Exploding Tires: Who’s Liable?
Tires might be the most important part of a motor vehicle. Good tires grip the road, allowing motorists to stop on a dime or swerve neatly away from danger. But aging tires with worn tread are a clear danger. And a tire explosion can cause a vehicle to spin out of control.
At Naqvi, we represent men and women injured in Las Vegas car accidents. As any who’s driven around Vegas can attest, tire blowouts are a real threat, due to environmental conditions and the amount of traffic flowing in and out of the city daily. If you’ve been injured in a crash, please contact us. We fight to get compensation for anyone injured in a motor vehicle collision.
How Big is the Threat of a Tire Blowout?
Blowouts are surprisingly common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), blowouts led to roughly 11,000 accidents. These accidents cause substantial vehicle damage, as well as injuries and sometimes death.
Common Causes of Tire Blowouts
Tires should be manufactured according to federal safety standards. If a tire receives regular maintenance, it should work properly—saving the driver unnecessary repairs and protecting the safety of everyone else on the road. Nonetheless, many tires fail for some of the reasons listed below.
This is a big one. Tires must be properly inflated to work at an optimum level. When a tire is underinflated, the sidewalls experience greater stress. Consequently, the tire can overheat, which will weaken the bond between the rubber and the different layers in the tire.
Nobody should be surprised that their tires are underinflated anymore. Most cars now come with a tire pressure monitoring system that informs the driver that one or more tires are underinflated. A careful driver should pull over to a service station and put some air in.
According to NHTSA, low tread is a leading cause of tire failure. New tires typically come with 10/32 or 11/32” of tread, which steadily reduces depending on road conditions and how you drive. When the tread reaches 2/32 of an inch, drivers should replace their tires.
Combine heat with an underinflated tire and you have a recipe for disaster. An underinflated tire already generates a great deal of heat. Combine it with a hot road and the tire rubber will degrade faster. Suddenly overinflate the tire or hit an object on the road, and there is a good chance a tire will give way and explode.
Heat is the reality in Vegas, where temperatures regularly climb past 110 degrees during the summer months and settle into a comfortable 90+ in late spring and early fall. Blowouts definitely increase due to the heat rising from the asphalt which bakes all day under the sun.
Rubber tires will age and become weaker with time. But few people really appreciate that the age of a tire can lead to a blowout. Tires are made mostly of rubber which can harden and become brittle due to oxidation.
Research studies show that most tires begin to degrade after five years and should be replaced after six. Drive too long on a set of tires and they will likely crack and then explode.
The greater a vehicle is traveling, the more stress it puts on a tire. Unsurprisingly, the tire can weaken. Every tire should state the maximum speed the tire can be driven. If you go over this number, your odds of a blowout soar.
Road Debris or Hazards
Any debris on the road increases pressure on the tire. Hazards include:
- Debris from a vehicle, like pieces of a fender
A particularly hard hit could lead to an immediate blowout. But debris could also puncture the tire and lead to a decrease in pressure, which in turn can combine with heat to degrade a tire considerably. In fact, many tire blowouts don’t stem from one cause but a combination of several.
Careful drivers should regularly inspect their tires and immediately fix any problems they discover. Conscientious drivers do more than follow the rules of the road. They also ensure that their vehicle is in safe working order before putting the keys in the ignition.
When checking a tire, look for dents or weak areas. Rubber tires begin to crack as they age, and large cracks can easily lead to a blowout in the future. Check all four tires, all the way around. You might need to pull ahead slightly so you can do a 360-degree check.
We also recommend carrying an air pressure gauge. Many high-quality digital models are on the market, which you can easily use to check the pressure in a tire. Keep it in your glove compartment box and remember to check them consistently at the same time of day, preferably first thing in the morning.
Another tip is to make sure you don’t drive tires beyond the point they become dangerous. Bald tires, or even tires with low tread, should be replaced. You should also replace tires that are simply too old—even if you think they otherwise are fine.
Check the tire manufacture date, which is usually printed on the sidewall of the tire. You’ll probably see a string of letters and numbers starting with DOT. Look to the end for four digits in a box or circle. This is the tire code: the first two digits are the week of the year, and the second two are the year. So “0422” stands for the fourth week of 2022, which is the tire’s birthday. The code “3315” would stand for the thirty-third week of 2015.
Generally, tires are only good for six years from the date of manufacture, not the date the tire was put on your vehicle. So calculate the tire expiration date by adding six years to the date code on the tire.
Legal Responsibility for a Tire Blowout
So what happens if you’re driving along and a vehicle suffers a tire blowout, causing a crash? Chances are, the owner of the motor vehicle will claim they had no way of knowing the tire would explode so they can’t be held responsible for the crash.
But is that really a good defense? Can a driver slide out from responsibility by claiming the state of their tire is beyond their control?
Probably not. A driver’s duty of care extends beyond simply following the rules of the road. Car owners also must:
- Regularly inspect their vehicles. Drivers should check their days at least once every two weeks. They certainly can’t put their head in the sand and ignore obvious problems, like an unusual sound or the tire light coming on.
- Fix discovered defects. Once a driver is aware of a problem, they should schedule a trip to the mechanic if it isn’t something they can fix themselves (like putting a little air in the tire). For example, a motorist might have noticed a tire recall. They should stop driving and get the tires swapped out.
- Use care when maintaining a vehicle. If a driver undertakes repairs themselves, then they should use reasonable care. For example, they shouldn’t inflate the tire beyond what the manufacturer recommends.
Of course, all motorists should exercise reasonable care when driving. This means not deliberately hitting debris that could cause a blowout or weaken the tire.
Defective Tires: Manufacturer Liability
Some tires come defective straight from the manufacturer. That is, the tire is defective even when new. The owner isn’t really to blame for poor maintenance because the tire is compromised due to a design or manufacturing flaw—and these are beyond the control of the car owner.
If a defective tire blows up on the road, you might have a product liability lawsuit. This law assigns liability to manufacturers and others, like retailers, when a dangerous product is sold and injures people. To check whether the tire was defective, your attorney will want to inspect it. This is why it is vital to quickly contact Naqvi Law before the other driver disposes of their torn or shredded tire.
Preserving Evidence after a Tire Blowout
After a blowout, there are some simple steps to take. As always, stop your vehicle immediately and call an ambulance if anyone at the scene needs one. Also, call the police to report the accident.
We also recommend getting multiple pictures of the tire, even if it’s shredded and on the side of the road. Since the tire doesn’t belong to you, you can’t really put it in your trunk and take it home. You can ask the driver if they’ll let you have it, but don’t take it without asking.
Another option is to take as many photographs as you can of the tire. Zoom in on any information such as the tire date code. Also, point out the tire to the cop who responds to the accident.
With this information, your attorney can identify who to sue for the accident. Possibly the tire was subject to a recall, which means the manufacturer or a retailer could be added as a defendant.
Naqvi Law Will Fight for Compensation
We are standing by to assist anyone hurt in a blowout accident. Please call us to schedule a confidential time to meet.