Truck tire blowout: who’s responsible?
When a truck tire blows out, it’s very likely that other motorists will get hurt. Trucks are heavy machines that generate a tremendous amount of force in an impact. If a semi-truck tire blowout happens, a truck driver can easily lose control of the vehicle, leading to collisions and life-threatening injuries. In other incidents, just the debris from the blown-out tire can cause a crash or serious injuries on its own.
Tire blowouts rarely happen out of the blue. Often, they are the result of negligent maintenance performed on the tire or defects in the tire itself. If you, or a loved one, are injured because of a truck tire blowout, it’s important to understand how these collisions happen. Below, we’ll discuss how tire blowouts happen and who may be held responsible when they do.
Negligent Tire Maintenance
Many parties are responsible for the tires on the trucks: drivers, trucking companies, maintenance companies, and others. All of these parties may be responsible for inspecting and maintaining the truck’s tires:
- Drivers. Drivers are the ones operating the truck, and they’re often the last line of protection for others on the road. They’re expected to inspect their tires daily, replace them when needed, and to look out for the safety of others on the road. When drivers fail to inspect or maintain their tires, they may be liable for the injuries they cause.
- Trucking companies. Trucking companies have legal obligations to maintain their trucks and meet safety standards. This includes regular maintenance of trucks and careful documentation of the work that is done. If a company infrequently inspects their tires, fails to replace truck tires when needed, or otherwise shirks their duties, it may be liable for a blowout collision.
- Maintenance companies. Drivers and trucking companies may contract out their work to professionals who oversee truck maintenance. As professionals, these maintenance companies and their mechanics must fulfill their duties with care and skill. When they fail to do so, innocent people often get hurt.
These and other parties may be liable if you, or a loved one, were injured by a truck tire blowout.
Sometimes inspection and replacement aren’t enough. When there is a fundamental design or manufacturing defect hidden in a tire, then the tire designer and manufacturer may also bear the blame. When a tire is defective in design or manufacture, you may be able to recover from the tire company for the injuries that you’ve suffered. This is called a products liability or defective product claim.
Who’s responsible for an 18-wheeler tire blowout wreck?
Every trucker has a duty to conduct a pre-trip inspection, and many are also tasked with performing general maintenance and inspections on their truck’s tires (as well as their brakes, steering, lights, mirrors, reflectors and load). If the truck driver failed to complete a pre-trip inspection, they’ll be held responsible for the truck tire blowout accident. However, it’s the trucking company (their employer) who will inevitably pay for your injuries and damages.
Your attorney can examine evidence at the scene of the accident and review the trucking company’s records (as well as their past performance ratings) to determine whether the tires were inspected regularly and if the truck was overloaded at the time of the tire blowout. Sometimes, attorneys will chose to bring on an expert who can examine the tire debris to see if the treads were worn out or if too much pressure caused the tires to explode.
In any of these cases, the trucker and their company will be held responsible for the accident. This means you and your attorney can file a claim against them to recover money to pay for your damages, injuries, missed work days, pain and suffering.
The Maintenance Company
Of course, the trucker isn’t always to blame. Sometimes, the maintenance company whose technicians worked on the truck’s wheels and tires will be at fault for the blowout.
Over the past decade, more and more commercial trucking companies have started to outsource services like tire mounting, tire and wheel assembly maintenance, tire repair, wheel refurbishing, tire inflation, rim installation, etc. If a third party worked on the truck that caused a wreck, it’s important to find out if the technicians certified by the Tire Industry Association’s (TIA) Commercial Tire Service (CTS) Certified Instructor Program in accordance with OSHA regulations.
If it’s found that improperly trained technicians worked on the truck’s wheels and tires, then that company could also be considered liable for paying your medical bills and other accident-related expenses.
The Tire Manufacturer
Last, sometimes the tires themselves are defective, which could necessitate a claim against the tire manufacturer (for example: Firestone, Goodyear, Dunlop, etc.).
Common tire defects that have resulted in mass recalls typically involve problems with the tire tread or belt adhesion separating, which can cause devastating crashes. Unfortunately, defective tires often look and feel fine. It’s only after an explosion that anyone realizes there was something wrong at all.
The key to winning a personal injury claim involving a tire defect is that you not only need to prove that the tire was defective, but also that the manufacturer KNEW the tire was defective and did nothing to fix it. Proving what someone did or didn’t know is tricky business, which is why your lawyer will conduct a full investigation with the help of field experts to prove your case.
When should you hire a lawyer?
Not everyone who’s hurt in an accident needs a personal injury lawyer, but truck wrecks and tire blowouts tend to be an exception. This is because they typically happen at high speeds (which mean there are big damages and injuries involved), but they aren’t always easy to prove.
By discussing your personal situation with a board-certified truck crash attorney, you’ll be able to determine who was at fault for the blowout and which insurance policies are liable for your damages.
Regularly inspect your tires and replace them before the tread wears to 2/32nd of an inch deep. An easy way to check this is to insert a penny upside down into the tread (Lincoln’s head first). If the tread reaches past Honest Abe’s hairline at his forehead, you’re good. If not, order new tires. Tires worn to or past 2/32nd of an inch of tread will be much more prone to punctures and won’t provide the same grip as a tire in good condition.
Tires also have a maximum life span of six years. To determine how old your tires are, look for the tire identification number on the sidewall: it begins with DOT, is 11 digits long, and ends in four numbers. The first two digits of those last four numbers represent the week (of 52 in a year) the tire was manufactured. The last two are the year.
If your tire shows any signs of cracking or tearing, or if anything white or metallic has worn through the rubber, replace it immediately.
You also need to make sure you’re using an appropriate tire for the conditions you’re facing. If you’re traveling off pavement, a quality all-terrain tire will help you avoid punctures both in the tread and, more importantly, the sidewall.
Make sure any vehicle you’re driving has all of the necessary tire-change tools present and accounted for. You’ll need a lug wrench and a jack at a minimum. Don’t be that person who forgets to put them back into a car. I even check for these things in rental cars before driving off—they’re that essential.