Almost everyone has seen the slabs of rubber lying alongside, and sometimes
on, the highway that mark the location where a truck tire failed. In these
tread (rubber) separates from the
wheel, which remains attached to the truck's axles. Although much rarer,
there are cases where the entire wheel (tire
and wheel assembly / mounting rim) become detached from the axle. When this
happens, detached wheels have been known to travel several hundred feet
before coming to rest! To get an idea of what a wheel separation looks
like if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, take a look at
In this post the
commercial trucking accident lawyer at The Doan Law Firm will review two fatal accidents involving detached
wheels that occurred within a month and whose circumstances were strikingly similar.
The Accident Details
The following summary of the most recent accident is compiled from multiple
sources, including the Bangor
Daily News, the Portland
Press Herald, and
On April 3rd at about 7:30 a.m. Ben Campbell, a polygraph specialist with the Maine
State Police, pulled onto the shoulder of southbound I-95 near Coldbrook
Road to assist the driver of a disabled vehicle. While Campbell was standing
beside his vehicle, two wheels detached from a passing log hauler tractor-trailer.
One of the wheels struck Campbell, who died from multiple injuries shortly
after arriving at Eastern Maine Medical Center.
According to a Maine State Police spokesman, the log truck driver stopped
as soon as he realized what had happened. The truck is one of two owned
by a local owner-operator who was driving at the time of the accident.
A records check revealed that the owner-operator had no significant history
with either state or federal regulators. The tractor-trailer was impounded
and will undergo forensic testing to determine what caused the wheels
Our account of the earlier accident is taken from the New Orleans
Advocate, the Jackson (MS)
Clarion-Ledger, and the Minneapolis
On March 5th, three students from Tulane University were traveling east on Interstate-10
when they pulled into a rest area just north of Gautier MS. As they were
returning to their car, a pair of wheels separated from the left rear
of tractor-tanker that was traveling west. The wheels crossed the highway
median and entered the rest area via its eastbound return lane before
striking the students' vehicle. Margaret Mauer, a 21-year-old senior
at Tulane majoring in evolutionary biology and ecology, died at the scene
but her companions suffered only minor injuries.
The tanker driver left the highway at the next exit and returned to the
area, where he learned of Ms. Maurer's death. He cooperated with the
investigating officers, and a records check revealed that his driving
record revealed no significant violations. The tanker unit was impounded
for detailed inspection by the Mississippi State Police.
What causes a wheel separation?
Wheel separations from big trucks are rare. While it is far too early for
Maine investigators to have reached a conclusion regarding the more recent
accident, the Mississippi State Police are all but certain they have
found the cause of the wheel separation that killed Margaret Mauer: someone neglected
to install a $3 part called a locking washer.
On big trucks, locking washers are used to help stabilize the large "lug
nuts" that secure the wheel assembly to the axle. According to local
news sources, as well as the popular trucker's website
CDLife.com, when inspectors "unpacked" the wheel assembly, only one locking
washer was found rather than the expected two. This, of course, raises
the question of why only one locking washer? We believe that the answer
may be tragically simple: someone forgot to install it the last time the
tire/wheel assembly unit was serviced.
Who is responsible if I'm injured in a wheel separation accident?
Since truck drivers don't change their own tires, improper tire maintenance
will likely occur at either the trucking company's own maintenance
shops or at shop located near major highways if a problem develops "on
the road." Since the
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
requires trucking companies to maintain a record of each commercial vehicle's
maintenance history, it is relatively easy for our law firm to obtain
those records. We can then combine those records with other information
such as accident reports, expert opinions, and computer-enhanced accident
reconstruction to prove
what caused your accident and
who was responsible for your injuries.
As you can imagine, obtaining all the necessary documents and reports necessary
to prove negligence in a commercial trucking accident case can be expensive
in both cost and in the time required to obtain the records you would
need. At our firm, we understand that very few accident victims have the
resources to effectively challenge a big commercial trucking corporation in court.
This is why, when you contact
The Doan Law Firm your case review and consultation with our
commercial truck accident lawyer are always free of charge and do not obligate you to hire our firm as
you legal counsel. Should you later decide to file a lawsuit, we are willing
to assume full responsibility for all aspects of preparing your case for
trial in exchange for a percentage of the final settle we will win for you.