence that the product was dangerous in some way, bolstering a personal injury claim.
The Process Of Filing A Lawsuit
Many clients come to us asking questions about how long their lawsuit will take. There is no simple answer to this question because every case is different, but what we can say is that even lawsuits which reach the fastest conclusion take several months and it’s not uncommon for a case to go on for a year or more. It’s important to understand why it takes so long to obtain compensation, which is why we always discuss the lawsuit timeline.
- Choosing an attorney.
- Filing the initial paperwork with the court.
- Discovery (fact-finding and investigation).
- Resolution before trial.
- Settlement negotiations.
- After judgement collection of money.
Typically, the discovery part of this process is the longest because it takes time, effort, and dedication to collect, sort, and prepare evidence that will prove a case.