Defective Tires

Georgia Tire Failure Lawyers

Tire failures are a significant threat to the health and safety of American consumers. Thousands of innocent drivers are hurt or killed every year due to tire failures.  Tire failures come in many forms, from simple flat tires to catastrophic tread-separation events. Regardless of the severity of the tire failure, defectively designed and manufactured tires are the underlying cause of many of the failures. Many other failures are caused by poor maintenance or servicing. In many ways, tires are the most important stability control systems on a vehicle. Tires transfer braking and driving forces from the vehicle to the pavement. As a result, it is imperative that tire manufacturers design and manufacture tires that are able to withstand the strains and speeds of modern vehicles. Tire manufacturers have made extensive changes to the way tires are designed, manufactured, and sold to consumers since the first pneumatic tire was invented in 1845. In many ways, these changes have been positive. Modern tires last longer, offer superior fuel efficiency, and provide for a more comfortable ride. However, improvements in the long-term durability of tires have also given rise to problems involving the breakdown of rubber components over time and the inability of tires to withstand longer workloads and higher speeds.

These problems have been further complicated by concentrated efforts of tire manufacturers to conceal important safety information from consumers and to take shortcuts in the design and manufacturing processes to raise profits. These problems first came to light for most consumers in 2000 when Firestone was forced to recall millions of tires placed on Ford vehicles. Once the Firestone recall concluded, the tire industry began spending millions of dollars to fight litigation, government oversight, and consumer advocates, all seeking transparency in manufacturing processes and adequate warnings of the dangers associated with defectively designed and manufactured tires. To a large degree, that money was well spent. Tire safety has faded from the public consciousness and tire manufacturers have continued to produce dangerous products that place citizens at risk for serious injury or death. This guide is designed to provide you with tools and information that you can use to fight back against the deceptive tactics of tire manufacturers.

Tire Basics

In order to understand how a tire fails, it is important to know the components of a tire. Tires are made from much more than rubber. In fact, modern tires contain a very small amount of rubber, and even when rubber is used, tire manufacturers have increasingly turned to cheaper synthetic material that is vastly inferior to natural rubber. More than 200 materials are used to manufacture most tires, including steel, iron, polyester, plasticizers, carbon black, sulfur, rayon, nylon, wax, zinc, and a variety of other “fillers,” such as silica, cocoa butter, and walnut shells. These materials are molded into a variety of tire components that are then layered on top of each other to produce a finished product. Tires are built on a large steel drum. The builder will begin with a large strip of synthetic or natural rubber that is intended to prevent air from reaching the other tire components. This layer is called the inner liner. Once the inner liner is in place, one or more thick layers of synthetic fabric are placed on the tires. These layers are the body plies, and they give the tire its strength and form a base for all other components placed on the tire. The more plies a tire has, the stronger it is. Two large rings of heavy-duty steel wire are then placed on the edge of the drum.

These rings will become the bead of the tire, which will allow the tire to be placed on the rim of a vehicle. Layers of woven steel wires are then placed on top of the partially formed tire. Because these steel belts do not span the whole tire, it is critically important that the belts be placed at precise points on the tire. If the belts are even a few centimeters off from their intended locations, the tire will be more likely to fail in the future. At this point, the layering process for most tires sold in United states stops. For some tires, particularly those made for sale in Europe and other countries, tire manufacturers will also add a cap ply and/or belt wedge to the tire. These additional components help prevent a tire failure by providing additional strength to the weakest areas of the tire.

Once these layers are assembled, the tire is considered a “green” tire, which means it is ready for the curing stage in the tire building process. During the curing stage, the outside labeling and top tread are applied. In this process, the tire is subjected to extreme heat and pressure that essentially melts all of the tire components together into a finished tire. Once a tire has been cured, its pieces should never come apart again. However, due to the shortcuts explained throughout this guide, these pieces often do come apart, sometimes with deadly consequences. When a tire does not stay together as intended, it is broadly referred to as tire failure. Tire failures can be further described as a tread separation, sidewall failure, or structural failure depending on how and where the failure occurs. A tread separation is the most dangerous because it usually occurs at higher speeds and is more likely to lead to a loss of vehicle control than other types of failure. In its most basic form, a tread separation is caused by differences in the physical properties of steel and rubber. Although steel belts provide incredible strength to a tire, they also create a problem because rubber and steel do not naturally bind together. Unless preventative steps are taken in the design phase of a tire, the rigid steel belts will begin to destroy the soft rubber and fabric as the components compress and grind against each other with every rotation of the tire. Over time, this friction creates tiny cracks along the shoulder of the tire—where the tread meets the sidewall. These tiny cracks develop into larger cracks that are referred to as sockets. As the sockets become larger, the tire is no longer able to withstand the incredible centrifugal forces acting on it and the tread separates from the remainder of the tire. When the tread separates, often the driver loses control of the vehicle and a wreck occurs.

