Verdict - Summer 2012 - (Page 36)
to Avoid Blowing Your Tire Case
BY JEB BUTLER1 AND MATT WETHERINGTON2
e is driving. There need not be—and probably will not be—any remarkable details. There are no drunk drivers, no s. There are no drunk drivers, ee e u d ve r kers, n n ual steering i excessive speeds, no adverse weather conditions, no unmarked curves, no fatigued trucker and no unusual steering truckers, and no unusual steeri mp, ba oomp” or simply BOOM balo m sim mpl OOM O inputs. Without warning, the vehicle starts to shake. There is a “baloomp, baloomp, baloomp” or simply a BOOM tay in control of the vehicl but t a on o r l h vehicle, ehi from one corner. The vehicle veers toward the sound and the driver attempts to stay in control of the vehicle, but it
e becomes your decedent c u decedent. e nt. t is too late. The vehicle rolls. If the driver survives, he becomes your injured client. If he does not, he becomes your decedent It happens more often than you think. Tire defects and failures received substantial national attention in 2000 when Firestone/Bridgestone recalled more than 6.5 million tires with abnormally high failure rates. However, most consumers do not realize that tire failures are not speciﬁc to a particular brand or to a particular failure mode. Tire failures take many forms: tread separations, belt separations, sidewall ruptures, and patch failures, just to name a few. When and how a tire might fail can be difﬁcult or impossible for a consumer to predict because the failure of a tire can occur at virtually any point in its expected lifetime. There is one thing you can predict, however: when someone gets hurt or killed, the tire industry will attempt to blame the driver, the vehicle owner, and/or a retailer that serviced or installed the tires. Holding the tire industry accountable for its errors is never easy. The tire industry as a whole categorically and unequivocally denies the existence of manufacturing or design defects in its products. A tire defect plaintiff can expect to confront a deep-pocketed defendant who, according to the Northern District of Georgia, may engage in a “pattern of subterfuge and withholding relevant and responsive documents.”3 Your goal is to unearth the evidence—most of which is in the defendant’s possession—and deliver it to a jury. Our goal in writing this article is to offer some 10 practice tips to help get your case rolling smoothly and keep it on track to a fair resolution.
Inspect the Tires in Every Case Believe it or not, it is often difﬁcult to recognize a tire case. The driver of a car that experienced a tire failure—if he survives—often does not know what caused the wreck. Investigating ofﬁcers may not recognize a tire failure either, and therefore may not document it. If an out-of-control vehicle struck the injured party, it is possible that a tire failure caused that other vehicle to lose control. Without an expert, it is often difﬁcult to determine whether a tire was damaged before, during, or even after a wreck. First, locate and secure the vehicle. Then, go and inspect the tires for signs of failure. Inspect them for damage. In some cases, it can be difﬁcult to determine whether a tire was damaged before, during, or after an accident—however, an expert can always help make this determination as discussed below. Also, go to the accident scene and search for vehicle debris or pieces of tread. But do not stop with a manual inspection—consider other indicators of tire failure. Consider the age of the tire, the tire’s manufacturer, whether the tire has been subject to a recall, and the tire’s maintenance history as discussed below.
Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
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