Inexplicable Tire Explosion Takes Life of Lehigh Valley Construction Worker
In Lehigh Valley, continual rain flooded a family-run business. In an effort to help his brother dig out of the mud that had poured in, our client told his wife to go visit their grandchildren while he went to a family friend in the excavation business to borrow a heavy-duty truck to haul away mud and debris.
When our client arrived to take the truck, he noticed that there was a flat tire, and with the help of the owner, attempted to change the tire and wheel. Suddenly, while the owner was in the shop retrieving a tool, for no apparent reason the tire exploded, shattering the wheel and rim. Pieces flew into our client rendering him unconscious.
Despite being airlifted to a hospital and the doctors’ heroic medical efforts, our client did not survive, leaving behind a widow, two grown children, and grandchildren.
His family of modest means was shattered. After being contacted by the victim’s daughter, Lundy Law sprung into action. We immediately met with the family, contacted the state police, obtained medical records, and visited the site of the accident. We even found and hired—at our own expense—a nationally-recognized tire expert who we flew in to view the remote site of the wrongful death and inspect the truck.
However, without an explanation of the facts surrounding the accident and the ability to place negligence on the owner of the commercial truck or a defective tire, the insurance companies involved refused to even discuss payment to the aggrieved family. The owner did not see the explosion and the only person who knew exactly what happened, the victim, was dead. Without the facts to support some theory of negligence no one was willing to accept blame for the wrongful death.
Soon after becoming involved in the case, Lundy Law developed a theory with the opinion of the expert that the method employed by the owner of the truck to “air” the tire was far outside the safety measures that should have been taken, which were well known by owners of such equipment.
We argued that the owner was liable merely because he knew, or should have known, that he was creating a highly dangerous condition by failing to engage the proper safety equipment when he allowed the victim to place himself near the tire that was about to be filled.
After grueling cross examination of the owner, and after submission of the expert report, the owner’s insurance company relented and tendered the full amount of the owner’s insurance policy to the family.
But we were not content with the amount available under the truck owner’s policy. The victim carried under-insured car insurance, and we set out to collect under that policy as well. The victim’s own insurer argued against paying under his policy on the grounds that this type of accident was not covered by the car policy, and that the victim, a long-time operator of construction equipment, should have known how to safely place air in these types of tires.
The wording in the policy was unclear and ambiguous. Lundy Law argued that the insurance company drafted the policy language, and the victim would have the expectation of coverage for this type of accident. Finally, we demonstrated that the victim’s knowledge of these types of tires and the conditions under which they should be filled was far outside his experience in the construction job he had held most of his adult life.
The victim’s insurance company had little choice. Facing insurance bad faith damages for failing to pay its own insured under the policy, it finally offered to tender almost all of the insurance policy proceeds. We advised the family to accept the offer and avoid a lengthy and emotionally grueling trial. Having obtained a settlement from the victim’s own insurance, we were able to double the recovery for the family.