Defective tires could cause blowouts and vehicle accidents. Manufacturers selling tires without testing or inspecting them may face government action. If you believe you purchased defective tires, you may hold the manufacturer liable if a tire-related crash occurs. Negligent motorists, however, also contribute to dangerous collisions when they do not maintain or replace their tires as needed. By losing control of a vehicle during a preventable blowout, a driver could incur responsibility for causing harm to others.
A Driver’s Duty To Prevent Tire-Related Deaths and Injuries
Car accidents related to tire problems resulted in 664 deaths in 2020. Poorly inflated tires, for example, could cause a vehicle to become unsafe to drive. If the required amount of air pressure is not maintained, tires may overheat and cause a blowout even when driving in normal or routine settings. Estimates point to only 19% of vehicle owners driving on properly inflated tires.
To comply with Federal Safety Standards, newer vehicle models must come equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System. A TPMS alerts drivers to add air to their tires when they fall below normal inflation levels. Drivers must, however, respond accordingly when alerted. Unfortunately, some major car manufacturers have recalled thousands of vehicles with TPMS glitches. In the case of a Chrysler recall, two separate issues could have failed to alert a driver to a loss of air pressure and the increased risk of a tire-related vehicle crash.
When vehicle owners monitor tire tread, it reveals how well it can grip the road and provide adequate traction; it also reduces the risk of a blowout. A puncture caused by a small but sharp object in the road could lead to a blowout when driving on worn tires. Motorists who drive with bald tires increase the risks of serious accidents that could harm both themselves and others. Driving with bald tires could place the blame for a related accident on motorists who fail to properly maintain their vehicles.
Following California’s Tire Safety Statutes
California's traffic laws prohibit operating a vehicle with overly worn or bare tire treads. Drivers may violate Section 1087 of the California Code of Regulations by driving on worn and unsafe tires. The law defines defective tires as those with blowout patches, fabric breaks, cracks, bumps, knots, bulges or cuts in the rubber. Vehicle operators may not drive with tires that have damaged cords or with cuts measuring greater than one inch or showing 25 mm of body cord exposure.
The Golden State's laws forbid the use of regrooved tires on school buses and noncommercial vehicles. Commercial driver’s license holders in California need to check their front tires for a minimum 4/32-inch tread depth in each major groove. The rear and any other tires need to have a 2/32-inch tread depth. Tires may not have cuts, exposed fabric or tread separation.
Comparative Negligence and the Assignment of Fault
Because California law requires regular checking for the proper maintenance of vehicle tires, drivers who fail to comply may incur a greater degree of responsibility for causing avoidable accidents. Under California's pure comparative negligence laws, each party involved in a tire blowout accident may have a “percentage of fault" assigned for causing it. The driver who failed to replace worn tires, for example, may have 99% of the fault. The other party may have 1% of the fault, such as for unexpectedly stopping in moving traffic.
Injured parties may recover damages based on the percentage of the other party's contribution toward the accident. When seeking damages, a claimant may need to provide proof showing how much fault the court or an insurance company could assign to the other party. The evidence provided may include official police reports describing the accident scene, which could note the location or position of each vehicle. Officials may also ask for witness testimonies or retrieve footage from a dashboard camera. If a motorist received a traffic citation for worn tire treads, it may serve as evidence a driver failed to comply with California tire maintenance laws.
Commercial and Recreational Vehicle Tire Issues
Approximately 80% of blowout accidents involving large commercial vehicles result from deteriorating tire treads or casing problems. Sidewall flexing heats underinflated tires and could cause them to explode from a sudden pressure loss. About 20% of truck tire blowout collisions occur because of road hazards such as metal pieces or sharp objects that fell from other vehicles.
Commercial vehicle operators may lose their commercial driver’s licenses by not installing the correct size tires for their vehicle's make and model. Prior to each trip, commercial drivers must also check to confirm that tires have adequate inflation to accommodate their transportation loads.
Whether for commercial or recreational purposes, large vehicles and trailers must install tires of the same size throughout. Wheels and tires must remain compatible, and vehicle owners need to replace wheels when rust becomes visible. Vehicle owners must also repair air leaks or loosened wheel fasteners to prevent blowouts.
Certain Types of Harm May Require a Lawsuit for Relief
Crashes caused by tire blowouts could involve and cause harm to other vehicles and their occupants. A driver losing control during a blowout could collide with another vehicle, ram into a roadside building, or cause a multi-vehicle pileup. A vehicle insurance carrier may provide coverage for blowout-related damage and also cover the cost of replacement tires or vehicles.
Accidents that cause severe bodily harm or long-term disabilities may require legal action to fully recover. Some injury symptoms, such as those associated with traumatic brain injuries or spinal nerve damage, may not show immediately after an accident. Symptoms of some brain injuries, for example, may not appear for several days after an accident. In some cases, simply feeling uncommonly anxious or fatigued after a crash may indicate a need for treatment to prevent a developing condition.
If an insurance carrier fails to pay a claim, individuals may file lawsuits to seek economic and medical damages. Courts may order financial awards to replace or repair damaged vehicles and pay for car rentals. Individuals who suffered injuries may request financial relief to cover the medical expenses related to the accident along with the anticipated expenses for future treatments.
When requesting non-economic damages, plaintiffs may seek compensatory relief for pain, disability or emotional distress. In some cases, the court may award the value of a lost career opportunity or attempt to compensate for the loss of a loved one.
Based on California’s statute of limitations, injured individuals may file personal injury lawsuits no later than two years after the accident occurred. To recover only for a damaged vehicle or other property, individuals may file lawsuits to recover within three years of the accident.
A Tire Blowout Accident Could Require an Experienced Attorney
Because of California’s pure comparative negligence system, accidents involving a tire blowout could raise complex issues. In some cases, a tire or vehicle manufacturer may represent the primary cause of the accident. Another driver who failed to properly maintain his or her vehicle’s tires could also prove at fault. If you were seriously harmed, however, your major concern is most likely putting your life back together. This may not be the best time for a do-it-yourself approach.
Johnson Attorneys Group has the vehicle accident and comparative negligence experience to help you obtain the full amount of property and injury compensation your circumstances deserve. Contact us for a no-fee accident evaluation; you won’t owe us anything unless we win your case.