Guest blog by: Doug Marcello, trucking defense attorney, Marcello & Kivisto, LLC

The ghosts of tire treads past haunt the berms of interstates. The useful life runs out and the tread comes off. Amid the debris are the shards of blown tires.

In congested areas, lost treads and blown tires can make contact nearby vehicles. Blown tires and lost treads can cause claims against your trucking company. Fault is not automatic. You can defend against the claims.

Legal Basis

Liability requires negligence. Did the lost tread or blown tire result from negligence, the failure of someone to reasonably do something they should have done?

The answer is almost always no. Companies and drivers do whatever they reasonably can to avoid the consequences of these occurrences. In addition to preventing accidents involving the public and the drivers, prevention precludes equipment damage, roadside expenses, and downtime in the “clock-is-always-running” world of trucking.

You are generally only liable for a tread-off or blowout if the other person can prove negligence. However, if it is claimed to be a “wheel off”, most states say you are presumed to be negligence.

The theory that presumes negligence if the wheel itself comes off is called “res ipsa loquitur”. That is Latin for “somebody must have done something, or the wheel wouldn’t have come off.” You can still defend yourself, but you’re pushing that wheel uphill in your fight.

Your Defense of Claims

Your defense is based upon having reasonable practices to avoid tread-offs and blowouts and documenting what happened if it occurred. Make sure there is no doubt that this was not a “wheel off”.

Reasonable practices start with preventive maintenance, including period inspections of the tires. Have a PM program and document that you follow it. Record each inspection.

This is reinforced by daily inspections by drivers. Make sure your drivers do the pre-trip, including tires, and document their reporting of any problems.

These efforts may not prevent the unforeseeable tread loss or blowout but can avoid those that are predictable upon inspection. Additionally, these efforts can protect your driver and your company from liability from claims. Document them so that you have the proof when the claim arises if there is tread loss or blowout. Have your roadside assistance note it on the repair document. Have them identify who responded in case you need them as a witness.

Have your driver photograph the damaged tire. This is as crucial for your defense of these claims as much as it is for a major injury accident.

It is key to document that it was not a “wheel off” in both records and photographs. Train your maintenance to document the nature of the event—tread off or blow out.

Have your drivers take pictures of the remaining tire and, more importantly, the wheel still attached and in place. In a world in which people can’t eat without taking a picture of their food with their phone, your driver can snap a quick photo of the treadless tire or remains of the blowout on the rim. Train your maintenance people to remind the driver to do so.

Accidents happen despite the best of precautions. Nowhere is that truer than tread-offs and blowouts. Protect yourself from claims seeking to take advantage of this unfortunate, unavoidable event.

The bottom line: Don’t automatically concede tire or tread off claims.

Learn more about this in the video “Defending Tire Claims.”

Doug Marcello is a trucking defense attorney with a Commercial Driver’s License. He represents trucking clients across the country, having been specially admitted for cases in 35 states. He can be reached at Marcello & Kivisto.

Disclaimer: The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from PrePass or the individual author, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.