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Vehicle Fire and Explosions Still Pose Significant Danger

Even though automakers faced multiple lawsuits in the 1970s and 1980s tied to the location of gas tanks on the Ford Pinto and certain GMC trucks, there are still many vehicles with gas tanks set behind the rear axle, which can lead to fire or explosion after a rear-end collision. Some models of the popular Ford Mustang and Crown Victoria, as well as certain Jeep offerings, still pose a substantial risk of fire or explosion in a crash.

The dangers posed by fuel tanks are not limited, however, by the choice of location. Many people have suffered horrendous injury, and even death, because of fuel tanks that caught fire or exploded as a result of:

  • The use of substandard materials to construct the fuel tank
  • The failure to properly shield a fuel tank so that it is not easily crushed in a motor vehicle accident
  • Improper welding in the construction or attachment of the tank to the car

Lack of attention to other design components has also led to automobile fires or explosions. For example, in some models, metal rods or brackets close to the fuel tank have pierced the tank during an accident. In vehicles that have fuel injection, the high pressure in the fuel lines can force a large amount of fuel into the environment after a collision. Unfortunately, in many vehicles, the fuel injection lines are not designed to seal off in the event of an accident. Furthermore, most fuel injection systems rely on electric fuel pumps, which will continue to circulate gasoline unless turned off.

The injuries sustained in a vehicle fire or explosion can be horrific, and establishing damages can be challenging. It is essential that your attorney have considerable experience handling burn and scarring injuries, so that you can get full and fair compensation for all your losses.

Contact Our Office

To arrange a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000. Evening and weekend meetings can be arranged upon request. We will come to your home or the hospital, if necessary.

Vehicle Fires and Explosions

These incidents may be more common than you think.  From 2008 to 2010, an estimated 194,000 highway vehicle fires occurred in the United States each year resulting in an annual average of approximately 300 deaths, 1,250 injuries and $1.1 billion in property loss. These highway vehicle fires accounted for 14 percent of fires responded to by fire departments across the nation. This according to the U.S. Fire Administration. If you have been injured in such a fire or explosion, we can help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

The Causes of Vehicle Fires

Vehicle fires can have many causes.  There may not be a single cause, but a number of factors contributing to the fire or explosion, including,

  • Fuel system leaks: If the fuel sprays or drips onto a hot part or encounters a spark, it can burn,
  • Electrical system: Failures may cause sparks that ignite spilled or leaked fuel, oil or coolant,
  • Fluid leaks: Fluid (fuel, oil, coolant, brake fluid) leaking into hot parts could ignite,
  • Overheated engine: The pressure and heat from an overheated engine could cause fluids to leak, hit overheated engine parts and burn,
  • Overheated catalytic converter: This part of the exhaust system is under the passenger compartment and helps control pollutants.  If it’s clogged or overheated it can heat up to 2000 degrees.  That kind of heat can burn nearby insulation and the car’s interior,
  • Hybrid and electric vehicle batteries: If they are punctured by a piece of road debris or in an accident, they can burn,
  • Car crash: Though modern crumple zones have made cars much safer, if the gas tank is ruptured or the fuel lines broken and gas is sprayed on hot engine parts, a fire can result,
  • Poor maintenance: If the car owner isn’t getting the car maintained properly or often enough, or the mechanic doing the job makes mistakes, it could create the fluid leaks and electrical problems causing a fire, and
  • Design flaws: The car may be designed in a way that makes it easier for gas tanks to rupture in an accident, for fluids to leak or electrical systems to short and spark.

If severe enough, a burn can be life threatening, cause extensive scarring and life long disability.  The burn and its treatment may be incredibly painful.

When we represent clients in these cases, we thoroughly investigate the cause of the fire or explosion to determine who is the responsible party.  Though the immediate cause of a vehicle fire could be a collision, a design flaw or negligent car maintenance may also be contributing factors.  If there is more than one party to blame, all the parties may be named as defendants in a legal action.

Contact Attorney Michael J. Hood

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle fire or explosion, for a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at (302) 777-1000.