Vehicle Fires in California – Injury and Damages
Auto accidents that involve at least one car catching fire can be extremely catastrophic for those involved. This was a recent situation in California where seven cars were involved in a series of collisions that resulted in pickup truck catching fire after being struck by a big rig. The driver of the pickup truck was aided by an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer and was taken to a nearby hospital with severe burn injuries.
Motor vehicle operators and passengers are at risk of being seriously burned or killed when a vehicle catches fire. While some vehicle fires can be caused upon impact with another vehicle, other sudden combustions can be caused by means of an auto defect or vehicle part flaw.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, firefighter personnel responded to approximately 204,000 vehicle fires in the year 2016. A vehicle that catches fire will usually involve flames that spread quickly, leaving those inside the vehicle with little to no opportunity to escape the fire. In some cases, people might survive the impact of a vehicle collision but have difficulty escaping the motor vehicle after it catches on fire.
Causes of Vehicle Fires
A car fire can happen for various reasons. Oftentimes, car fires are started through a culmination of reasons. The following list describes some of the most common reasons as to why a vehicle can catch fire.
Fuel Lines and Fuel Pumps – Fires can occur after vehicle collisions due to defects in the fuel line or fuel pump. Because many vehicles today utilize fuel injected engines, fuel speeds through a vehicle’s fuel lines at a very fast rate. Ruptures in a fuel line can result in a large amount of fuel leaking out.
Many vehicles that utilize fuel injection engines also have electric fuel pumps. If a fuel pump does not shut off after a collision, a fuel pump can continue distributing gasoline through a vehicle’s system, which can serve as further fuel for a fire.
Fuel Tanks – Fuel tank design defects can result in a motor vehicle’s tank leaking and rupturing after a collision. A large number of motor vehicles have their fuel tanks mounted at their rear axle, which creates a significant risk when rear impact collisions occur. Other vehicles have fuel tanks located outside their frames, which makes these vehicles particularly vulnerable to a vehicle fire when a side impact collision occurs.
Vehicle gas tanks carry between 12 and 20 gallons of flammable fuel. There have been several recalls for vehicles that pose fire dangers over the years. Some of these examples include a Chrysler recall of about 470,000 vehicles that were manufactured from 2011 to 2014 due to a faulty alternator that created a fire hazard. This can prove deadly because when gasoline is ignited, the fuel creates an explosion.
Poor Vehicle Maintenance – Although a lack of maintenance in a vehicle will not directly cause the vehicle to catch fire, generally, the car can be far more dangerous if it is not adequately maintained. Poor vehicle maintenance, therefore, could indirectly lead to a catastrophic fire. Maintaining a car and keeping up with necessary repairs can help to avoid disastrous conditions. Hazards that could lead to a fire include: Fluid leaks under a vehicle, Frayed wiring could lead to a spark and can ignite combustible fluids such as gasoline or oil, Blown fuses or other electrical system issues, Rapid changes in oil levels, fluid level, and engine temperatures, Broken hoses, Missing caps from oil fillers.
Steps to Take in the Event of a Vehicle Fire
Preventing a fire in the midst of an auto accident can be an impossible task, especially when the fire starts on the other driver’s car. In spite of this, it is always advantageous to keep in mind methods of safety and prevention that could help to minimize fire-related injuries.
The National Fire Protection Association recommends that individuals follow several important safety tips when a vehicle accident occurs. These steps include: Pull over as safely as possible, Turn off a vehicle’s engine after the vehicle is stopped, After leaving the burning vehicle, never return to the vehicle for any reason, Contact emergency services, Move all people in the vehicle at least 100 feet from the vehicle, Purchase and keep a fire extinguisher in the vehicle, which can be helpful if the car catches on fire, Make sure to have your vehicle inspected and maintained properly twice a year.
Knowing what to do in the event of a car fire can not only help prevent injuries, it can also save the lives of those involved in the accident.
Types of Injuries Involving Fire-Related Accidents
Burn injuries can range anywhere from minimal to fatal. In medical terms, burn injuries will fall under one of three groups: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns.
First-Degree Burns – These types of burns will only cause minimal damage to the top layer of the skin and are therefore considered superficial. For the most part, these burns are not considered life threatening but they can cause pain. If left untreated, first-degree burns could lead to an infection.
Second-Degree Burns – Second-degree burns are also considered superficial but they involve deeper levels of a person’s skin. These burns usually take longer to heal and could present more serious and permanent damages to a person’s skin.
Third-Degree Burns – These are the most severe types of burns. Third-degree burns will not only affect the superficial levels of a person’s skin but will also damage other tissues as well. Some third-degree burns could lead to nerve damage, which can leave a victim with the inability to feel anything in the region of the injury.
When a person has sustained burn injuries from a vehicle accident, the injuries will typically result in costly medical expenses. Many victims will also need extensive time to recuperate, which could lead to the inability to return to work. Depending on the severity of the burn injury, some victims could be left with permanent incapacities.
Contact a California Accident Attorney
Vehicle accidents involving fires are particularly dangerous in nature and frequently result in serious injuries and fatalities. If you or a loved one is harmed in this type of accident and another party is responsible, you are likely entitled to compensation. The Law Office of Justin H. King represents victims of serious auto and car accidents in Ontario and surrounding. Justin H. King is a nationally recognized personal injury attorney in Ontario. Do not hesitate to contact our office today to obtain the compensation that you need.