While every truck accident has the potential to cause catastrophic injuries, some are more dangerous than others. Wheel-off accidents are particularly dangerous; not only is the tire a hazard to others on the road, but the truck is also completely out of the driver’s control.
Learn more about wheel-off accidents and who may be liable for damages after a collision. To discuss your truck accident in greater detail with our team of Charleston truck accident attorneys, call Bailey Javins & Carter at 800-497-0234.
How Wheel-Off Accidents Happen
Wheel-off collisions happen when a truck’s wheel assembly separates from the vehicle, entering the roadway and often striking other vehicles or structures. These accidents are not as common as other types of truck collisions, simply because the entire wheel assembly must be extremely damaged for this type of accident to happen. A lot has to go wrong—and when it does, the fallout can be severe. Since there are two potential sources of injury in wheel-off collisions, multiple injuries are always a possibility.
The faster a truck is traveling at the time of the wheel separation, the more dangerous the crash is. A commercial truck’s wheel assembly can easily weigh 200 pounds, and if it has a dual-wheel setup, it may weigh more than 400 pounds. A vehicle component of that size can easily total a vehicle.
A number of factors may lead to a wheel-off accident, including:
- Improper installation: Wheels that are not installed correctly are essentially a ticking time bomb. The improper installation may happen at the time of assembly, during routine maintenance, or during tire changes.
- Insufficient or improperly done maintenance: Trucks need substantial maintenance to continue running smoothly. Maintenance done poorly or too rarely can put significant strain on the wheels and the components that support them.
- Fastener issues: Fasteners may cause wheel-off collisions when they are inherently defective, worn out from use, or over-tightened.
- Excessive vibration: The size and weight of a truck cause significant vibrations. This puts a lot of strain on the fasteners and may lead to wheel detachment far earlier than the company expects the fasteners to wear out.
The Trucking Company’s Role
Multiple parties may be involved in a wheel-off accident claim, and that’s one of the factors that make these cases so complicated. Determining liability is essential, but to do so accurately requires an in-depth investigation that looks at maintenance logs, tests the fasteners and wheel components, and data from other vehicles using the same parts.
To start, trucking companies are legally obligated to perform routine inspections and maintenance on their trucks. These inspections should include wheel and fastener checks since the damage caused by a wheel-off accident can be so catastrophic. They must go one step further and fully document these inspections to show that they have done their part in keeping the roads safe.
Companies are also expected to train their drivers to look for signs of fastener fatigue and wheel issues. Before trips and during long hauls, truck drivers are required to perform inspections. If they aren’t taught how to conduct a proper inspection, the company may be liable.
When repairs are necessary, companies have an obligation to use a vetted repair shop and take care of repairs promptly.
The Truck Driver’s Responsibility
Because truck drivers spend more time with their vehicles than anyone else, they are in a unique position to prevent wheel-off collisions. Their obligations include pre-trip inspections and in-route inspections if their haul exceeds a certain distance. They are also required to report maintenance issues and concerns immediately so their employer can schedule maintenance.
Drivers should also ensure that they are only driving with balanced loads. Unbalanced loads or loads too large for the truck can put excessive strain on the fasteners.
Defective Wheel Issues
In some cases, no amount of inspections could prevent a crash. When a vehicle component is inherently unsafe because it was designed or manufactured incorrectly, liability lies with the manufacturer.
Fight for Full and Fair Compensation with Bailey Javins & Carter
Have you been injured in a wheel-off accident? It’s time to fight for the compensation you’re owed. Schedule your free consultation with the Charleston team of Bailey Javins & Carter. Call us at 800-497-0234 or reach out online.