I am not a mechanic. However, I have been driving cars for more than 30 years and have been around a shop once or twice. Recently, an Atlanta mother died when a motorist’s wheel (rim and all) allegedly came off his vehicle and crushed the roof of the mother’s vehicle causing instant death.
Most motorists don’t pay attention to their tires unless they see a little yellow light on their dashboard alerting them to low pressure. I believe the same conclusion applies to motorists who actually rotate (front to the back and back to the front) their tires. But – I digress.
The question is how does a wheel disengage from a moving vehicle. Let’s start by covering the bases of how a tire might blow or rip from the rim. If a tire is underinflated, then the tire has more surface area flat on the road surface while still keeping the chassis suspended on four wheels. In this situation, the tire can flex beyond its elastic limit and overheat and blowout. By contrast, an overinflated tire combined with longstanding tire wear or a poor retread could lead to a blowout. When a tire is overinflated, the tire tread does not adequately grip the road as less tire tread lies flat on the road. Over time, an overinflated tire can lead to a blow out. Yet, these situations don’t account for a complete wheel and rim coming off a moving vehicle.
Here are the basics. A tire is fit around a metal rim. Between the rim and the tire is oxygen or nitrogen that helps fit and secures the tire to the rim. The metal rim is secured to the car by several lug nuts. Additionally, some older vehicles have wheel ball bearings (steel bars held together by a metal ring) that need to be replaced or re-greased over the lifetime of the vehicle. Newer model vehicles have ball bearings that are sealed and do not need any maintenance. The wheel bearings (set of ball bearings) help support the wheel and ride on the axle shaft. The wheel bearing is located at the hub in the center of the wheel. The hub is located where the lug bolts come through the wheel.
Now back to the tragic story. This past Friday morning on the 26th of April, Aila Masud was driving her daughter to school during morning rush hour on I-85. At the same time, Michael Green, was operating a 1998 Dodge Ram Durango in the same stretch of traffic. At some point in time, a wheel (rim and tire) or a tire from Mr. Green’s Durango came loose and flew across interstate traffic and landed on the roof of Mrs. Masud’s vehicle crushing it and causing death to Mrs. Masud.
As of the date of this blog, several different reports conflict as to whether it was a tire or a wheel – the difference could be semantic and the reporters are unknowledgeable regarding same. In either event, the result was tragic. If it was a wheel (tire + metal rim) that came loose, then Mr. Green should be questioned as to the maintenance and inspection history of the wheel and the lug nuts. Attention should be paid to whether any lug nuts were loose, missing or stripped and whether Mr. Green knew or should have known of any improper maintenance or inspection regarding same. If it was a tire, then Mr. Green should be questioned regarding improper maintenance or inspection, including tire tread depth (greater tire tread depth produces a greater grip on the road), rotation history, age of tire and uneven tread pattern. Attention should also be paid to whether Mr. Green had overloaded his truck with weight or if there was a small leak in the tire that went unnoticed. Additionally, investigators should locate the wheel and/or rim to determine if any foreign object in the interstate cut or pierced the tire.
In Georgia, if a motorist (or his/her employer if the company provided the vehicle) knew or should have known that there was improper maintenance or inspection of the tire and/or wheel and it proximately caused injury to another, then that motorist (or company) may be liable for any resulting damage. At this juncture, it is too early to determine if Mr. Green was negligent. However, you can be sure that the Georgia State Patrol and others will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this horrific incident. Our thoughts go out to the affected families.
If you or a loved one has been the innocent victim of foreign debris on the roadway, such as tire, rim or other vehicle component and have sustained bodily injuries and damages therefrom, then you may have a right to be compensated for your pain, suffering and damages. It is of utmost importance to contact an experienced personal injury attorney who is familiar with automobile and tire maintenance as well as other state laws regarding the negligent conduct of the motorist so as to document and preserve evidence and present your claim in a competent and timely fashion.
The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting car and motorcycle wreck and collision and injury cases caused by tire blowout or foreign debris on the roadway throughout Georgia. If you or a loved one has been injured as the result of a negligent driver, then please contact us today for a free consultation and evaluation of your case. We have over 20 years experience and practice throughout the State of Georgia and can come to you. Please call 404-869-6969 or use our toll free number (855) LAW-FORD to secure your rights today!