Defective tires are a real problem on America’s roads. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently reported that there are about 33,000 tire-related accidents annually, which kill some 500 people and injure 19,000 more. Since failure of a tire on a moving vehicle often causes the driver to lose control, tire failure endangers not only the occupants of the car using that tire, but all the other vehicles and pedestrians in the area.
Tires are specifically designed to provide a safe amount of traction and vehicle control for vehicles of a maximum weight when the tire is inflated to a specific pressure. Of course, they also wear down with usage, and there’s considerable evidence that simple aging—where the tire sits in storage without use—also gradually compromises a tire’s structure.
Manufacturers, Sellers, Installers and Owners All Affect Tire Safety
Many tire failures are caused by things under the manufacturer’s control: the design, the materials used, the process by which it’s manufactured, and the safety information that was provided to consumers. “Defects” in any of those processes support a claim for products liability.
Other causes of failure are under the control of retailers and service centers that recommend which tire to install, do the installation, and may be called upon to repair flats and the like. Still other causes are under the control of the vehicle owner, like keeping the tire properly inflated, not exceeding the maximum weight, and replacing worn tires.
All this means that tire failure in any given case will raise difficult and technical questions about the respective roles of these three entities. Answering those questions is usually crucial to any attempt to recover compensation for injuries (or deaths) caused by the tire failure.
Government Regulation of Tires
The federal government has several specific safety standards for tires, with specific standards for different kinds of tires and different kinds of vehicles. The federal standards for basic passenger vehicles address:
- New pneumatic radial tires for light vehicles (Standard 139)
- New non-pneumatic tires for passenger cars (Standard 129)
- Retread pneumatic tires (Standard 117)
Other standards apply to new pneumatic tires intended for heavy vehicles and for motor homes and recreation vehicles.
To alert drivers when tires are dangerously under-inflated, regulations also require that new vehicles include tire pressure monitoring systems.
Tire Recalls; They Leave a Lot to be Desired
Just in the period of 2009-2013, there were 55 recalls covering 3.2 million tires. Recall information is regularly published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and is available on the internet.
While the recall system is certainly better than no system, there are several serious problems that led the NTSB to say in October of 2015 that the recall system was completely broken:
- Only about 20 percent of defective tires are taken off the road by means of the recall mechanism, though another 24 percent end up being taken off the road by other means, leaving more than half of defective tires in use on the roads
- Tire dealers can, but aren’t required to, register tires they sell with the manufacturer
- Most dealers don’t take the time register
- Lack of registration hampers manufacturer’s ability to identify the people who own tires that are being recalled
When you buy tires, you can register them with the manufacturer directly, but that’s something very few people do because very few people realize that registration is the only way that manufacturers will be able to locate them if there is a recall.
Modern Tire Structure and Defects
Modern tires are made up of many different types of material, including rubber, belts of steel and other components that help keep the components together. A major problem is keeping the rubber and the steel belts from separating. Other problems involve the strength and integrity of the sidewalls.
Many specific, technical and frequently incomprehensible terms get thrown around in tire defect cases, like nylon overlays, skim stock, body plies, and gum strips. You don’t need to know these terms if you’ve been injured in a tire defect accident, but your lawyer does. And your lawyer needs to know where to find the experts that can explain these parts and their roles in causing the accident.
Skilled Legal Representation for Texas Defective Tire Claims
Getting compensation for injuries caused by a defective tire is a complicated process best handled by an Austin personal injury lawyer who understands the complexities of a case like this. The first job is to establish that (a) the tire was defective and (b) the defect caused the accident. That’s not an easy task—potential defendants have a lot of incentive to claim that the accident caused the tire failure rather than the other way around.
Expert testimony is usually crucial, ranging from accident reconstruction experts to experts in tire design and manufacturing, the physical effects of tire aging, and the practices of tire retailing.
At the personal injury law firm of Briggle & Polan, PLLC, in Austin, Texas, we have the experience to take on Texas tire defect cases. Whether you were in the car that experienced tire failure, a different vehicle that was injured by the car with the defective tire, or are the survivor of someone who was killed, give us a call to arrange a time for a free consultation. We will answer your questions and let you know what your next step should be. Time to file your claim is limited by state law, so make that call today.