Design Defects in Tires

One of the most important considerations in designing a tire is providing adequate protection against tread separations. Countless hours are put into the design of each tire model and tire manufacturers make a calculated decision for each and every component. Innovators have filed hundreds of patents for methods that can be used and manufacturers have known for decades which methods are the most effective. Among these technologies, the best steps that a tire manufacturer can take to prevent a tread separation are using a cap ply, belt wedge, and a sufficiently robust inner liner. Unfortunately, many tires sold in the United States have not used any of these technologies within them. Worse still, consumers are not informed which tires do not provide adequate protections, even if the tires are priced the same as tires that do. This lack of transparency eliminates your ability to make informed decisions about your family’s safety.

 

LACK OF A CAP PLY

A cap ply greatly increases the strength and long-term durability of a tire because it helps counter the centrifugal forces acting on a tire during operation. A cap ply reduces the tendency of the edges of the steel belts to break free of the rubber in which they are embedded. In many ways, the cap ply acts like a girdle that is tightened around all of the tire components and forces them to stay in place. As shown in green on the image above, the cap ply is placed just below the tread of a tire and spans the entire width of the tire layers. A cap ply is commonly made of nylon or Kevlar. Tire manufacturers have known about the benefits of a cap ply for more than forty years, and they are used on many tires throughout Europe, but manufacturers refuse to use them in most American tires. Tire manufacturers inaccurately claim that a cap ply is only necessary on a high-speed-rated tire. However, as one well respected tire industry insider stated, “The cap ply, I feel, was the savior of the steel cord-belted, radial-ply tire from the structural integrity retention standpoint.” Regardless of a tire’s speed rating, a cap ply significantly improves its long-term durability and the failure to use one constitutes a design defect.

 

LACK OF A BELT WEDGE

A belt wedge prevents the steel belts from degradation due to rubbing against each other and from destroying other components.7 Since at least 1950, tire manufacturers have definitively known that the shoulder is the weakest area of the tire yet have not strengthened it. The shoulder of a tire is the most likely source of failure because the shoulder endures the most stresses and generates the most heat over time. Heat softens tire components and makes them more susceptible to damage from the steel belts and centrifugal forces acting on the tire. During normal operation,internal tire temperatures can exceed 266° Fahrenheit. One of the most common methods to combat this problem is to place an additional layer of thick rubber on the shoulder of the tire to diffuse heat and provide additional reinforcement to the components that meet there. This layer of thick rubber is commonly referred to as a belt wedge and it is placed between the ends of the steel belts. Over the last decade, tire manufacturers have begun using a belt wedge more frequently. However, they are not used on all tires and in some instances the belt wedge used is not adequate.

During the Firestone recall, investigators found that although the tires were manufactured with a belt wedge, the wedge used was half as large as it needed to be. Despite knowing the benefits of a belt wedge for several decades, and in spite of their knowledge from the Firestone recall, tire manufacturers continue to design tires without belt wedges or with inadequate belt wedges. Any tire that does not have a device that provides adequate strength along the belt edges is defective.

 

DEFECTIVE BELT SKIM STOCK

Tire manufacturers often use an inadequate belt skim stock to coat the tire components. The skim stock is intended to act like a glue that fuses the components together during the curing process. Skim stocks also include a variety of chemicals called antioxidants that help protect against the oxidation process. Many tire manufacturers attempt to save money by using insufficient amounts of antioxidants or antioxidants that are not adequate to protect the tire during its foreseeable use. Tire manufacturers refuse to disclose the quantity or quality of antioxidants used in their tires, and deprive customers from making their own safety choices in the marketplace. Tire experts, working alongside attorneys, have been able to uncover some tire manufacturer’s skim compounds through reverse engineering and/or court orders in civil lawsuits. In many cases, a forensic examination of the skim compound reveals the skim stock was inadequate to protect against oxidation and was one of the causes of a tread separation accident.

