Iowa is a great place to live and with Texas we share a long interstate highway along with a full crop of young adults learning the ways of the world. In this story Texas youth and Iowa youth probably have a common lesson to learn. Our two states share a long interstate highway, I-35. It goes from Minnesota then heads south through Iowa, then Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and ends somewhere down in Texas. Today we have an interesting accident that can tell us something about young drivers aren’t learning that they really need to know to stay safe.
The report is about an accident in Dallas on I-35 where you have a semi-truck losing a wheel that strikes a minivan with a child passenger who is injured and taken to the hospital. Which leads me to wonder about how the wheel came off? The report is that a tire came loose and became a projectile but that’s nearly impossible. It’s important that we report things accurately in order for people to understand what went wrong and how to avoid a wheel coming off.
If you get new tires, you should within a few days return to the garage to have the lug nuts tightened. That’s especially true if you have alloy or aluminum wheels. Under tightening, coming loose or over tightening are all recognized problems with serious consequences. As the Tire Industry Association recommends:
Q: Why should I bring my car back to the tire dealer to check the lug nuts for proper torque?
A: Everyone knows the problems associated with loose lug nuts, but overtightening (sic) the lug nuts can be just as dangerous. A simple torque check shortly after a tire rotation or installation can identify a damaged stud or lug nut.
Q: How often should I check the air in my tires?
A: Tire inflation pressure should be checked at least once a month when the tires are cold or have sat for at least three hours.
I've had several clients come to me with this problem. The fact pattern is usually one where they had work done on the car, SUV or truck and that work included the something requiring removal of the wheels or a wheel. A week of will go by when suddenly and without much warning while driving the wheel comes off. The first question that comes up is, how do you know it was what the garage did or didn't do that caused the wheel to come off? Where has the car been parked? Who had access to it over that two week period? You know there is no way to prove it was the mechanic's fault for leaving a lug nut off or not tightening the lug nuts enough or overtightening them. Your suspicions are fine, but in a court of law we need real hard evidence that leads us to conclude by a preponderance of evidence to be able to establish causation. And guessing isn't good causation evidence.
The last client to come and ask me about this type of defect had a clue that something was wrong. The car handled funny and the driver, a young adult, described a rumbling or loud noise coming from the rear of the car. Every young adult learning to drive should also learn to change a tire so that they are familiar with what a lug nut is, what it does and that it's simply a big nut that can come loose. That sound was probably the wheel coming off as it rotated, after all the lug nuts had come off. The wheel was off center or off balance and was wobbling against the inside of the wheel well of the car body. If you hear or feel this sensation while driving immediately pull the car over to the side of the road. Get out and walk all around the vehicle checking the wheels for the lug nuts.
In the most recent case, the driver pulled over but didn't know what to look for and continued on down the road where the van lost control and rolled. I have to wonder if we'd had a different outcome had he known what to look for. Be safe!
That’s enough for today, but come back tomorrow to read The Verdict blog/blawg at Lombardi Law Firm where I will discuss other car-truck-semi-motorcycle accidents in Iowa. And as always if you are in an accident and need legal services we encourage you to call us sooner, rather than later.