According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Americans drive around 3 trillion miles a year. As we drive all those miles, we rely on our tires to help keep us safe.
Unfortunately, tire failure can easily occur. The NHTSA estimates that there are more than 11,000 tire-related crashes each year, causing over 19,000 injuries and more than 700 deaths.
Sometimes tire-related accidents occur because the tires were improperly maintained by the vehicle owner. However, it is also possible for tire-related accidents to occur through no fault of the vehicle owner whatsoever.
More than 46 million defective tires have been recalled in the U.S., including tires from major manufacturers such as Bridgestone/Firestone, Goodyear, Michelin and many others. If an accident occurs due to defective tires, it may be possible for the injured person to hold the tire manufacturer liable (financially responsible) for his or her injuries.
Identifying Defective Tires that Cause Accidents
When a tire fails and causes an accident, many people simply call it a tire "blowout." There are, however, actually many different ways a tire can fail.
One of the most common types of tire failure is detreading (also called tread separation or tire separation). Detreading occurs when the outermost tread of a tire separates suddenly from the rest of the tire. Other common causes of tire failure include bead failures, sidewall defects, zipper failures and ply separation. Any of these can potentially result in a sudden tire failure, causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle and get into a serious accident.
In Georgia, the types of tire defects that a manufacturer may be liable for usually fall under three broad categories:
- Defective design. Some aspect of the tire's initial design was incorrect, resulting in a defective final product.
- Defective manufacture. The initial design of the tire was correct, but a component (or components) of the tire was manufactured incorrectly. Defective manufacturing can also occur when tire components are assembled incorrectly. For example, tires have been recalled because the adhesives used to bind tire components together were not strong enough, resulting in tire components that separated while driving.
- Failure to warn. If a tire manufacturer is aware of a potential danger and does not provide an adequate warning about the potential danger, it is possible that it can be found liable for resulting injuries.
Holding a Tire Manufacturer Responsible for Defective Tire Accidents
Defective tire injury lawsuits are a type of product liability lawsuit. In Georgia, a product manufacturer is "strictly liable" for injuries that result from their defective products.
Product-related injury cases are different from other types of personal injury cases, such as slip and fall accidents. In other types of injury cases, the injured person usually must prove that the responsible party was negligent and that the negligence caused his or her injuries. A critical component of negligence claims is demonstrating that the responsible party knew about (or should have known about) a dangerous condition.
In contrast, Georgia's strict liability laws do not require the responsible party to have had any knowledge of the dangerous condition. A product manufacturer must produce products that are safe for their intended use. Therefore, it is possible for the manufacturer of defective tires to be held liable for injuries, even if the manufacturer did not know their tires were defective.
To prove that a tire manufacturer is liable for his or her injuries, generally the injured person must show that:
- The tire was defective. Georgia law describes a defective product as not "merchantable" and not "reasonably suited to the use intended."
- The defective condition of the tire caused the injury.
- The product was still in substantially the same condition as it was when it was manufactured. For example, if someone purposely poked a hole in your tire, the tire would be in a different condition than when it was manufactured.
- The product was used as intended, or it was used in a way that the manufacturer could reasonably foresee that it would be used.
Georgia law also imposes limits on how long someone has to file a personal injury lawsuit. In general, a lawsuit must be filed within two years after the date of the injury.
Defective product injury lawsuits may also be subject to another Georgia law, called the "statute of repose." Although there are exceptions, generally the injured person must file a defective product lawsuit within 10 years after the date the product was first sold.
Compensating for Injuries Sustained from Defective Tire Accidents
Defective tires can easily result in loss of vehicle control, which is dangerous at any speed. At highway speeds, loss of vehicle control can lead to catastrophic injuries and even death.
If an injured person can demonstrate that his or her injuries occurred due to a defective tire, the manufacturer may have to pay damages for the injuries. Damages include things like medical expenses and lost wages, as well as pain and suffering, grief, anxiety and loss of enjoyment of life. In some cases, punitive damages may also be awarded. Punitive damages are a special category of damages awarded in particularly extreme situations.
Were you injured in a defective tire accident?
If you were injured or lost a loved one in a defective tire accident, it may be possible to hold the tire manufacturer responsible. The actual cause of tire failure may not be obvious, especially in the aftermath of a serious accident. A knowledgeable defective product attorney will understand all the potential causes of tire failure and will thoroughly investigate your case to identify the particular defect that caused your accident.
The tire manufacturer will likely fight hard to prove that their product was not defective. You need an experienced personal injury attorney who will fight even harder to get you the compensation you deserve for your injuries. Contact The Hadden Law Firm today.