Most people know the common causes of car accidents. They’re usually caused by distracted driving, failing to check a blind spot, driving under the influence, poor weather, speeding, and in some cases, worn-out components, like the brake lines or a suddenly decompressed tire. They don’t typically think of a flying tire as the cause of an accident. Unfortunately, it happens, and it’s called wheel runoff.
What Is Wheel Runoff?
Wheel runoff accidents are most likely to happen at high speeds on densely packed highways. It occurs when a tire breaks loose from a vehicle, usually a large commercial truck or semi, and creates two hazards. The first and most chaotic hazard is the flying tire. The second hazard is the vehicle that lost the tire and may be out of control.
Once the wheel becomes detached from the vehicle, it can careen down the roadway, bounce over medians, and go flying through the air. It can even fly off bridges, creating danger for the vehicles on a lower roadway. The vehicle that lost the tire may also lose control, careening out of its lane and hitting other vehicles, medians, or concrete barriers. Secondary accidents can also occur when other drivers brake suddenly and swerve out of their lanes in order to avoid the hazards caused by the wheel runoff.
What Causes Wheel Runoff?
Wheel runoff typically occurs due to poor maintenance, a bad air impact wrench, or improper use of an impact wrench.
The wheel hub and bearings on commercial vehicles should be inspected on a regular basis for wear and tear. These components are critical for smooth tire movement. When wheel hubs become rusted or the bearings lose their lubrication, this can cause extra friction. The extra friction can eventually cause those components to break, and the wheel to come loose from the vehicle.
Improper Use of an Impact Wrench
Impact wrenches are socket tools that are powered by electricity, air, or fluid. They have the capacity to deliver over 500 foot-pounds of torque and are used to tighten and loosen bolts, including the lug nuts on tires.
Lug nuts need about 100 foot-pounds of torque to be sufficiently tight. When lug nuts are tightened to between 300 and 500 foot-pounds, they cannot maintain their clamp load, which is the force that holds the bolt to the threaded screw. In an over-tightened situation, the threads of the bolt and the grooves of the lug nut become stretched and stay stretched. This creates undue wear and tear that eventually causes the bolt and nut to become separated.
Under-tightening or under-torquing a lug nut is also a hazard. When the lug nut isn’t tightened to 100 foot-pounds, it can be worked loose by the rotating tire and vibrations from the vehicle. Under-torqued lug nuts can be caused by an improperly calibrated torque wrench, improper use of the torque wrench or by rusted, corroded, and eroded bolts.
Determining Responsibility in a Wheel Runoff Accident
If you’ve been injured in a wheel runoff accident, determining if there was neglect and who’s responsible can be challenging. Many victims want to blame the driver of the commercial vehicle, but that’s not always the case.
When Is the Driver Responsible?
The driver may be held responsible for the accident if he or she was informed of the under or over-tightening of the lug nuts or the poor condition of any of the components of the tire and the fasteners and failed to have the hazardous situation corrected. Likewise, if the vehicle failed an inspection and was deemed to be unsafe to drive without repairs, and the driver drove it anyway, he or she could be held responsible for the cause of the accident.
Who Else Could Be Responsible for the Wheel Runoff Accident?
Potential responsibility for the wheel runoff accident could fall to the last mechanic to work on the vehicle if he or she over or under-tightened the lug nuts or noticed a hazardous situation with the tires and failed to report it to the company that owned the vehicle and the driver of the vehicle. In addition, the manufacturer of the vehicle may be responsible if the vehicle was manufactured with a defective part that they knew was prone to failure.
What Should You Do if You’ve Been the Victim of a Wheel Runoff Accident?
Wheel runoff accidents can cause significant damage to vehicles and severe injuries to the occupants of those vehicles. If you’re not getting satisfaction from your insurance company and you want a thorough investigation of the accident and its causes as well as a fair payout, you may want to consider hiring a personal injury attorney to investigate your case.
At Solomon Law Group, our attorneys in South Carolina are prepared to help you investigate your accident and find out who can be held liable. To learn more about how we can help you if you’ve been the victim of a wheel runoff accident, get in touch with us today.