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Commercial Truck Tire Problems and Accident Liability

Home » Commercial Truck Tire Problems and Accident Liability
September 26, 2022
Edward Smith

Determining Why Big Rig Tire Problems Occur and Who May Be Responsible

One of the more common sights on our highways is the long, twisted strip of mangled rubber left over after a tractor-trailer big rig has lost one of its tires to a blowout or other truck tire problems. The reason this is a common sight is that truck tire problems are themselves a relatively common occurrence and can be a significant factor in causing truck accidents, personal injuries, and even fatalities. When such an accident has occurred, a personal injury lawyer representing accident victims or their families will need to carefully review the history of that tire and the records of who has or hasn’t properly paid attention to it up to the point in time where it failed.

Ways That a Truck Tire Can Fail

An early and thorough inspection of the tire, the rest of the vehicle, and the accident scene can often point directly to the cause of truck tire problems that may have turned into a serious truck accident. Sometimes this may be readily apparent, while at other times it may require careful examination and analysis by expert consultants. Some of the more common methods of truck tire failure include:

  • Problems With Design or Manufacturing Process. Fundamental design flaws with modern tires are uncommon but can still occur. While the tire manufacturer is obviously most at fault for these, those who sell, own, and maintain tires are also responsible for keeping up with notifications of problems as they arise. Manufacturing process errors may result in a particular “batch” of truck tires with problems.
  • Installation and Mounting. When a tire is improperly mounted on a wheel rim, it may immediately show up as a problem or it may result in damage that takes time and wear to appear. If the wrong size tire is mounted on the wrong size rim, it may suffer prompt damage when inflated, or it may take many months before the seal between rim and tire (or the tire itself) fails suddenly.
  • Underinflated or Overinflated. Both conditions are damaging and potentially dangerous for truck tires — they can result in damage to the tire structure when the stresses and pressure are shifted to portions of the tire not intended to carry them. Underinflation can result from punctures or valve problems that allow air to leak out but can also result from poor maintenance practices. Overinflation is more obviously a problem with vehicle maintenance.
  • Wheels. Tires need to be mounted to wheel rims that are clean, smooth, and regular in order to maintain a proper seal and inflation. Rims that are dented, gouged, or otherwise damaged may prevent proper sealing. Steel rims that are rusted or aluminum rims that have oxidized can also result in poor seals and leaking.
  • Valve, Tread, or Belt Failures. These are failures in the structure of the tire. They may result either from long-standing manufacturing defects, or problems with how the tires were assembled, mounted, and maintained. These types of sudden physical failures can produce the type of unexpected blowouts that result in serious truck accidents.

Inspecting the Evidence of Truck Tire Problems

There are three critical areas of evidence that may point to truck tire problems being the cause of a particular truck accident. Indeed, any investigation of a motor vehicle accident resulting from a mechanical or hardware failure will look in similar places. These include:

Physical evidence. For a suspected tire failure, this would certainly include whatever remains of the tire and as many pieces as may be available to collect. The wheel and rim on which the tire was mounted are also significant, if there is evidence that damage to these or a problem with the mounting of the tire may have led to its failure. The accident site itself may also contain significant physical evidence in the form of skid marks or lateral tire marks that may describe the stresses upon the tire when it failed, as well as any tread marks in softer ground prior to failure that may point to underinflation, overinflation, or other truck tire problems.

Documentary evidence. Documents related to the tire would include the entire chain of sale from manufacturer to wholesaler to retailer up to the point where the truck company took possession of the tire as a new or retreaded item. It would also include any daily inspections from truck drivers who may have flagged a potential problem with the tire, as well as records of periodic inspections and maintenance of the tire while on the vehicle.

Witness evidence. Witness evidence is typically used to tie together the findings in the physical and documentary evidence — the “who knew what, and when” of the truck tire problems. This may stretch all the way back to the original manufacturer if a fundamental design or manufacturing flaw was present in the tire. More commonly, witness evidence would be used to verify who did or didn’t inspect the tire properly or who did or didn’t repair or replace a problematic tire if something concerning was found. It may also include expert witness evidence as needed to explain the physics of how and why a tire may have failed, as well as the best practices for truck drivers and truck companies to inspect and maintain vehicle tires over time.

Importance of Truck Tire Problems for Personal Injury Claims

Most truck accidents — just as with most motor vehicle accidents in general — result from driver error. When a truck accident has resulted from obvious driver error, the investigation of the accident and its causes proceeds down one path.  When driver error is not the obvious cause, things may become more complex.  One of the more common types of accident causation different from driver error is mechanical failure, and tire failure is high on the list of these types of problems. For personal injury claims or lawsuits to be successfully concluded, it is necessary to establish liability — legal responsibility — for the accident that caused injuries. For a truck accident resulting from truck tire problems, this is a matter of sorting out what type of physical failure occurred with the tire and then determining who was responsible for that failure occurring. That could be the truck driver, the truck company who owns the vehicle, the truck company or a separate vendor responsible for maintaining the vehicle, or some combination of these. For a tire with a defect in the original product, it may include the designer and manufacturer or anyone in the chain of sale to the end user. Sorting out this puzzle and identifying just who is liable for a client’s injuries — and whose insurance policies or corporate assets may be available to provide compensation — is a crucial service that the experienced personal injury attorney can provide to a client.

View this dramatic video from CTV news showing how a sudden truck tire blowout — in this case on a large dump truck — can result in immediate loss of control and potentially a serious accident:

Truck Accident Attorneys in California

Hello, my name’s Ed Smith, and I’m a truck accident lawyer in California.  Determining how an injury-causing accident happened and who may be legally responsible is a key first step for any personal injury claim or lawsuit — especially for truck accident cases where the injuries and damage may be more extensive and the different possible defendants may be a long list of individuals and corporations with an equally long list of respective insurance companies and defense counsel.  When a truck accident results from mechanical issues like truck tire problems, figuring this out can become even more complex, and sorting through the possibilities is one of the most important services a personal injury lawyer can provide to clients.  If you or a family member has suffered a serious injury due to negligence of a truck driver, please contact us today at (916) 921-6400 or toll-free at (800) 404-5400 for free, friendly advice.

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Image by Peter H from Pixabay

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