According to ConsumerNotice.org, more than 19 motor vehicle fires take place every hour in the United States. They account for one in every eight phone calls to fire departments. In addition, these fires kill almost seven people every week, resulting in approximately 1,300 injuries and costing $1.1 billion in property damage every year.
Yet, while car fires are less frequent than other fires, they are more likely to result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. That is why if a car fire or explosion injured you, you must understand your legal rights and options.
This blog will discuss what you need to know about car fires and explosions. Then it will go over your legal rights and how an experienced car accident lawyer can help you pursue the justice and financial recovery you deserve after these devastating accidents.
Common Causes of Motor Vehicle Fires and Explosions
A motor vehicle catching on fire is a scary ordeal, and unfortunately, it can happen for various reasons, including everything from electrical malfunctions to manufacturing flaws. However, some of the more common causes for these car fires and explosions include:
#1. Motor Vehicle Accidents
Automobile crashes can result in fires and explosions, especially when the airbags detonate. Plus, if the fuel tank leaks after the accident, a spark can quickly ignite even a tiny leak into a raging fire.
In addition, fuel-fed fires that begin under a vehicle or on the street below the car can spread rapidly as the leaking gasoline ignites.
#2. Car Design Issues
A design flaw in an automobile is not generally going to cause a fire on its own. Rather, these design flaws can make fire inevitable. Yet, although manufacturers can issue recalls to get these dangerous vehicles off the road, it does not stop all the deadly fires and explosions. Typically, the more common manufacturer flaws that can lead to a car fire include faulty batteries, fuel tank leaks, and electrical problems.
#3. Poor Maintenance
If a vehicle owner is not careful with their car maintenance, the vehicle can become significantly more dangerous and increase the likelihood that a car fire may result. For example, if a motorist does not check on leaky seals or does not get broken parts or faulty wiring fixed, it can make the car an ideal location for a fire to develop, and the issues can become a potential deathtrap.
#4. Overheating Engines
Even though the car’s engine will probably not overheat enough to burst into flames, it can overheat and make the internal fluids like coolant and oil rise to dangerous temperatures and begin to spill out of their designated areas of circulation. Consequently, when this happens, these fluids can drizzle, spurt, and drip throughout the engine bay and onto the exhaust system, landing on other hot parts of the vehicle where they can easily ignite and spread.
#5. Electrical Issues
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one of the leading causes of motor vehicle fires is electrical failures or malfunctions. Generally, these electrical failures or malfunctions tend to stem from battery issues, heating systems, heated seats, or after-market accessories. However, even a frayed wire can result in a devastating automobile fire.
#6. Overheating Catalytic Converter
Overheating catalytic converters create often overlooked fire risks. They usually overheat because they work too hard to burn off more exhaust pollutants than they can process. As a result, if the car’s engine is not operating correctly because of worn-out spark plugs or other issues, it will not burn the fuel appropriately, and a lot of extra material will end up in the exhaust system. Consequently, the catalytic converter will have to work extra hard to do its job, making the system even hotter than usual.
However, overheating can damage not only the converter but the surrounding vehicle parts. And once the converter gets hot enough, it can ignite the cabin insulation and carpeting right through the metal floor pan and heat shields, causing damage to you and your car.
Common Injuries Resulting From Automobile Fires and Explosions
If a car catches on fire, people can often sustain catastrophic harm.
Yet, even though these injuries will often depend on the circumstances of the accident, some of the more common injuries that tend to result from vehicle fires and explosions include:
- Extensive burns: These injuries often result in severe skin damage, amputations, and long-term scarring. These burns can also affect breathing, digestion, and other bodily functions, and in some instances, can even result in death. Typically, individuals suffering from this type of injury will require prompt medical treatment, including painful and expensive skin graft surgeries.
- Toxic Exposure: If a car explodes or catches on fire, it usually releases very toxic and hazardous fumes that can lead to lung damage and other respiratory problems. For example, carbon monoxide emissions and burning Styrofoam, which comes from the plastics and dashboard in the car, can cause severe respiratory issues.
- Deep Lacerations: These laceration injuries often result from debris flying after an explosion.
Although these injuries occur most frequently following a vehicle fire accident and explosion, they are not the only trauma that can occur. These accidents can also result in debilitating spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, soft tissue injuries, electrocutions, and other severe injuries that can require extensive and ongoing medical care.
