Truck accidents continue to be some of the most devastating accidents that occur on roadways across the United States. They cause massive property damage and severe, often fatal catastrophic injuries to the occupants of the passenger vehicles involved in the accident. Commercial truck drivers and the companies for which they work have a responsibility to conduct regular maintenance inspections to ensure that the truck and all its parts are in good working order. This includes making sure that tires are properly inflated and that tires are repaired or replaced if the tread is worn, and determining if there are other issues that can increase the risk of the wheel coming loose. When the wheel of a large commercial truck comes loose, it can hit other motorists in the vicinity. In addition, if the loose wheel causes the truck driver to lose control of the truck on the highway, it can cause a serious, multi-vehicle accident involving severe injuries and fatalities.
What Causes Truck Wheels to Come Loose?
Any motorist who has been in the vicinity of a large commercial truck when the truck’s tire comes loose knows how terrifying it can be to see the wheel fly off the truck and the truck driver lose control of the vehicle. There are a number of factors that can cause a commercial truck tire to come loose, including :
- Underinflation: A dangerous tire blowout can occur when there is not enough air in the tire and the tire gets too hot.
- Tread separation: This occurs when the metal becomes disconnected from the rubber inside the tire. This is very dangerous because it can cause the tire to break apart, resulting in pieces of tire scattering all over the roadway and potentially hitting other vehicles. Tread separation can occur in tires that appear to be in good condition.
- Tread burn: When the tire’s tread is worn or used up, the friction between the road and the tire can cause the tire to overheat and break apart.
- Defective wheel rims: This can cause the tire to come loose or cause a blowout.
- Quality of the spare tire: If a truck driver is using a spare tire that is too old, it is more likely to break apart while the truck is being driven.
- Additional factors: These include the following:
– Studs becoming loose or breaking
– Overtightening or insufficient tightening
– Using incorrect or poor quality wheel or tire parts
– Failure to use specialized parts that could prevent a tire from coming loose
Who is Liable for a Truck Accident Caused by a Faulty Wheel?
There are a number of parties that may be held liable for a truck accident if negligence was involved, including the following:
- Truck driver
- Vehicle owner
- Tire repair shop
- Used tire dealer
For a truck accident victim to prove that the defendant was negligent, he or she must be able to prove the following elements of negligence:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, meaning the defendant had a responsibility to operate or maintain the truck in a safe and reasonable manner.
- The defendant breached the duty of care.
- The breach in care resulted in the plaintiff’s injuries.
In addition to the truck driver or the truck company, California’s products liability laws state that the party who designed, manufactured, or sold a defective product, including a defective truck tire, is liable for any injuries that the product caused. When a truck accident victim files a products liability lawsuit, he or she is not required to prove negligence because consumers are in no position to understand the cause of a tire defect. Strict liability may be imposed for the following reasons:
- Manufacturing defects: A product that has a manufacturing defect is one that differs from the manufacturer’s design. In this case, it is usually a single product that is defective.
- Design defects: These are particularly dangerous because it affects the entire product line. A product has a defective design if it does not perform the way a consumer would expect under normal circumstances; the benefits of the design do not outweigh the design defect.
- Warning defects: Manufacturers, sellers, and distributors have a responsibility to provide the necessary warnings and instruction on a product. If an individual is injured because of a lack of adequate warnings associated with the product, he or she may file a products liability lawsuit.
What Injuries are Caused by Defective Tire Accidents?
A large commercial truck can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, compared to a passenger vehicle, which weighs an average of 4,000 pounds. When a large truck is involved in an accident with a passenger vehicle, it is the occupants of the passenger vehicle who tend to suffer the most serious injuries. In extreme cases, a truck accident can cause tragic fatalities. The following are examples of some of the most common truck accident injuries that can occur when a tire comes loose:
- Cuts and lacerations: These can occur if the truck’s wheel or other object that came loose from the defective wheel hit a passenger vehicle, causing the windows or windshield to break. The broken glass or other sharp object in the vehicle can cause serious cuts and/or lacerations.
- Broken bones: These injuries are common in truck accidents because of the extreme force of the impact associated with a large truck.
- Back and neck injuries: These can range from relative minor neck pain from whiplash to dislocated disks.
- Rib and torso injuries: These can occur when the accident victim hits the steering wheel or dashboard from the force of the impact. Broken bones in the rib cage and torso can occur. If the injuries are severe, they can cause organ damage and internal bleeding as well.
- Spinal cord injuries: Depending on the severity of the accident, the victim may suffer from injuries to the spinal cord. If the injury is particularly serious, the victim may suffer partial or total paralysis.
- Head and brain injuries: These can be extremely serious and life-altering injuries. In some cases, head injuries may not be immediately noticeable, so it is crucial that truck accident victims seek immediate medical attention from a skilled medical professional who can examine the injured party, diagnose the injury, and begin immediate treatment.
What are My Legal Options if I Lost a Loved One in a Truck Accident?
Unfortunately, owing to the nature of a catastrophic truck accident, including those caused by defective wheels, these accidents often cause tragic fatalities. When this happens, the surviving family members of the deceased victim may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver, the truck company, or the manufacturing company. If it can be proved that negligence was involved, the surviving family members may be eligible for the following damages:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical bills associated with the deceased’s injuries
- Loss of future income
- Loss of inheritance
- The value of the decedent’s services and support
- Punitive damages if the accident was the result of particularly egregious behavior
What Damages May I Receive in a Defective Tire Truck Accident?
If the truck accident victim is able to prove that negligence was a key factor in the accident, he or she may be eligible for compensatory damages. These include economic and non-economic damages, and they are meant to provide financial relief for the physical, emotional, and financial losses associated with the accident. The following are examples of financial damages that the victim is entitled to receive:
- Hospital bills
- Emergency medical care
- Future medical treatment
- Prescription medication and medical supplies
- Lost income
- Loss of future earning potential
- Court fees
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
How can a Lawyer Help Victims?
When a truck accident is caused by a fault, a defective wheel, or a wheel that comes loose from the truck and the accident causes serious injuries to the occupants of the passenger vehicle involved, there will likely be an investigation to determine whether negligence was involved. It is highly recommended that the injured party consult with an experienced truck accident lawyer who will ensure that a thorough investigation takes place, and that the truck and all its parts are inspected before they are repaired or modified in any way. An accident reconstructionist may also be hired, as well as a mechanical engineer and a metallurgist, both of whom can provide their unique expertise and help determine the exact cause of the accident and who was at fault. Copies of all maintenance and repair records will also be collected, as well as photographs of the accident scene, expert testimony, and other evidence that will help secure a successful settlement.
Los Angeles Truck Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Seek Justice for Victims of Truck Accidents
If you or a loved one was seriously injured in a truck accident caused by a defective wheel, reach out to the experienced Los Angeles truck accident lawyers at ACTS Law. Our lawyers can help you evaluate the liability of the parties involved, explain your rights to compensation, and advise what steps are necessary to obtain fair compensation for injuries and damages you have sustained. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online. With offices located in Los Angeles and San Diego, we serve clients throughout Southern California.