If you’re in traffic next to a driver as they experience a tire blowout, you usually have no time to plan an exit strategy. While attempting to recover control after a blowout, a driver’s actions and reactions are often similar to a distracted or drowsy driver or a person under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers often lose control when a blowout occurs. If you’re in an adjacent lane, you and your vehicle will likely become unanticipated casualties.
When a driver is traveling in traffic at highway speeds, a blowout accident sometimes causes extensive damage and serious injuries to those around them. The damage potential increases when a larger vehicle like a pick-up truck collides with a smaller vehicle. When a tractor-trailer rig operator experiences a blowout, the resulting accident often damages multiple vehicles and can cause serious or catastrophic injuries, which warrants consulting a experienced personal injury attorney.
Blowout Accidents in Florida
Blowout accidents occur regularly on Florida highways and on roadways across the country. Several recent crashes across the state caused serious injuries, a fatality, and extensive property damage. Fortunately, injuries were limited in some of the accidents as they occurred on uncrowded roads and involved only a single vehicle.
- June 4, 2019, Pawnee County: A semi-truck hauling cattle overturned due to a blown tire. A passenger in the truck sustained minor injuries. After 6 hours of effort, the emergency crew freed the driver from the wreckage using the jaws of life. The cattle escaped but were later recovered.
- May 28, 2019, Walton County: Heads of cauliflower rolled across the highway after a tractor-trailer rig crashed through a guardrail and overturned following a blowout. The driver didn’t report injuries.
- April 26, 2019, Palm Beach County: A truck delivering donated goods overturned after a tire blowout on the Florida Turnpike. Many of the donated items and perishable goods were unsalvageable. Accident debris caused additional tire blowouts on several tractor-trailer rigs driving through the area. No other cars were involved and the driver reported no injuries.
- November 18, 2018, Sarasota County: A tire blowout caused a rollover crash that critically injured three men. A fourth man sustained minor injuries.
- November 11, 2018, Polk County: The driver died at the scene after his RV tire blew and he lost control and ran into a light post.
What Causes Blowout Accidents?
Blowout accidents occur when a tire bursts due to an air pressure problem. While blowouts occur suddenly, a tire often blows because of conditions that developed over time. The following issues cause difficulties with a tire’s air pressure.
- Vehicle overload
- Impact with a road hazard
- Traveling too fast over a worn road surface
- Cut or damaged tire
- Under-inflated or overinflated tires
- Worn or uneven tread
- Tread separation
- Age-related deterioration
- Manufacturing defects
When a blowout occurs, there’s often a delay in the driver’s reaction time as they try to figure out what’s happening. The driver must regain control of an out-of-control vehicle that’s riding on three wheels instead of four. Until the driver brings the vehicle to a full stop, it wobbles and shakes and becomes unstable. Control is difficult, especially at high speeds. Some vehicles swerve into adjacent lanes and collide with other vehicles. Others completely lose control and roll over before the momentum fades.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s study, Tire-Related Factors in the Pre-Crash Phase, explains that driver inexperience is a factor in successful vehicle handling, safety, and tire-related accidents. The agency found that drivers with a year or less driving experience usually don’t know how to maintain a vehicle, including its tires. Inexperienced drivers pay less attention to tire maintenance and tire pressure. Tire issues contributed to approximately 12 percent of crashes involving inexperienced drivers. 4.8 percent of crashes amongst other drivers involve tire-related issues.
Blowout Accident Statistics
Each year, tire blowouts cause rollovers and other serious accidents. Injuries vary depending on the vehicles involved, their speed, and the circumstances immediately before and after an accident. Blowout accident injury statistics were previously inaccurate or incomplete until the NHTSA made recent changes in the way it documents tire-related accident data.
Statistics for 2017 show 738 tire-related accident fatalities across the country. Florida’s 2017 Traffic Crash Facts lists no blowout-accident casualties. But as the recent accident examples listed above show, blowout accidents occur frequently on Florida Highways. Florida traffic crash facts report does document rollover-related injuries (175 fatal injuries, 912 incapacitating injuries, 1,836 non-incapacitating injuries, and 1,832 possible injuries.) While “blowout” isn’t listed as the official cause, it’s reasonable to conclude that blowouts and other tire issues contributed to at least some of the documented rollovers. Moving forward, statistics should document blowout accidents more effectively.
Who Is Legally Responsible for a Blowout Accident?
Blowout-related crashes are accidental. Still, like other accidents, they are also largely preventable. Several individuals and entities can be responsible for causing a blowout crash and the damages sustained by injured victims.
- The driver or owner: A Blowout accident is often the result of a driver’s or owner’s failure to inspect and maintain or replace a vehicle’s tires. They are responsible for an injured person’s damages when their failure to comply with known safety requirements contributes to an accident. Drivers and owners can easily meet tire safety standards by relying on an automotive professional to perform the necessary services.
- Tire manufacturer: When a blowout accident occurs due to a tire manufacturer’s defect, Florida’s Comparative Fault Statute, §768.81, allows a jury to consider the manufacturer’s liability when apportioning damages. But vehicle owners and drivers still bear some responsibility when an accident occurs. An owner can register their tire purchase which places them on a list to receive recall and defect information. A driver can discover a defect during a routine inspection. Drivers and owners can also research tire defects and recalls at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Safety Issues & Recalls site. These actions can potentially resolve vehicle defect issues before they cause an accident.
