A wheel or a tire falling off a vehicle in motion is not an every day occurrence, but it is more common that you might think. Often wheels fall off cars and trucks when they are traveling at high speeds. This can lead to devastating results. At Murphy & Associates PLC we have successfully represented individuals in Kentucky who have been injured in these situations. There are some special considerations in a wheel run-off situation that make these situations different than an ordinary case.
Who is at fault for a wheel run-off?
When a wheel runs off a vehicle, it is important to find out why. Usually the cause is a failure to tighten the lug nuts securely on the wheel assembly. When a wheel is taken off a vehicle and put back on there is a standard procedure for tightening the lug nuts. There are standard torque pressures that have to be used. Most of the time this is done correctly. However, on some occasions when brakes are fixed or tires are rotated a mechanic’s shop wheels are not put back on correctly and the results can be disastrous.
Lug nuts are often started with a pneumatic wrench. But each lug nut should be tightened to the proper load with a torque wrench to make sure the torque is correct on each post. Too little or too much torque can cause a wheel run-off.
How too much torque can cause a wheel failure
If a pneumatic wrench is used to tighten a lug nut on its post and the setting is too high, or too much torque from a torque wrench is applied, the nut can be tightened much too tightly. This can actually cause the post to be stretched. When the vehicle is driven in certain conditions the post expands and contracts microscopically. If the post is stretched under too much torque the metal begins to weaken and the post can snap. When one post snaps the remaining posts share the load unevenly and can begin to fail causing the wheel to fall off the vehicle.
How too little torque can cause a wheel to fall off
If too little torque is applied to each lug nut the wheel will not be held in place correctly. If there is even a little movement, as the vehicle proceeds down the road it can continue to work itself loose. When this happens the wheel working backwards and forward against the posts can weaken the posts and snap one off. Once one post fails the others are subjected to more torque and soon the entire wheel will fall off.
Signs of Wheel Failure
Unfortunately the most common sign that the lug nuts are not tightened properly is the wheel coming off the vehicle. There are usually some shakes and vibrations but at high speeds there are only seconds from when these may be noticed until complete wheel failure. On rough pavement or in noisy conditions a driver may be completely unaware that the wheel is falling off.
Who is responsible for Wheel Failure
KRS 189.290 provides that: The operator of any vehicle upon a highway shall operate the vehicle in a careful manner, with regard for the safety and convenience of pedestrians and other vehicles upon the highway.
However, there is no specific statute directly touching on whether or not a person is responsible for the wheels on their vehicle. Wheel run-offs fall under the general law of negligence. In negligence law, it is important to see who failed to do what they are supposed to. In most cases, wheel failure and run-off cases are litigated against the auto mechanic or dealer who failed to tighten the wheel correctly. This can be a complicated process because wheel run-off usually happens several days or weeks after a wheel is improperly tightened.
How to Prove a Wheel Run-off Case
In any severe automobile accident, the services of an accident reconstructionist are invaluable. An accident reconstructionist can show very scientifically what happened to vehicles in a crash. With wheel run-off cases, it is also important to employ an expert mechanic who can forensically examine the pieces of the wheel available and render an opinion on what happened. The lawyers of Murphy & Associates PLC have worked with both accident reconstructionists and forensic mechanics to successfully win wheel run-off cases on behalf of clients who have been injured in Kentucky and Indiana due to wheel failure and run-offs.
It does not matter whether the wheel came off of your vehicle and caused you injury or the wheel came off another vehicle and cause injury, it is important to have attorneys who understand both the science and art of litigating wheel failure cases.
If you would like to discuss your case, please call (502) 205-2097 today. There is no charge for a consultation and we do not receive compensation unless we recover money for you.