Who Is Responsible for a Car Fire or Explosion?
Because these car fires and explosions can occur for several reasons, multiple parties can cause them, including:
- Car manufacturers
- Automobile parts manufacturers
- Car companies
- Other motor vehicle drivers
However, in addition to this list, there may also be other parties responsible. For these reasons, if you suffered harm in a burning car fire caused by an accident that was not your fault or by faulty equipment, make sure you consult with an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can review what happened, determine if you have a viable case, and help you pursue the damages you need.
Financial Damages You Can Recover Following a Car Fire or Explosion
You may recover compensation following a car fire or explosion caused by another person’s negligent, wrongful, or intentional actions.
Typically, this compensation will include both economic and non-economic damages, such as:
- Past and current medical bills resulting from the accident, such as doctor visits, surgeries, emergency medical treatment, prescription medications, and other assistive medical devices
- Future, ongoing medical treatment expenses
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity
- Personal property damages related to replacement costs and repair expenses
- Other out-of-pocket costs
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of reputation
- Loss of consortium
- Limb loss
- Disfigurement and scarring
In addition, depending on the circumstances of the accident, punitive damages may also be awarded. However, unlike the other damages awarded to compensate the victim for their losses, punitive damages are only awarded to punish the wrongdoer for their egregious actions and prevent others from committing these acts in the future. As a result, these damages are not awarded very frequently.
Steps to Take After a Car Fire or Explosion
A car fire or explosion can engulf you in seconds. Time is not on your side in these situations.
These steps will keep you safe and protect your legal rights:
#1. Contact 911
If you are involved in a car accident, or your car catches on fire because of a faulty part or other reason, you need to call 911 right away. This is the quickest way to alert the local authorities and emergency medical personnel of the accident and the fastest way to get the accident on record. Once the fire department can control the situation and ensure the fire is put out, the police officers can investigate the incident and jot down their findings in their police report. If you decide to pursue legal action following this accident, this report can provide you with valuable evidence.
#2. Talk to Witnesses
If individuals at the scene saw the accident, get their names and phone numbers. These witnesses can often provide you and your lawyer with valuable information regarding the incident and help back up your claim.
#3. Get to a Doctor
Even if you do not require emergency medical treatment following the car explosion or fire, you should still get to a doctor after the incident and get examined. Depending on the accident, you may have suffered injuries, such as brain trauma or internal bleeding that can be fatal. Symptoms of these injuries can take time to manifest, so you may not even be aware of your current trauma.
In addition, getting this prompt medical attention can also help your legal claim, especially since insurance companies are looking for any reason to deny your case or get you less money than you deserve. By not getting prompt medical treatment following your accident, these insurance companies will try to argue that your injuries are not that serious or a result of a subsequent event.
Thankfully, when a doctor treats you soon after the incident, they can write down information regarding your injuries in a medical report, providing you with evidence of a direct connection between the harm you sustained and the car accident.
Get the Legal Help You Need Following a Car Explosion or Fire
To obtain compensation following a car explosion or fire, you will need to be able to show that another person was responsible for your harm and prove the extent of your damages. However, following this devastating accident, how to find and select a lawyer, is probably the last thing you want to worry about.
With an experienced car accident attorney on your side, you will not have to take on this complicated legal fight on your own. Instead, these lawyers can provide you with the legal help you need and go after the compensation and damages you deserve.
Once retained, your lawyers can:
- Go over your accident in detail, evaluate your legal claim, and figure out what legal options you can pursue.
- Answer all the questions and concerns you have about the accident and the legal proceedings involved.
- Thoroughly investigate the incident and gather the evidence needed to show what happened and who was at fault for the harm and losses you sustained.
- Bring in the experts, including engineers, doctors, and accident reconstructionists, to substantiate your claims.
- Ensure that legal motions and filings are appropriately prepared and filed with the correct court before the statute of limitations expires.
- Hold all those responsible for your accident accountable.
- Tackle all the negotiations and discussions with the other side and go after a just settlement offer.
- Take your case to court and fight for the maximum financial damages you need.
If you or a loved one suffered harm from a car explosion or fire, do not wait to get the legal help you need. Instead, contact an experienced and knowledgeable car accident attorney today for a free case evaluation. Find out how these lawyers can fight for your rights and pursue the compensation you deserve.