 

INADEQUATE INNER LINER

Many tire manufacturers design tires that do not adequately hold air within them. Modern tires do not have a tube inside of them. Instead, the tire has an inner liner that performs like a tube. A well-designed tire will have an inner liner that is sufficiently designed to prevent moisture and compressed air from escaping out from the rim and/or entering into the other layers of the tire. If air escapes from the inner liner and enters the other components, it will accelerate a process called oxidation. Oxidation breaks down the rubber components of a tire and also causes rust. How well an inner liner stops air loss is dependent on a number of factors, but its chemical formulation and how thickly it is applied are the most important. Inner liners are made from a special type of rubber that is intended to be impermeable, meaning that it does not allow air to pass through. If the inner liner is made from high-quality material and that material is used in a sufficient quantity, the liner will stop almost all air from escaping.

However, if inferior materials are used, more air is allowed to enter the components of the tire and a failure becomes much more likely.8 It is generally agreed that the more pure halogenated butyl rubber used in the liner, the stronger the tire will resist air permeation. In 2003, the federal government, through the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), published a study that showed that tires with pure halobutyl rubber liners are twice as impermeable as tires made with diluted halobutyl rubber. The findings of NHTSA echoed general findings from the scientific community, and later studies from around the world reach almost identical conclusions.

 

INADEQUATE RECALLS

From 2002 to 2019, more than 8 million tires have been recalled through NHTSA. Mandatory reports filed with NHTSA indicate that tire recall campaigns have been woefully ineffective. As of January 1, 2013, less than one million recalled tires have been removed from service. This means that in addition to the undisclosed design and manufacturing defects detailed in this publication, there are potentially millions of tires on United States roadways that have a known manufacturing defect. Simply stated, it is more economical for tire manufacturers to silently issue a recall and rely on tire sellers to remove tires from service than it is to diligently seek out consumers who are at risk of injury from defective tires.

Manufacturing Defects

 

IMPROPER ALIGNMENT OF TIRE COMPONENTS

Many manufacturing defects can be attributed to poor factory practices with regard to placing components within a tire. These problems are then made worse by inadequate quality control. Just making sure each tire has the right dimensions requires more than 120 separate measurements—many of which are completed by hand.10 When an error is made in the placement of the steel belts in the tire, the results can be especially dangerous. If too much or too little material is used in the belt package, or if it is improperly placed on the tire, a tire failure becomes substantially more likely.

 

INSUFFICIENT TEMPERATURE OR INADEQUATE BAKE TIME

Many manufacturing defects can be attributed to poor factory practices with regard to placing components within a tire. These problems are then made worse by inadequate quality control. Just making sure each tire has the right dimensions requires more than 120 separate measurements—many of which are completed by hand.10 When an error is made in the placement of the steel belts in the tire, the results can be especially dangerous. If too much or too little material is used in the belt package, or if it is improperly placed on the tire, a tire failure becomes substantially more likely.

 

CONTAMINANTS INTRODUCED DURING THE MANUFACTURING PROCESS

It is critically important that the raw tire components are protected from water and other contaminants throughout the manufacturing process. During the first stage of the tire-building process, the uncured tire is very sticky and any stray dust or debris will adhere to the tire and prevent proper bonding during the curing process. Liquids can cause the steel wires and belts within the tire to corrode. Leaking roofs, puddles on the manufacturing floors, excess humidity, sweat from workers, and spilled drinks can introduce moisture into a tire. Most tire manufacturers have elaborate conveyor systems that allow tires to be transported throughout the plant without touching the floors. When these conveyor systems break down or become backed up, some tire builders will begin stacking tires on the factory floor where the tire encounters liquids, or a variety of debris becomes stuck on the tire. In some instances, disgruntled workers have admitted to intentionally producing inadequate tires and placing contaminants in tires.11 Gloves, screws, tools, stray wire, sunflower seeds, candy wrappers, timecards, chicken bones, and even a live shotgun shell have been found in cured tires.

