“We are currently working on a number of cases where the tread separated from the tire and caused serious accidents,” Spagnoli told LawyersandSettlements.
The problem is that the rubber ages, it becomes brittle and vulnerable to cracking and tread separation.
The tire might have been in the trunk for six years and never even been used. However, Spagnoli says, aging, out-of-date tires can be dangerous. “Tires contain antioxidants and when they stop being effective, the rubber gets brittle and it doesn’t have the same flexibility. Even if it has perfect treads, if it is six years or older, the tire is degraded.”
One of her current cases involves a family whose child was killed when the tread separated from the tire and caused a serious accident.
“The vehicle involved was used. It had been traded into a Ford dealer that fixed it up and put it back on the market without checking the age of the tires. The tires looked good but they were more than six years old,” Spagnoli says.
“Very shortly after, one of the tires had a tread separation and one of their children died in the crash,” she says.
Tread separation is extremely hazardous. It can start slowly but as the tread comes off the tire, it creates a drag. Drivers feel the vehicle pulling toward the damaged tire and pull the steering wheel in the opposite direction. When the tread finally separates, the drag stops and the driver tries to correct the vehicle again creating a rollover situation.
“I work a lot with lawyers who have these kinds of cases,” says Spagnoli.
“I know lawyers who have cases where the tires were 10 years old, 15 years old, 20 years old. In my view this is really an epidemic,” she says. “There are a lot of people who are not aware that the 10-year-old tire in your trunk, that spare tire, needs to be replaced.”
Liability in these cases may belong to the tire manufacturer or it may belong to the car company.
In some cases, the tires may be warranted for 40,000 miles but fail because they are more than six years old. Warnings about when to replace tires are, to say the least, inconsistent and the information is not easily available to consumers.
“There is nothing on the tire itself, there’s nothing they hand out when you buy a tire that says replace this tire when it gets past a certain age,” says Spagnoli.
“There have been efforts both nationally and at the state level to get consumer warnings out there about the danger of aging tires,” says Spagnoli. “But those efforts have met resistance. The lawsuits are in many ways an education tool because the information does filter down.”