Tire Failure Investigation
The two most important pieces of evidence in a tire failure case are (1) the vehicle involved in the accident and (2) the failed tire. It is critical to the plaintiff’s case that both of these items are properly gathered and protected from alteration or contamination after the accident.
The evidence can then be analyzed by various forensic experts, industry consultants and accident investigators working on behalf of the plaintiff and his or her attorney. These experts will use their specialized knowledge and experience to determine if a tire failure contributed to the accident and therefore caused the plaintiff’s injuries. If it is determined that a defective tire did cause the plaintiff’s injuries, in whole or in part, the opinions and reports of these experts will be used to help prove causation and substantiate the plaintiff’s claim for damages.
Of course, the defendants and their experts will also need to have access to this evidence. If the tire and vehicle are not properly preserved and available for inspection and analysis by experts from both sides, it could be devastating to the plaintiff’s case.
In one recent California case, a woman was injured in a single-vehicle accident when the tread separated from the rear tire of her Ford Explorer. The car was towed to the scrap yard where the insurance adjuster took a few snap shots to establish that the vehicle was a total loss. The woman’s boyfriend also took a few pictures of the tire and vehicle with a Polaroid camera. The SUV was then scrapped and sold for salvage and the tire was discarded. About a year later, the woman sued Ford Motor Company and Bridgestone/Firestone North America for damages alleging that the tire and the vehicle were defectively designed.
At trial, the court excluded the testimony of the plaintiff’s tire expert and substantially limited the testimony of her directional stability expert. The plaintiff lost the case and then filed an appeal challenging the lower court’s exclusions. The appellate court found that there was no foundation for the proffered expert testimony and upheld the ruling of the trial court.
Despite the well-known and highly publicized defects in both Ford Explorers and Firestone tires generally, testimony of experts regarding the specific defects in the SUV and tire at issue was required to prove the plaintiff’s case. A few amateur photos of the tire and SUV are a far cry from the type of detailed inspection, documentation and testing that is normally done by experts in such cases. Because the evidence was not properly gathered, protected and analyzed, the opinions of the plaintiff’s experts were considered mere speculation. The mistakes made in this scenario could have easily been avoided if the plaintiff contacted an experienced attorney immediately after the accident. In a defective tire lawsuit, the tire manufacturers will, predictably, claim that their product did not cause the accident or the plaintiff’s injuries. Instead they will try to assert that the accident was caused by some other external factor that was beyond their control, such as another driver’s negligence or a roadway hazard like a pothole. They also frequently try to blame the victim for the accident by claiming he or she was negligent, failed to maintain the tire properly or had poor driving skills. In order to overcome these defenses and correctly attribute liability to the parties who defectively designed or manufactured the tire, the plaintiff must have an experienced attorney and solid expert witnesses.
It can take a great deal of money to retain credible automotive and accident reconstruction experts and fund their investigations. Selection and retention of the other medical and scientific experts required to prove the plaintiff’s case will also be expensive and require the wisdom of an experienced attorney.
The Brady Law Group has handled thousands of catastrophic personal injury, accident and products liability lawsuits. We have relationships with the best experts and doctors in California, and we know how to successfully prepare and present a complex defective tire case. If you have been injured or lost a loved one and you believe that defective tire may be involved, contact the Brady Law Group for a free case evaluation today.