In a best-case scenario, a detached wheel may only call for a tow truck rather than an ambulance. In some rare cases, however, wheel detachments can cause severe injuries and death on high-speed roadways. They're dubbed "wheel runoffs" or "runaway tires" and are often regarded as "freak crashes."
Detached wheels can be dangerous for several reasons. A video released by CNN shows footage of crashes and close calls caused by wheels flying out of seemingly nowhere:
- In one incident, a wheel can be seen rolling down a major highway, creating a swerve risk for drivers.
- An unsuspecting pedestrian is nearly struck as a tire flies into a building and shatters glass.
- A tire is seen smashing through a storefront window and bouncing off the walls.
- A driver sustained trauma after colliding head-on with a truck tire that flew off an overpass.
- The same truck tire then flew inside of a hotel conference room, destroying a table of refreshments.
Why do wheel detachments happen?
Wheel runoffs are the cause of improperly installed or poorly maintained wheels. In many cases, wheels come loose when the lug nuts aren't fastened tightly enough.
Other common factors in wheel detachments include:
- Misuse of an air impact wrench: Air impact wrenches provide far more torque than manual tools used to loosen and tighten lug nuts. Sometimes the torque of an air impact wrench can be underestimated, resulting in lug nuts being tightened too much. This can cause the bolts to be stretched too far and eventually fail to hold the wheel in place.
- Poor maintenance, common wear and tear: Wheel components (axles, nuts and bolts, tie rods) become worn out over time and need to be replaced. Failure to maintain wheels can lead to a catastrophe when wheel parts begin to break down. Naturally occurring breakdown of wheel parts is often due to rust and corrosion.
Who is responsible for crashes caused by wheel detachments?
When a loose wheel causes someone's injury or death, determining who was at fault may require an in-depth investigation. These are the leading factors that could be involved:
- The driver failed to have the car inspected or properly maintained.
- The driver knew about a short-term defect but failed to fix it.
- A mechanic improperly repaired or installed a wheel component.
- A car dealership sold a car with a dangerous defect.
- A parts manufacturer produced a defective wheel component.
While typically rare, you never know when you may be injured in a crash caused by a detached wheel. Wheel runoff incidents are unpredictable, yet preventable.
If you were hurt in an incident involving a detached wheel, or lost a loved one, you have the right to take legal action against the responsible party. The Vancouver attorneys at The Scott Law Firm, PLLC can launch a thorough investigation and help you build a strong claim. To find out how, contact us online and schedule your free consultation.