 

Tire Service Problems

Once a tire is sold, it requires regular maintenance. As vehicle systems, including tires, become more complex, the ability of consumers to perform self-maintenance is decreasing. As a result, many consumers now receive tire maintenance as part of routine procedures from a service center. Unfortunately, some service centers cut corners to save time or money and consumer lives are placed at risk. When a service center agrees to service a tire, the service center assumes a duty to identify and warn of dangerous conditions and to perform repairs and maintenance in a safe and professional manner. The following chart details some of the ways a tire service center can breach its duty.

Common mistakes and/or shortcuts made by tire service centers

  • Failing to remove a tire from service that is more than six years old
  • Selling a tire that has been recalled
  • Failing to properly patch and plug a tire that has been damaged
  • Performing a patch or plug repair on the shoulder or sidewall of a tire
  • Mounting a tire that is not a proper size for the vehicle
  • Placing new tires on the front of a vehicle when only two tires are purchased
  • Failing to remove a tire from service that has less than the legal limit of 2/32 tread remaining
  • Mounting a tire on a vehicle that is a different size than other tires on the vehicle
  • Failing to securely mount a tire on the rim of a vehicle
  • Failing to warn that a tire is not suitable for its intended use

Tire Manufacturers Blame Victims

When a tire fails and an individual is seriously injured or killed in the resulting wreck, tire manufacturers refuse to accept responsibility. Instead, tire manufacturers and sellers will do anything to absolve themselves of liability. When faced with a claim for a defective tire, manufacturers will manufacture frivolous defenses intended to place blame exclusively on the victim, the vehicle the tire was installed on, the roadway, or the owner of the vehicle. Many consumers may find these excuses compelling. However, tire experts, biomechanical engineers, and accident reconstruction experts working alongside attorneys endorsed by the Tire Safety Group have repeatedly proven that these “defenses” are not based in scientific fact.

 

The Myth of Driver Error

A common defense is to claim that the driver acted erratically and failed to control the vehicle after the wreck began. While this is sometimes true, more often it is not. When a tread begins to separate, it causes the vehicle to pull to the side of the tire failure. Some experts have described this effect as applying the brakes to only one tire on a vehicle. As you can imagine, when this occurs, the driver has no idea what is happening and little time to react. Moreover, every steering input made is exaggerated due to the changing vehicle dynamics as the wreck unfolds. Further complicating the situation, as the tread detaches from the tire, the large tread piece will slap the undercarriage of the vehicle, which makes a very loud sound. Understandably, most drivers cannot control a vehicle in this situation and a catastrophic wreck often follows. To supports its false accusation that a driver can control a vehicle in these conditions, tire manufacturers rely on testimony from professional drivers who have been able to control a vehicle when the professional driver knows that a tread separation is about to occur. NHTSA has published a study demonstrating that a planned separation performed by a professional expert does not reflect real-world accident events.18 Finally, most states have laws stating that a driver cannot be blamed if a driver of ordinary skill could not control the vehicle under similar circumstances.

 

PHANTOM IMPACT DAMAGE?

Another way tire manufacturers attempt to blame victims is by alleging that the tire experienced a serious impact with an unknown object at an unknown time that caused severe damage to the tire. This defense is rarely supported by forensic evidence and directly contradicts the numerous print and television advertisements made about the durability of passenger tires. However, even when there is some truth to the allegation, further investigation often reveals that any impact damage to the tire is often made worse due to the poor design and/or manufacture of the tire.

 

AIR PRESSURE?

As described in the section on design defects, some tire manufacturers poorly design inner liners that cause tires to lose air at an alarming rate. Then, once an accident occurs, tire manufacturers blame the victim for not constantly inflating the tire with air. Aside from the hypocritical nature of this defense, it is not supported by factual evidence. Tire manufacturers point to grooves along the bead area of the tire to show that it was operated in an under-inflated state. However, these grooves occur during normal use, even when the tire is constantly monitored for proper inflation and load conditions.

What Damages are Recoverable After Being A Victim of Defective Tire?

