Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report on a recent jury verdict awarding the plaintiff $11 million after she alleged her 2009 car accident was caused by defective tires. The woman spent over 100 days in the hospital after her tires, manufactured by Continental Tire North America, blew out on a Florida interstate highway.
The accident occurred in May 2009 on Interstate 95 near Port Saint Lucie, Florida. The plaintiff, Tracey Parker, was driving to work when her car’s back right tire suddenly failed, causing her vehicle to rollover three times. She spent 102 days – more than three months – in the hospital, undergoing 17 surgeries. She spent one month of that time at the trauma center in a coma.
After recovery, Parker filed suit against Continental Tire, contending that her accident was caused by her car’s defective tires and resulted in catastrophic injuries. She argued that at the time of the crash she was properly maintaining her tires, the tread wear was even, they did not require repairs, and she had three years left on her warranty. Thus, the tire failure must have been caused by manufacturing or design defects, not owner negligence. The trial lasted about three weeks, and the jury ultimately agreed, awarding Parker $11 million for her medical bills and pain and suffering.
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Continental Tire was hit with a similar lawsuit in 2011, after a seven-year-old girl died in a car accident involving a Jeep Wagoneer. The tire company was able to beat that case, however, for a number of reasons. First, the plaintiff, the father of the little girl, had purchased the tires 11 years before he accident, and was unaware of the tires’ storage history.
The tires showed evidence of improper inflation and excessive heat exposure – they had between 30,000 and 40,000 miles on them. The tires were also mounted on the Jeep even though the automaker recommended installing smaller tires.
Another similar lawsuit was recently filed against Chrysler and Key Safety Systems after a defective seatbelt buckle caused the death of a 17-year-old girl. She was driving her 2002 Jeep Grand Cherokee when another driver merged onto the interstate without looking and cut her off, striking her Jeep. Both vehicles were thrown over the grassy median and into oncoming traffic.
The Jeep rolled over several times and, although the girl was wearing her seatbelt, she was ejected from the vehicle and died on impact. The other driver was uninjured. The teen’s family subsequently filed suit against the other driver, his employer, Chrysler, and Key Safety Systems, which designed the seatbelt.
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At the scene of the crash, investigators determined that the latch of the seatbelt released during the rollover as a result of inertial forces. Key Safety Systems sells two different types of safety belts: one like the one that killed the teenage girl, and another that was designed with a component that prevents such inertial unlatching.
Plaintiffs are now arguing that Chrysler knowingly chose to include the unsafe seatbelt design despite the safer option being available. Had Chrysler chosen the safer version the girl would most likely still be alive today.
Rollover accidents make up about 33% of all deaths from auto crashes in the U.S. If someone dies in a rollover, or is catastrophically injured, that person or their family has the right to file a wrongful death or product liability claim against the automaker, part manufacturer (tires or seathbelt) and another negligent driver. Victims may also filed claims against the bar the other driver was drinking at if it was caused by a drunken driver.
If you or a loved one was seriously injured or killed in a car accident, contact one of our attorneys who can inform you or your legal rights and available options, free of charge.