Attorneys Discuss Rare, But Fatal, Truck Wheel Separation Accidents
They are often regarded as "freak accidents." Truck crashes caused by wheel separation are typically rare. When they occur, they often create a path of destruction. Unfortunately, many truck wheel separations go unreported. When an unsuspecting motorist is suddenly struck by a rogue wheel, the source may be unknown at the time of the crash.
Truck wheel separations usually happen at high speeds and on major roads or interstates. Once a wheel is propelled onto the roadway, it can strike other vehicles and obstruct traffic. A separated wheel can be projected onto other roadways or roll off an overpass. Additionally, pedestrians, bicyclists, and even building occupants can be struck. Due to its size and weight, a truck wheel can inflict a significant amount of damage.
Aside from the rogue wheel, the large commercial vehicle itself can careen out of control and cause a collision, jack-knife accident, or rollover.
What causes wheel separations?
The cause of wheel separations comes down to maintenance - and the trucking company and driver are both responsible for taking care of:
- Poor bearing installation: The wheel bearings allow truck wheels to rotate without creating friction. Improper installation or adjustment can result in friction, thus eventually causing the wheel to fail.
- Installing a wheel on an unclean or uneven surface: When installing a wheel, the contact surfaces should be clean and flat. Any buildup of dirt, rust, or grease can result in an uneven wheel installation and cause the lug nuts to loosen.
- Improper torque: When fastening the lug nuts, too little or too much torque can result in a lost or detached wheel. Applying more than 500 ft-lbs. of torque can cause the studs to overstretch, which can compromise clamping force and result in wheel failure.
- Re-using wheel components: While some wheel components can be re-used after a thorough inspection, they will eventually wear out. This can result in a loss of clamping force.
- Failure to inspect vehicle: Since large commercial trucks can weigh as much as 80,000 lbs., they pose a serious liability to other road users. That's why it's important that these vehicles are frequently inspected by drivers and maintenance staff. Any defects found should be fixed before placing the vehicle back into service.
When negligence occurs, our legal team can help
Officials first began scrutinizing wheel separation accidents in 1992 after several incidents in the fall of 1991 that resulted in seven fatalities. Since then, the problem has been mitigated by strict maintenance regulations and commonplace procedures, but these accidents continue to happen.
One truck accident caused by a wheel separation in Illinois made national headlines in 2018. The passenger vehicle driver was on her way home from work on Interstate 80 when a 100-pound wheel came loose from a large truck and smashed into her windshield. She was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead.
If you or a loved one was involved in an accident with a large commercial truck, it's crucial that you consult with an experienced Jacksonville truck accident attorney.
Investigating these types of crashes may be a challenge, especially if the truck driver was unaware that a wheel detached from his or her vehicle and failed to stop as a result. The legal team at Pajcic & Pajcic will launch a thorough investigation into the cause of your crash. They may include obtaining a detailed police report, speaking to witnesses, and issuing a subpoena for camera footage (if available).
We have a proven track record of helping injured motorists seek justice - including a $9.65 million settlement in a fatal accident involving a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.