The main public policy purpose for tort law is compensation. Compensatory damages are money damages awarded to compensate the plaintiff and make the plaintiff whole. The system is not perfect. Life, limb, and freedom from pain cannot be restored. However, compensatory damages are a means of attempting to place the plaintiff in the same relative position that he or she was in before the loss by way of monetary compensation.  If the accident result in a death, then special rules apply and the standard for damages changes dramatically.  The case is considered a wrongful death claim.  You can learn more about the damages available in a wrongful death claim here.

When a person is injured by a defective tire, they will face economic and non-economic damages. This includes medical expenses (hospital bills, medications, physical therapy, etc.), property damage, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, lost income and disability.  In rare instances, they may also be entitled to punitive damages.

 

 “General” Damages for Injuries Caused by a Defective Tire

General damages are “non-economic” losses, such as pain and suffering, disfigurement, or mental anguish, all of which have no specific, itemized value.  The monetary value of general damage is determined by the jury, and jury verdicts are not consistent.  A broken ankle in one courtroom could be worth $10,000 in pain and suffering.  In another courtroom, it could be worth $100,000.  Matt Wetherington tried a case in Fulton County that resulted in a $2.8 million verdict for a broken ankle.  You can read about that case here.  However, it is important to know that jury verdicts and settlements vary widely, even for the exact same injury.  The variance is due to the individual plaintiff, the jurors at the trial, and the effectiveness of the injured person’s attorney. Here is an example of a verdict form from one of Matt Wetherington’s cases, where a jury awarded $4.5 million for the “general” damages portion of its verdict:

after a truck failed to stop at an intersection and cut off a motorcycle rider, Matt Wetherington helped the rider obtain an $8.6 million verdict for his injuries, which included amputation of his leg. The verdict set a county record and earned Wetherington a spot in the Georgia Verdicts Hall of Fame.

If you eventually go before a jury in a Georgia court, here are the instructions that will be read to the jury regarding damages that can be recovered:

Tort Damages; Pain and Suffering; Generally; Mental; Future

Pain and suffering is a legal item of damages. The measure is the enlightened conscience of fair and impartial jurors. Questions of whether, how much, and how long the plaintiff has suffered or will suffer are for you to decide.

Pain and suffering includes mental suffering, but mental suffering is not a legal item of damage unless there is physical suffering also.

In evaluating the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, you may consider the following factors, if proven: interference with normal living; interference with enjoyment of life; loss of capacity to labor and earn money; impairment of bodily health and vigor; fear of extent of injury; shock of impact; actual pain and suffering, past and future; mental anguish, past and future; and the extent to which the plaintiff must limit activities.

 

Tort Damages; Pain and Suffering; Future

If you find that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering will continue into the future, you should award damages for such future pain and suffering as you believe the plaintiff will endure. In making such award, your standard should be your enlightened conscience as impartial jurors. You would be entitled to take into consideration the fact that the plaintiff is receiving a present cash award for damages not yet suffered.

 

Tort Damages; Pain and Suffering; Preexisting Injury; Aggravation

No plaintiff may recover for injuries or disabilities that are not connected with the act or omissions of the defendant in this case. There can be no recovery for a particular plaintiff for any injury or disability that was not proximately caused by the incident in question.

If you should find that, at the time of the incident, the plaintiff had any physical condition, ailment, or disease that was becoming apparent or was dormant, and if you should find that the plaintiff received an injury as a result of the negligence of the defendant and that the injury resulted in any aggravation of a condition already pending, then the plaintiff could recover damages for aggravation of the preexisting condition.

 

 “Special” Damages for Injuries Caused by a Defective Tire

Special damages are “economic” losses, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or the cost of hiring household help, all of which do have a specific itemized value and can be more easily determined or calculated on a simple mathematical basis – once you have obtained the necessary records to prove that the expenses were incurred.  It is important to note that only medical expenses “proximately caused” by the excessive force can be recovered.  If you would like to learn more about how proximate cause is determined, click here.  For simplicity sake, you should know that proximate cause is often highly contested.

 

Punitive Damages for Injuries Caused by a Defective Tire

In tort actions, there may be aggravating circumstances that may warrant the awarding or imposing of additional damages called punitive damages.  Punitive damages, when authorized, are imposed not as compensation to a plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.  To recover punitive damages, the victim must prove that the tire manufacturer’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care that would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.

