For Want of a $3 Truck Part, a Life Is Lost

For Want of a $3 Truck Part, a Life Is LostA tragedy occurred in Mississippi when a Tulane University student was struck and killed by two truck tires while she was sitting at a rest stop. USA Today reported that the student was getting ready to get back into her vehicle when two tires which had come loose from a tractor-trailer rolled across the Interstate striking the young woman and tragically killing her.

The head of the Mississippi Department of Transportation (DOT) said that a “metal ring – a three-inch locking washer – was missing.” Tractors should have two of these rings in place to secure the lug nuts which hold the wheels in place.

State inspectors ordered that the truck be taken out of service due a leaking seal, a violation of state law. The director of the state DOT said that the leak wouldn’t have caused the wheels to come off. It was more likely that the wheels coming off caused the leaking seal.

The DOT director said that it’s unlikely the three-dollar ring would have been broken off. The more likely scenario is that the ring was never installed.

The truck is owned by a New Jersey trucking company though it is listed under an Alabama company. According to the USA Today story, both trucking companies have better than average safety ratings with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The missing ring is not something that is normally detected in “unannounced roadside inspections that are logged into the federal database.”

According to a truck safety expert, wheels generally fly-off of 18-wheelers for one of the reasons:

  • Improper installation
  • A sheared axle
  • “A wheel seal failure in which grease is lost and the metal overheats”

The expert said wheel separations generally happen on the left side of the truck.

The student who was killed was a senior. She was studying ecology and evolutionary biology. The president of the university described Ms. Maurer as an “extraordinarily gifted student and a leader among her peers” in a written statement. She was planning to combine her love of science, art, and nature to work as a scientific illustrator

Liability for faulty truck parts

In this type of case, if it can be shown that the trucking companies failed to install the ring, the parents of the deceased student could likely file a wrongful death claim against the trucking companies for negligence.

If, after further investigation, it was found that a defective truck part caused the wheels to fly off, then the parents could file a wrongful death claim based on product liability against the truck part manufacturer.

At Cunningham & Mears, our negligence and product liability attorneys work with engineers, truck accident experts, and product safety experts to determine how truck accidents happen. Our Oklahoma City lawyers then work with the victim’s family to file a wrongful death claim if someone died to the fault of a driver or trucking company. Wrongful death damages include compensation for the grief and loss of a loved one and other damages. For help with any death claim, please call our caring lawyers. You can call us at 405.212.9234 or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.