Articles Posted in Car Accident

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photo rollover k4.JPGWhen a tire fails, causing a rollover and catastrophic injuries, an investigation will follow regarding the cause of the tire failure.

Tire manufacturers and sellers will rush to propose a catalogue of reasons as to why the tire failed. Not surprisingly, this list will always exclude design and manufacturing defects built into the tire by the tire manufacturer.

Miami tire lawyers and lawyers throughout the country who handle product liability cases will be confronted with dealing with this catalogue of reasons for the tire failure, which will undoubtedly focus on the driver, user, or owner of the vehicle and tire.

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As Miami trial lawyers, who handle a significant number of tire cases, we have been asked to consider what constitutes a perfect tire case. Upon reflection, we believe that such a case is akin to a unicorn, a mythical beast.

The perfect tire case in our view would go something like this: A consumer purchases a brand new vehicle, and upon riding out of the car dealership’s lot, one of the tires suffers a tread separation, which results in an accident causing injury. This event is captured on the dealership’s surveillance video and becomes exhibit #1 at trial.

Unfortunately, that is not the way defective tire cases unravel, literally or figuratively. A tread separation which arises out of a manufacturing or design defect is like a cancer which takes many miles and revolutions of the tire to manifest itself.

These events are almost never captured on video tape and have to be reconstructed by accident reconstruction experts. Furthermore, the many miles required to be traveled before these events typically occur allow for the tire manufacturers to attempt to deflect liability to other roadway events that may have occurred during these miles of usage.

Accordingly, tire attorneys who handle these cases in Miami and throughout Florida are confronted with a litany of defenses, including the usual suspects:

• Some other roadway hazard or event caused the tire tread separation;
• The driver did not properly inflate the tires over a period of time and this contributed to the tread separation event; and • The driver did not respond properly and contributed to the vehicle losing control.

Unlike other types of cases, such as a rear-end automobile accident case, tire defect cases are almost always challenged by a laundry list of defenses, including those cited above. Despite the fact that we have tried and settled over 100 tire defect cases, we have never had the experience of a tire manufacturer admitting, in one of our cases, that they made a defective tire.

If a victim drove out of a car dealership’s lot with a brand new vehicle and brand new tires, and a tire disintegrated and it was all captured on video, perhaps that would engender an admission of liability, but it would not surprise us, if even under those circumstances, a tire manufacturer came up with some creative theory to contest liability.
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Florida’s hot weather makes our subtropical paradise a haven for tire failures. Tread separations and other tire failure events metamorphose a vehicle from an understeer vehicle to an oversteer vehicle.

Most vehicles, including SUVs, when operating properly, are understeer vehicles. Understeer simply means that a vehicle will react with less steering correction than is actually input by the driver. Consider driving down a straight roadway and moving the steering wheel back and forth, yet remaining in a straight line. Properly operating vehicles do not change direction proportional to the amount of input that an operator places in the steering wheel. This allows for greater control and fine subtle adjustments by the driver.

Many tire failures, including tread separations, cause a vehicle to change from under-steer to over-steer. Over-steer means that a vehicle reacts with more change of direction than is actually input by the driver. This contributes to loss of control and rollovers following tread separation events.

When over-steer occurs the unsuspecting driver is placing an amount of input into the vehicle that is reasonable, but the vehicle has undergone a transformation because of the lack of tread in one of the wheel positions. Accordingly the vehicle now overreacts to even a minor steering adjustment causing the vehicle to literally spin out or “yaw” in a clockwise or counterclockwise motion. When this occurs, a driver is virtually helpless to prevent a rollover crash.

Because of this ultra-dangerous phenomenon, it is extremely important for tire manufacturers to design and manufacture tires that resist tread separation.
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748825_crash_car[1].jpgFlorida drivers who do not have uninsured motorist coverage are playing insurance Russian roulette. The best way to protect you and your family in the event of a car accident is by purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. Many drivers are uninformed about UM/UIM coverage. As Miami accident lawyers it is important for us to inform the public about the best protection they or their love ones can have while driving.

Florida is considered a haven for uninsured/underinsured motorists. This reputation has been garnered partly due to the limited insurance requirements issued by the State of Florida. Specifically, the driver of a registered car is required to have insurance coverage in the amount of $10,000 in property damage and no fault coverage. Florida, however, does not require that a driver of a registered car have insurance to cover any bodily injuries he may cause as a result of an automobile accident.

The only way to make sure that there is adequate insurance coverage when you are the victim of someone else’s negligence is to purchase UM/UIM benefits. UM/UIM provides coverage through your own automobile insurance carrier for an adverse driver who was at fault for the accident, and who has no or insufficient bodily injury coverage.

By law, your automobile insurance company must offer UM/UIM coverage up to the limits of the bodily injury coverage that you elect to buy. In addition, if you own more than one car, you can purchase “stacked coverage”, meaning that the limits of coverage would be multiplied by the number of cars in your household that are covered under the policy. Purchasing UM/UIM coverage is an inexpensive way to increase your insurance coverage and protect your family.

As Miami car accident lawyers, we come across many clients who elect not to have UM/UIM motorist coverage. When inquiring as to why they elected not to purchase UM/UIM coverage, a common response is that the insurance agent advised them that they do not need UM/UIM coverage. This is patently not true, because it is relatively inexpensive and allows you to protect yourself from negligent drivers who are uninsured.
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When one rents a car, there is a certain level of consumer expectation that the vehicle will be delivered in good mechanical repair, and with safe tires which are relatively new. Florida roadways are packed with leased vehicles from numerous rental car companies with very recognizable names. While rental car vehicles are typically washed and vacuumed, and delivered with the fresh scent of “newness”, they are not always delivered in a fashion that is consistent with consumer expectations.

We have handled more than one case against local rental car companies in connection with accidents which we alleged were caused by low tire tread resulting in a hydroplaning event. Imagine the surprise and dismay experienced by those who were injured, or their family members, when it was learned that the tire tread on the rental vehicles had been worn down below the level recommended in the safety manuals generated by the very rental car companies that had leased the vehicles.

Tire maintenance issues, including tire tread depth, penetrating objects in tires, improperly repaired holes, or low air pressure are safety issues that are supposed to be dealt with by the car rental company through a process of inspections and preventative maintenance services. Because of our experience, at Jay Halpern and Associates, in handling tire defect cases and other product liability cases, we have been referred to handle tire maintenance cases involving Budget Rent-A-Car, Hertz, and Enterprise Leasing Company. It is surprising to find that the recommended vehicle maintenance schedules, and the car rental companies’ own preventative maintenance schedules are not always followed as prescribed. We believe that these breakdowns represent a violation of consumer expectations when it comes to vehicle maintenance and tire safety.