- Vehicle manufacturer: As of 2007, federal regulations began requiring new vehicles to include a tire pressure monitoring system. The system reduces the chance of tire-related accidents by notifying a driver when tire pressure is unsafe. If this system fails to perform and that failure contributes to a blowout accident, the vehicle manufacturers would share liability for damages and injuries.
- A municipality or governmental entity: If a road hazard triggers a blowout accident, the private property owner or the municipality responsible for maintaining the pavement or road might share responsibility for the damages. Potholes, deteriorating pavement, road construction debris, storm debris, and other conditions can also damage tires and cause blowout accidents. But driver error is also often a factor during a pavement-triggered blowout. A driver can safely navigate adverse pavement conditions if they drive at a slow enough speed.
- The injured person: If the defendants prove that an injured person’s actions contributed to their injuries, a jury must reduce their settlement by the percentage they were at fault for the accident. Florida assesses fault based on a pure comparative negligence standard. Even if an injured person is 90 percent negligent, they may still collect 10 percent of their damages.
No-Fault Benefits Provide Primary Coverage for Medical Bills
Regardless of who is legally responsible for a blowout accident, if you are injured, your personal auto insurance carrier is responsible for paying your medical bills and other costs. Florida’s No-Fault Statute, §627.737, makes Personal Injury Protection benefits the primary resource for accident-related expenses. PIP benefits cover 80 percent of your medical bills and 60 percent of wages lost because of an accident-related disability. PIP also pays for replacement services.
When a negligent driver or other entity is responsible for your injuries, No-Fault coverage kicks in first. You may collect non-economic damages when your injuries meet one of the tort exemptions described in Florida’s No-Fault Statute, §627.737. The exemptions include:
- A significant and permanent loss of a bodily function
- Permanent injury, excluding scarring and disfigurement
- Significant, permanent scarring or disfigurement
If your injuries fall under a tort exemption, you have a legal right to make a claim against the person or people who caused your injuries.
How Do You Make a Claim Against the Negligent Parties?
If the driver who caused the blowout accident has the required liability insurance, they should report the accident to their own insurance carrier. Their claim department will investigate to determine several key pieces of information:
- Is their insured legally responsible for your damages?
- Do your injuries meet Florida No-Fault tort exemptions?
- What is your claim worth?
Once you’re done with your treatment for your accident-related injuries, the other driver’s insurance company may decide to settle your claim. An insurer won’t usually make an offer unless you or your legal representative initiate settlement negotiations. In some cases, an insurer might just close your claim file and wait for you to go away.
How Do You Make a Claim Against a Government Entity?
If a road hazard or pavement issue contributed to the negligent driver’s blowout accident, you could have a valid claim against the municipality responsible for maintenance. Claims against government entities are subject to something called sovereign immunity.
This means that a government entity has no legal duty to pay a liability claim, but Florida municipalities have waived their immunity under Florida Statute §768.28. If you are injured, you must file a claim through the Florida Department of Financial Service. The process limits damage to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per claim.
What Happens if the Other Driver Has No Liability Insurance?
When a negligent driver has no liability insurance, you may be able to recover your damages from your own insurance company. If you have Underinsured Motorist coverage on your auto policy, your insurance company assumes the role of the other driver’s liability insurance carrier. To determine if they owe you for your damages they examine your claim from the perspective of a liability carrier. They will:
- Investigate your claim to determine liability.
- Assess your damages to see if your claim meets a tort exemption.
- Evaluate your damages.
- Settle your claim based on the responsible party’s liability exposure.
If the other driver has liability coverage but carries a low limit, your Underinsured Motorist coverage pays some of the uninsured damages. Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist coverages are optional in Florida. Your insurance company must offer these coverages when you apply for No-Fault and Liability insurance but you are not required to purchase them.
Should You Negotiate Your Own Claim? No.
You have the right to deal directly with an insurer, although it’s not always a good idea. If you do, you should understand up front that insurance companies don’t always negotiate fairly. If your claim involves complex liability issues, serious injuries, and other potentially responsible parties, an insurance company may offer you a small percentage of your claim’s true value and suggest that you collect additional funds from potential co-defendants. They realize that you might not fully understand the issues and that you may be anxious to settle.
If you or the other driver make a product liability claim against a tire manufacturer, their insurance company may negotiate a settlement or choose not to negotiate at all. Product manufacturers often try to avoid responsibility for damages. If they acknowledge a product defect, it may affect their reputation and future product sales. In some cases, manufacturers offer low settlements because they self-insure their product liability exposures. If they decide to pay a product claim, the settlement funds come from the company’s own financial resources.
It doesn’t always work out when you try to handle an injury claim without legal assistance. The liability issues are often complicated. If your injuries are serious, you’ll need help understanding your claim’s value and recognizing the damages to which you’re entitled. It can be difficult even if you have investigation, evaluation, and negotiation experience.
If you later decide you want to file a lawsuit, your prior efforts may end up sabotaging your case. Your attorney will also have to play catch up to investigate and evaluate your case before the statute of limitations runs.
Should You Consult With a Personal Injury Attorney?
Do not try to handle your own blowout accident claim. Consult with a personal injury attorney to discuss your legal options. An experienced lawyer can provide insight into the claim handling process. They can review your accident circumstances and determine if you have a good liability case against the driver who caused the accident or another entity.
Truck accident attorneys understand recovery options you might not know to consider. They can pursue relevant claims against tire manufacturers and governmental entities. They can evaluate and negotiate cases in ways that produce the best settlements possible. When you need to formalize your allegations against the responsible parties, an attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf and handle your case to conclusion.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA Clearwater Office
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900