Injured in a Car Crash Caused by a Tire Blowout?
The sudden bursting or rupture of a tire while driving at high speeds. These are often caused by low tire pressure, an over-inflated tire, a manufacturing defect, or an old and worn tire.
The NHTSA estimates that 8,000+ car accidents every year can be attributed to tire blowouts. A tire blowout refers to a situation in which a tire loses air rapidly, resulting in a loss of control over the vehicle. The tire can quickly deflate, placing the vehicle at an increased risk for a rollover. When a vehicle has a defective tire, this may significantly compromise a driver's ability to maneuver the vehicle. This may lead to a single-vehicle or multi-vehicle collision that leaves drivers, passengers, and even nearby pedestrians or bicyclists seriously injured.
You may be able to move forward with a product liability claim against the manufacturer. Depending on the situation, the distributor or retailer may also be liable. By reviewing your legal options with an auto product liability attorney, you can determine the best course of action to recover the highest settlement or jury award possible. Considering the compensation you receive will be needed to cover medical bills, lost wages and the various other losses, expenses or damages you have experienced, recovering as much money as possible is crucial.
Causes of Tire Blowouts: Dangerous Defects
Over the past decade, millions of tires have been recalled in the U.S., all of them manufactured by some of the country's most reputed companies. These recalls have been linked to defective design that causes tread separation, which is the major reason for a tire blowout. Tires are manufactured by integrating several plies or layers. When the design to make these layers stick to one another is defective, it causes the tread to separate. Tread separation can also be the result of using weak adhesives. Tires that are manufactured in an unsafe facility and exposed to moisture during the production process may also have improperly adhered treads.
While some of these accidents can be traced to driver error, faulty design of the tire has also been found to be a major cause of tire blowouts. If a manufacturer sells tires made from substandard material or a mechanic installs tires not designed to be used for a specific vehicle type, it could put the driver at risk. Even incorrect installation could create conditions for a dangerous tire blowout and accident.
Another major cause of tire blowouts is low air pressure in tires. Every driver has the responsibility to monitor tire pressure to avoid these types of accidents. Some cars have automatic warning lights to notify the driver when the tire pressure dips below a safe level. However, if this warning light fails on a vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer may be liable to some extent for the damage and injuries caused by the tire blowout.
In addition, the following factors often contribute to a tire blowout:
Common Defects of Tires
In addition to tire blowouts, some other forms of defective tires include the following:
- The inner liner maintains air pressure and protects the inside of the tire. Safe liners are manufactured using halobutyl rubber, which is a special rubber than is less likely to become damaged or degenerated. Cheaper rubbers are more susceptible to air penetration and other problems. Tire liners that are not made with 100% halobutyl rubber lose 4-5% of their air pressure every month, whereas safe tires only lose 2.5%.
- Body plies can be defective. Body plies are sheets of fabric integrated between each layer of rubber in the tire to reinforce the strength. Heavy vehicles require tires with more body plies.
- Steel belts are used to protect the tire from being punctured by sharp objects. If the belts are not bonded properly, they may damage the tire treads.
- Rubber pieces are held together by polymer chains called belt skim stock. This is important because it makes sure belts are adhesive. If it is chemically unsound, the tire may oxidize.
- Inner belt gauges are a rubber coating located between the tire's belts. These gauges keep the tire from cracking. If the gauges are too thin, the tire may be defective.
- To prevent cracking and treat separation, wedges are placed around the tire and between the belts. Wedges should be at least 0.04 inches wide to function properly.
Who Is Liable for a Tire Blowout or Defective Tire?
When the tire blowout occurs, a lawsuit can be brought against the driver or against the manufacturer of a tire that may have been put on the vehicle in a defective condition. In cases of commercial vehicle accidents, a lawsuit could be brought against the trucking company for failing to inspect and maintain the tire's condition. Sometimes, such as in cases with 18-wheelers, there are so many tires that one blown tire does not affect the vehicle that significantly, but this is not always the case. Drivers are responsible for inspecting their vehicle before driving at all times. Failure to do so could result in missing a serious tire flaw or another defect.
For truck drivers, they could specifically be liable in cases when:
- They failed to uphold their duty to inspect. Drivers are legally required to inspect their vehicle for any noticeable problems. Tires can have visible signs of wear and tear on them that can alert drivers to the need to update their tires, such as cracks, being threadbare, or other issues.
- They failed to hold their duty to not drive with defective equipment. A driver should be aware of whether or not their tires are defective, especially a commercial driver. Any recalls or notices from a tire seller or manufacturer should be acted upon promptly so these tires can be repaired or replaced. By ignoring, drivers are sacrificing safety for time-effectiveness and should be held accountable.
