Defective Tires DC Car Accidents
In the early 1990s, Ford was sued en masse. The allegations were that the Bridgestone/Firestone tires on Ford Explorer’s were defective, causing the vehicle to rollover and resulting in serious, fatal consequences.
Over the ensuing ten years, the federal government connected 174 highway deaths and over 700 injuries to accidents involving Bridgestone/Firestone tires. The tread had peeled off Firestone tires, leading to the rollovers. Bridgestone/Firestone was forced to recall more than 14 million tires. Ford settled hundreds of cases for amounts ranging from $1 million to more than $30 million. The tire failures cost Bridgestone/Firestone $1.67 billion. At the end of this fiasco, Ford and Bridgestone/Firestone severed corporate ties, ending a century-long relationship, and the TREAD Act was signed and enacted (a law meant to increase consumer safety).
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 15,000 auto accidents occur every year due to problems with vehicle tires. Tire maintenance is an essential, often neglected step to ensuring safety on the roads. However, tires can fail, in what is known as defective product liability.
In a product liability lawsuit one of three things has to be proven – defective design, manufacturing defects, or defective marketing. Defective
design means that the tire failed pre-manufacturing, and was destined to do so. Manufacturing defects means that the tire failed during the manufacturing process, be it from low quality materials or insufficient safety protocols. Defective marketing is a failure of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to warn users of risks of use.
In this post, we’ll be going over common types of tire defects and failures, how to ensure you’re not on the wrong end of an accident, and what to do if you are.
The most common type of tire failure is tread separation; it occurs often in the modern steel-belted radial tire (this was the Bridgestone/Firestone tire mentioned above). When the belt underneath the tire’s tread – the bumpy, textured outer layer of the tire – comes apart, the tread itself begins to peel off the rest of the tire.
The steel-belted radial tires are constructed with two steel belts around the tire. The tread sticks to the belts, and then is bonded to the sidewalls. It often separates when traveling at high speeds in hot temperatures, because it is very difficult to adhere steel to rubber. Most of the B
ridgestone/Firestone accidents took place in California, Arizona, Nevada on account of hot temperatures.
When the tread comes off, a loud noise or bang might be heard. The driver will then lose control of the vehicle.
Another reason for tire failure is underinflation of the tire. Recommended tire pressure is usually between 30-35psi(pounds per square inch), but the number varies depending on the type and size of a car. For example, a Honda Civic’s ideal tire pressure is 32psi, but a Honda Odyssey’s ideal tire pressure is 35psi. A semi-truck’s tires should be inflated to 110psi. It is likely that the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle is listed somewhere on the lower section of the driver side door.
Cars built after 2007 are required to have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System that will notify you if tire pressure is low. Still, it is good to practice to check your tire pressure regularly. Allstate Insurance recommends checking one time per month, especially if you live in a colder climate. For each ten degree decrease in temperature, psi will drop by one.
The NHTSA says that underinflation of tires increases the risk of being in a serious accident 300 percent. It also contributes to increased fuel consumption, improper wear and tear of tires, and more flex in the sidewall. As the sidewall expands, the tire will heat beyond normal operating temperatures, increasing the likelihood of a tire blowout).
Other causes of tire failure include faulty tire beads, inadequate puncture repair, or debris lodged in the tire.
Generally, there are three groups of people who can be sued for tire failure.
The first is the manufacturer. The three largest tire manufacturers in the United States are Bridgestone/Firestone, Michelin, and Goodyear. Each regularly issues tire recalls, and can be held liable for damages. Upon issuing a recall, the business simply notifies retailers that there has been a recall. They are not required to physically go to each retailer and remove its product.
The second group that can be sued is the retailer. Retailers sometimes miss notifications of a product recall from manufacturers, will ignore them, or will not move quickly to discard the product. Retailers have an obligation to remove dangerous products from the market. If a retailer sells a bad product when it reasonably should have known of its defects, then it can be named in a suit.
Finally, a mechanic or repair shop can be sued for tire failure. Let’s say that a nail punctured your tire. You bring your car in for a repair, and it gets fixed. But the next day, the tire blows out and you are in an accident. In that case, the mechanic can be held liable. The mechanic also has a duty to warn you about a condition in the vehicle that may cause an accident, and notice and/or replace aging or damaged tires.
While auto repair shops will be of service to you in the event that a tire fails, there are several steps you can and should take to prevent ever needing to have your car serviced. First, choose the right tires for a car. You should frequently monitor the wear and status of your tires, constantly checking for sidewall cuts and cracks, uneven tread wear, overly worn tread, and tire blisters. Additionally, while driving, note any shaking or thumping in the tire while on the road, as well as any pull to one side. Take your car to a repair shop as needed.
Further, be sure to note the type of tire your car has, and check for updates on any tire recalls. Keep a spare tire in your car.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of defective tires, call the experienced attorneys at Cohen & Cohen today for a free case evaluation.