Poor tire tread is being blamed in a car accident that claimed the lives of four sisters on I-95 Memorial Day.
The group – 11 total in a sport utility vehicle – were in Titusville, on their way home from celebrating their mother’s birthday at a BBQ. The girls who died were 15, 13, 10 and 11. Their 9-year-old sister survived, as did a toddler and several boys, the girls’ mother (who was driving) and her boyfriend, who was in the front passenger seat.
Florida Highway Patrol officials say they intend to investigate the condition of the tire with the tread separation, as well as previous issues with that particular model of vehicle – a Dodge Durango – as well as reported recalls. Authorities also are interested in learning the role that having so many passengers in the car may have played, as well as how many of the individuals in the vehicle were wearing seat belts, as required by law.
An FHP spokeswoman said flat-out: “There were too many people in the vehicle.”
Manufacturer specifications indicate the 2006 vehicle is only intended for eight total passengers.
But whether that played a significant role in the car accident remains to be seen. The girls’ mother said investigators also revealed to her that the tire rods on the vehicle had been listed in two previous recalls. This she was not told when she purchased the vehicle four months earlier.
The 34-year-old mother told investigators she was driving northbound on I-95 around 6:40 p.m. in Titusville, heading home from Cocoa Beach when she felt an odd jerking motion. Suddenly, she lost control of the vehicle, which careened off the road and rolled over numerous times. As it turned out, the left rear tire’s tread had separated.
The children were all ejected. The two adults in the front, who were wearing seat belts, were not. The toddler was reportedly discovered over a 30-foot barrier wall, amazingly with only minor injuries.
Whether this mother may have an actionable claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle will depend on a number of factors. Undoubtedly, even if there were a claim, defendants would raise the issue of the overloading. The good news is that in Florida, we adhere to a pure comparative fault model of civil liability. That means even if a defendant is just 1 percent at-fault for an injury/ wrongful death, but the plaintiff is 99 percent at-fault, plaintiff can theoretically still collect damages on that 1 percent.
Given that this is the start of the summer travel season, we want to encourage all motorists to check their tire tread right away, especially before taking any trips on the highway. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported in a study of 11,500 cars that 50 percent had at least one tire with half-worn tread. Further, 1 in 10 had a tire that was completely bald.
Tires that are worn – or especially bald – can be fatal on wet roads. The problem is the grooves aren’t deep enough to channel water out from beneath the tread, and the result is hydroplaning. The effect is the vehicle will no longer respond to the steering wheel.
Tires are deemed “bald” when one or more grooves reaches 2/32 of an inch deep, compared to 10/32 of an inch that is typical of new tires. If can quickly check your tire tread depth by placing a penny upside down in the tire groove. If Lincoln’s head is fully visible, you need new tires.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Mother: Four Daughters’ Deaths “Too Much,” June 4, 2016, By J.D. Gallop, Florida Today
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Daher v. Pacha NYC – Challenges for Foreign Personal Injury Claimants in Florida, June 1, 2016, Boca Raton Car Accident Lawyer Blog