When a Manufacturer or Retailer May Be at Fault
Drivers aren’t the only party responsible for tire safety. Some incidents involving tire blowouts may be out of their control if a manufacturer or retailer negligently or intentionally sold them a defective or damaged tire and failed to warn or provide the necessary information to the driver. In some cases, a tire may not have been repaired correctly or identified by an installer when brought in for inspection. This means that a manufacturer or installer may be partially liable for any damages caused in a tire blowout accident.
How to Prevent Tire Blowouts
Though blowouts may often be unpreventable, there are steps you can take to ensure the safety of your vehicle.
- Fabric breaks
- Bumps or bulges due to internal damage
- Cuts and cracks in the rubber
- Visible or damaged cord
Steps to Take After a Tire Blows Out
If you still find yourself in a dangerous situation after a tire has blown, don’t panic! Driving after a tire has blown is incredibly difficult, but, per the NSC, there are a few steps a driver can take to ensure safety after a tire blowout.
- Instead of slamming on the brakes, slowly take your foot off the gas pedal.
- Coast to the shoulder or other area way from traffic.
- Stay calm. Try not to panic so that you don’t make the situation for dangerous.
- Turn on your emergency flashers, especially if there is low light.
- When waiting for help, stand as far away from your vehicle as possible.
- Wait to change your tire unless there is sufficient room to do so away from traffic.
- Once out of your vehicle, keep your distance. Call police or 911 if anyone has been injured.
Tire Blowouts Linked to Rollover & SUV Accidents
SUVs are some of the most popular cars on American roads, and yet these have also been linked to an increased incidence of rollover accidents. Part of the reason for this is that the vehicle design of an SUV leaves it with a long, narrow body and a high center of gravity. When a tire blowout occurs in an SUV, the vehicle is more likely to lose control and overturn than a passenger car in a similar situation. A prime example of a defective tire-related rollover accident is the series of crashes caused by defective Firestone radial tires fitted on Ford Explorers. These tires were prone to tread separation, causing them to blow out. In 2000, Firestone and Bridgestone were forced to recall approximately 6.5 million defective tires. The following year, Ford recalled about 13 million tires.
Cooper Tire Defects
From 2000 and 2005, tires manufactured by Cooper Tire were the subject of several recalls and the focus of hundreds of injury lawsuits regarding defective design and manufacturing. These defects have resulted in tire blowouts, tread separation, sidewall failure, loose belts, and other incidents of tire failure.
The Cooper Tire and Rubber Company is headquartered in Findlay, OH with an annual output of ~40 million tires. The company is involved in the design and manufacturing of various kinds of tires including those for passenger cars, light and medium trucks, and motorcycles. They also manufacture tire-related products like tread rubber.
However, behind the façade of a successful all-American company, there lies a sordid network of shoddy design practices and poor manufacturing standards. In the summer of 2000, three former employees of the company's Texarkana and Tupelo plants testified that the company regularly made use of unsafe manufacturing practices to cut costs. The workers testified that manufacturing malpractice during the production process included mixing plastic, cans, and chicken bones into the tires. They also stated that employees regularly used hand tools to pop air bubbles formed in tire rubber rather than properly discarding the tires. Such practices compromise the tire's integrity, but were considered routine manufacturing practices at the company. Employees also testified against the company regarding the regular, incorrect use of solvents during the manufacturing process.
Cooper Tire was aware that incorrect use of solvents could contribute to tire disintegration, but encouraged it anyway.
Other manufacturing defects included the production of tires from old rubber parts. Outdated rubber stock would be held in storage for long periods of time during which it would dry out. The dried rubber would not take curing well and the treads would not hold together. According to employees' testimony, management at Cooper encouraged employees to continue production using the old stock.
Further, the company's Tupelo plant had a leaky roof in the first stage of tire production. Moisture compromising the integrity of tires is a serious concern. When water is introduced to the tire during the manufacturing process it can contribute to tread separation. Cooper, however, refused to stop production. Quality and safety flaws allowed for increased production and higher profits as the company continued to cut corners. Between 2000 and 2005, the company's tires were responsible for more than 200 fatalities. Cooper has recalled dozens of makes of its tires and continues to face lawsuits from consumers who suffered injuries in accidents caused by the defective tires.
Injured by a Tire Failure? Call Arnold & Itkin at (888) 493-1629!
Tire blowouts are not 100% preventable, and there may be other aspects that contribute to one, such as faulty road maintenance. However, if tire companies invest in safer design, and stringent manufacturing, quality control and inspection standards in order to produce more reliable tires, then they can greatly reduce the possibility of a blowout. If a manufacturer, mechanic, or automotive specialist sold or inspected your defective tires, they could be held liable for not identifying or warning you about the issue. Whether you were sold substandard tires or older showroom times that had been damaged, our car accident lawyers are ready to help. Get in touch with us today.
Fill out our online case evaluation form or call (888) 493-1629 today. We're here to stand up for your rights.