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South Florida has had an alarming number of bicycle accidents in the last ten years. The rise in bicycle accidents can be attributed to many factors including the increasing number of bicyclist and the increase in traffic congestion. Unfortunately, the South Florida infrastructure has not kept pace with the increase demand by cyclist and motorists.

A misconception of bicycle accidents is that all accident involve a collision with a vehicle. In addition to the dangers associated with sharing roadways with vehicles, bicyclist encounter unknown dangers in the form of poorly maintained roads, uneven roadways, and improperly designed roadways. When a bicyclist crosses an unpaved road or uneven road, his ability to control his bike is diminished and they are exposed to serious and permanent physical injuries.

As Miami bicycle attorneys we had the opportunity last year to represent two young adults who suffered serious injuries in two separate bicycle accidents.

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We have previously written that the three principle do’s for tire failure cases are: 1) preserve the evidence; 2) preserve the evidence; and 3) see rules numbers one and two. This is because, except for in rare cases, product defect allegations, including tire defects cannot be proven without the product being available for forensic inspection by experts.

Preserving the evidence means, that where possible, the evidence is obtained, and placed into storage in a fashion that will prevent the product from deteriorating. For tires and motor vehicles, this typically means placing the items in dry storage under lock and key.

If the product is altered, lost, or damaged, the party who had responsibility for possession and control of the product may be charged with spoliation. Spoliation is defined by Black’s Law Dictionary as the “intentional or negligent withholding, hiding, altering, or destroying of evidence relevant to a legal proceeding.” If a court determines that a party is guilty of spoliation of evidence the court may strike the pleadings of the party guilty of spoliation, or instruct the jury that the jury may infer that the evidence would have provided damaging evidence against the party guilty of spoliation.

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As hot weather leads to more tire failures in Southern states, Miami tire lawyers need to understand how to counter specious defenses raised to deflect attention away from the fact that a tire has been defectively designed or manufactured.

One of the defenses commonly encountered by tire lawyers is the defense theory of rim flange grooving.

The rim flange of a tire is the slightly recessed area at the very bottom of the sidewall of a tire which comes in contact with the wheel rim when a tire is mounted on a vehicle. For the laymen, this is the circumferential piece of rubber adjacent to the circular hole in every tire. It is a very thin area of rubber which goes around the tire next to the hole, is slightly depressed from the rest of the sidewall, and may have a pattern or sheen which is slightly different from the rest of the sidewall.

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As we approach the summer months, Florida tire lawyers will unfortunately see an increase in tire failures resulting in rollovers. This has been an undeniable pattern since steel belted radial tires were introduced four decades ago.

003.JPGStudies have shown that tires, whose chronological age is older than six years, have a higher propensity for experiencing tread separation events. This is not only borne out by studies focusing on tire age, but it is also supported by scientific analysis happens to rubber over time.

The passage of time has a deleterious effect on the elastic and supple qualities of rubber. Studies have shown that over time rubber hardens, loses elasticity, and has a lower break point tolerance. The qualitative effect on rubber by time can be observed by the laymen in rubber bands which become brittle, break more easily, and have less elasticity as time goes by.

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The manner in which the tread of a tire peels away during a tread separation event will dynamically affect the stability of the vehicle. Miami tire lawyers need to understand these dynamics because tread separation events happen most frequently in the warm weather states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California.

Vehicle dynamic experts have studied the effects of the tread of a tire peeling away with the top steel belt while leaving the carcass of the tire and the underlying steel belt intact. These events typically occur at highway speeds because the centrifical forces required to have the tread disengage from the rest of the tire are only reached at highway speeds.

The length of time that it takes for the actual disengagement of the tread is proportional to the amount of vehicle instability. With each rotation of the tire there is a drag and pulling dynamic which occurs in the direction of the side on which the tread separation is occurring. During this time that the tire is breaking apart, there will be an influence on the driver to make steering adjustments in the direction opposite to vehicle side where the tread separation is occurring. The longer the tread separation occurs the more adjustments are made.

When the tread finally releases from the tire, the vehicle will suddenly and unexpectedly change from an understeer vehicle to an oversteer vehicle at which time all of the subtle adjustments made by the driver will create a dramatic and over exaggerated response in the opposite direction to the side of the vehicle on which the tread separation occurs.

This is the reason why one commonly sees a vehicle rollover to the left when the right rear tire experiences a tread separation, and conversely a vehicle will go off the road to the right when it is the left rear tire which suffers a tread separation.

All during this period when the tread is pulling away from the vehicle it can slap against and interact with many parts in the undercarriage of the vehicle, creating additional erratic forces.
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