How Should Drivers Handle Truck Accidents Caused by Tire Blowouts? October 14, 2020
Tire blowouts can be serious, potentially resulting in catastrophic injury or death. However, if a truck experiences a sudden tire blowout on an interstate highway, it may result in a chain reaction involving multiple vehicles and many injured parties. Identifying the cause of the accident may be difficult, as there are many contributing factors. Determining liability is also complicated, as more than one party may be at-fault. If someone was seriously injured in an accident caused by a truck tire blowout, it is imperative to seek experienced legal counsel as soon as possible.
What Causes Truck Tire Blowouts?
Truck tires can explode whenever they strike an object with great force; however, weakened tires are much more susceptible to sudden impact and changes in pressure. According to the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), certain truck tire blowouts are entirely accidental. However, most are fundamentally due to wear and tear on a tire, which can be avoided. The most common causes of truck tire blowouts include the following:
- Underinflated tires. This problem can be detected by adhering to regular inspection practices.
- Overinflated tires. Too much air pressure can cause tire treads to wear down faster in the center of the tire.
- When temperatures rise, tires can become overinflated. Hot asphalt roads can increase the chance of a blowout.
- Small tire leaks. A slow leak can reduce tire pressure, cause wear, and result in a blowout.
- Installing the wrong tires. If the trucking company installed mismatched tires or the wrong size, the truck may wobble, and tires may wear unevenly.
- Overloaded trailers. Tires can be subjected to enormous pressure when trailers exceed their maximum weight, causing excessive wear and tear. The maximum gross weight of a truck is determined by state regulations.
- Hitting a pothole can cause the internal structure of a tire to be pinched together, fraying the tire fabric. If it cuts through the rubber completely, the tire may blow out.
- The effects of hitting a pothole or other road debris are exacerbated at high speeds.
- Reckless driving. Cutting corners too close or driving off-road can damage tires.
- Unsafe brakes or braking practices. Worn brakes and improper braking can wear down tire tread and increase the risk of a tire blowout. Driving downhill on steep grades can also wear down braking systems.
- Tire defects. Manufacturer defects are not uncommon. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recalled more than 46 million tires since 1966.
Although a truck tire blowout may appear to be accidental at first, a thorough investigation may uncover that one or more of the following reasons is to blame:
- Failure to properly load or maintain the vehicle
- Driver error
- Manufacturing defect
In each instance, one or more parties may be held legally responsible for causing the accident. For example, truck operators are required to keep detailed maintenance records by law. Oftentimes, a review of maintenance records is the key to determining liability regarding a truck tire blowout.
Laws Governing Truck Accidents
The trucking industry is heavily regulated. Federal laws establish the maximum hours of service that a driver can be on the road before taking a break. These laws also govern how long those breaks must be in order to give drivers enough time to rest.
Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations sets forth minimum standards for operators of commercial trucks, as well as shippers and brokers.
These regulations are designed to complement state laws, which are typically more detailed. Each state has its own set of regulations that dictate, among other things, the maximum gross weight that a truck can carry while driving on interstate highways. Trucks must pull over at weigh stations where required. A truck may be put out of service if it is found to exceed its maximum weight.
When this happens, another truck must take a portion of the load so that the truck is back in compliance with the law. However, the official at the weigh station has the option of performing additional inspections that may uncover other safety violations. Truck weight is critical to road safety as truck size is a major contributing factor in tire blowouts.
How Does Truck Size and Structure Contribute to Tire Blowouts?
The size and structure of a truck plays a major factor into whether a tire blowout occurs, and how serious the accident may be. Tractor trailers carrying heavy loads are more susceptible to tire wear and tear, potentially increasing the risk of blowouts. There are typically eight tires on the trailer and 10 tires on the tractor. Eighteen tires are required to distribute the heavy load of a tractor trailer, which can exceed 80,000 pounds.
There is less danger to the truck driver when a trailer tire blows out in the back. In most circumstances, the driver can control the vehicle and pull over to the side of the road. In some cases, the driver may not even be aware of the blowout, especially if the tire was a retread. According to the UMTRI, retread tire blowouts are less likely to cause a crash. However, flying debris may cause vehicles behind the truck to swerve in some instances, potentially causing an accident.
It is much more dangerous when a tire blows out on the tractor, particularly if it is a front tire. When front axle tires, also known as steer tires, explode, even the most experienced drivers can lose control, sending their large truck into the path of oncoming traffic. According to the UMTRI, approximately 70 percent of fatal crashes resulting from truck tire blowouts occur when a front tire explodes. Consequences of front tire blowouts may include the following:
- Loss of control of the vehicle
- Loose cargo
- Flying debris
- Truck rollover
- Chain reaction collisions between vehicles behind the truck
As heavy as they are, tractor trailers can be inherently unstable because they have a high center of gravity. The narrow distance between the left and right wheels can also make a loaded truck unsteady, causing it to roll over. When a truck rolls over, it often blocks most of the roadway as it careens across multiple lanes before coming to a halt. Even if the driver is unhurt, traffic must come to a sudden stop, creating the potential for collisions. Other drivers on the road may be struck by loose cargo or other flying debris.
Injuries Caused by Tire Blowouts
Serious injuries may result in large chain reaction accidents caused by truck tire blowouts, including the following:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Head and neck injury
- Back injury
- Cuts and lacerations
- Broken bones
Victims who are seriously injured suffer financial harm, as well as physical and emotional trauma. The law gives these victims the right to hold responsible parties accountable for these damages.
Determining Liability in Accidents Caused by Truck Tire Blowouts
In a two-car collision, one driver is often deemed to be more at-fault than the other. Determining liability for an accident caused by a truck tire blowout is much more complicated. There are many parties who may be held responsible for the tire blowout, including:
- The truck driver. If the driver was speeding or driving recklessly, he or she may be held liable.
- The trucking or leasing company. The owner of the truck and/or the driver’s employer bears responsibility for proper maintenance of the vehicle.
- Brokers or shippers. These parties may be at-fault if they overloaded or improperly loaded the truck.
- The tire manufacturer. Manufacturers may be held liable if it is determined that the tire was defective.
It is not unusual for trucking companies to retain insurance companies whose lawyers and adjusters are paid to arrive at the scene whenever a client is involved in an accident. They may launch an investigation just hours after the accident occurred, looking for evidence that may absolve the driver or trucking company from any responsibility. Even if a pothole or other external factor was the primary cause for the accident, the driver’s actions after the blowout, as well as maintenance records or other evidence, may reveal that the trucking company or other party is responsible.
Reading Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Victims of Truck Accidents
Innocent accident victims face a complex web of liability if they are injured in an accident resulting from a truck tire blowout. The Reading personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP understand these complexities and will carefully examine all evidence and circumstances of the accident to determine liability and protect the rights of innocent victims. For a free consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we help clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.