 

The Spouse of an Injured Persons is Entitled to Recover Also

The spouse of an injured person is entitled to recover for something called a loss of consortium.  Loss of consortium damages compensate for the loss of any services one spouse provides to another. Besides those sexual in nature, such services may consist of cooking, cleaning, household chores, household repairs, general companionship, and everything else that comes with a marriage.

Why Should I Hire a Defective Tire Lawyer in Atlanta?

Defective tire cases involving large medical bills or potentially serious injuries always need the guidance of an attorney.  An experienced defective vehicle attorney can make a huge difference.  If you are undecided about hiring an attorney, call us for a free consultation.  We will walk you through our process, explain what we can do and how we are going to do it.

The Wetherington Law Firm has the experience and financial resources needed to prove your case and obtain full compensation for your injuries.  Every personal injury client receives a dedicated team of lawyers and supporting staff who will do the heavy lifting so that you can focus on recovering from your injuries.  Our clients trust us to do everything possible to obtain full value for their injuries.  Our firm works exclusively on contingency.  That means that you do not pay us a single penny unless and until we obtain a recovery for you.  When you hire us, you can expect us to take the following steps immediately:

  • Preserve all evidence, including the vehicles and tire involved your incident;
  • Identify and interview all witnesses to your incident;
  • Identify all possible defendants;
  • Identify all insurance policies;
  • Develop the evidence necessary to determine the correct standard of care for each defendant;
  • Fully document your current medical condition;
  • Negotiating your medical bills;
  • Work with your physicians to understand your future medical needs and how much they will cost; and
  • Keep you informed every step of the way.

 

Every case receives a dedicated team of experience medical malpractice lawyers and supporting staff who will keep you informed throughout the case.
Every case receives a dedicated team of experienced defective vehicle lawyers and supporting staff who will keep you informed throughout the case.

 How to Hire the Best Defective Tire Lawyers in Atlanta

Hiring a lawyer for your defective tire claim is one of the most important financial decisions you can ever make.  Choosing an unqualified lawyer can result in a devastating result.  There are many attorneys who hold themselves out as “experts” who have never tried a case or even settled a case involving a defective vehicle.  It is important that you ask any prospective attorney about his or her experience with defective product lawsuits, specifically involving tires.

Call or email us today for a free consultation.  If we accept your case, it will be on contingency.  That means that you do not pay anything up front and only pay us if we win your case.  If we do not accept your case, we will help you find a lawyer who can.  We generally only accept cases involving significant injuries.  However, we know many good medical malpractice attorneys and will make sure that you do not have to search around for someone to accept your case.

 

You Can Make a Lasting Difference in the Lives of Others by Hiring the Wetherington Law Firm

Obtaining full and complete compensation for our clients is the most important service we provide to our clients.  Protecting the general public and making sure that other people are protected is part of obtaining justice.  We frequently work with law enforcement, local government officials, state legislators, and federal agencies to understand the root cause of dangerous conditions.  This often leads to uncovering dangerous trends or patterns of behavior that must be changed.  Many of our clients have chosen not to be defined by their injuries, and instead choose to serve as a beacon of hope to others.  Whether through legislation, refusing to settle unless changes or made, or simply sharing their story, our client’s efforts have helped save MILLIONS of people from serious injury or death.  If you can help prevent even one other person from being hurt or injured by the same problem, it will help make every day of your recovery a little bit better.  We care about you as a person and will work with you however you want to help make the world a safer and better place.  Call us now to get started.

Have You Been Involved in an Accident Involving a Tire?

Call or email us anytime. We accept all cases on contingency, which means that you only pay if we recover money for you.

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Why Hire Us?

Reputation matters. Our firm only pursues high value, meritorious lawsuits. The insurance companies may not like us, but they respect the work we do and results we obtain for our clients. When a case moves into litigation, the defense attorneys know that we have properly investigated the claims, know the applicable law, and are preparing the case for trial.

There is no risk when hiring our firm.

We do not charge attorney fees for obtaining property damage or medical payment coverage for our clients. Other firms charge for this service.

We have saved our clients millions simply by negotiating medical bills and fighting invalid medical liens.

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