Why do cars catch on fire when they crash?

When a vehicle catches fire after an accident, the situation can rapidly turn life-threatening. The most common car defects associated with fires are fuel system or electrical system defects. Both electrical and fuel-fed fires are often caused by manufacturing or design defects.

Vehicles are not supposed to combust spontaneously, and if they do, very often, this can be a sign of some form of defect.

At the same time, vehicle fires are more frequent than we may think; almost one out of five reported fires involves one or more cars.

That is why the automotive sector is under scrutiny for the many defects in the vehicles that have led to recalls of parts that may cause a fire hazard in the fuel system and the engine compartment.

Both electrical and fuel-fed fires are often caused by defective design choices in the automobile or truck at issue.

If it is established that the fire was caused by defective parts or design, the company is liable for the resulting injuries.

What are the main types of vehicle defects that can result in fire?

Several main types of vehicle defects can result in fire and have fatal consequences for vehicle occupants:

  • Leaking fuel tanks and lines - fuel tanks should be positioned in front of the rear axle and have anti-puncture shields and fuel cell bladders. Brackets and other sharp objects must be avoided in the area of the fuel tanks. The most common causes of vehicle fires are leaks from defective fuel tanks. Poorly-routed or defective fuel lines are also dangerous as they may rupture during an accident. Even a small leak ignited by a single spark can quickly lead to a raging fire. Leaking flammable materials (fuel, oil) can ignite when exposed to a spark or superheated metal. Many people are not aware that besides gasoline, some of the components of the car contain flammable materials. Fuel-fed fires often begin under a vehicle or on the street surface below and spread quickly as leaking gasoline ignites.
  • Electrical system failures - electrical fires usually begin in the dashboard or around it. The extensive wiring in modern vehicles may be damaged in an accident. A severe collision can sever cables and cause sparks that can ignite fuel. Faulty wiring in ignition systems may short and spark fires.
  • Severe engine failures - many car fires originate in the engine compartment.
  • A faulty battery may also be the cause of the fire. When a battery is not designed correctly, corrosion, which is highly flammable, may form on terminals.
  • Airbags may explode as well.
  • Mechanical defects - may result in the ignition of flammable combustibles or an explosion, leading to vehicle fires.

People trapped inside a burning vehicle may be at risk of being injured, as the fire can reach the passenger cabin rapidly. People may develop serious illnesses, even before the fire spreads, due to toxic gases.

While vehicle fires may result from accidents, many are the responsibility of a manufacturer, something the attorney at The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary believes is essential for all residents of Miami to know. When it is the fault of the car manufacturer, a victim of a car fire can often seek legal recourse and financial compensation from the manufacturer for their negligence.

How can I prevent my car from catching fire?

As vehicle fires are mainly the result of traffic collisions or manufacturing defects, preventing them is rarely possible. However, specific measures can reduce the risks of being injured in such an event. Follow NFPA's (National Fire Protection Association) tips on how to prevent a car fire:

  • Ensure your vehicle is serviced regularly by a professionally trained mechanic.
  • Check your vehicle if you spot leaks or the car is not running properly.
  • If you must transport gasoline, transport only a small amount in a certified gas can that is sealed and keep a window open for ventilation.
  • Gas cans and propane cylinders should never be transported in the passenger compartment.
  • Never park a car where flammables are touching the catalytic converter.
  • Drive safely to avoid an accident.

Take action immediately if you notice the following danger signs:

  • Cracked or loose wiring or electrical problems (a fuse that blows more than once)
  • Oil cap not on securely
  • Oil or fluid leaks
  • Rapid changes in engine temperature, in fuel or fluid level

A well-maintained vehicle is less likely to catch fire. Also, avoid smoking inside your car to considerably reduce the chances of being involved in an auto fire. Call our Miami office today for a free case evaluation and legal representation.

What common injuries are sustained in auto fires?

When malfunctions cause car fires, people may sustain devastating injuries. Vehicle collision fires may result in the following severe injuries:

  • Burns - these injuries can occur, for example, when touching hot metal, coolant, or steam that is leaking from a damaged radiator. The most critical burns cause severe skin damage, long-term scarring, amputations, can affect breathing, digestion, and other bodily functions, and even cause death. Injured people may need pain management treatments and skin graft surgeries.
  • Toxic exposure - car fires often release very toxic fumes, leading to respiratory problems and lung damage. The fumes from the harmful materials involved in the fire are highly deadly, and these alone can claim a person's life.
  • Lacerations and other severe trauma - these injuries are caused by debris from an explosion.

All of these injuries are life-changing, require extensive and ongoing medical care - possibly involving surgical removal of the scar tissue - and a long and painful recovery to overcome.

Who is responsible for my car catching fire and what compensation can I recover?

An important thing to remember about vehicle fires in Florida is that each case occurs in different circumstances; we can only answer this question in general terms.

When negligent manufacturing designs or defects cause automotive fires, companies are liable for the resulting injuries. Car manufacturers can be held accountable when they fail to order recalls or their products negatively impact the lives of customers.

If another driver caused the collision leading to the fire, the person at fault might also be responsible for your medical bills, loss of income, and any other damages.

The product liability lawyer at The Law Offices of Sean M. Cleary is eager to review your claim and any concerns you may have about your accident. We have access to experts in medicine and accident reconstruction. We desire to review your case, hold accountable the responsible parties, and ensure that you can face the financial burden of your recovery with the damages that we collect on your behalf.

If you were injured in a vehicle fire, you might face expensive medical care and a lack of income due to missed time from work. We are here to help you back onto your feet if you have suffered injuries caused by vehicle defects. Contact us today to set up a free consultation so that we can advise you on how to proceed.

Disclaimer: Please note that the information provided on this site is not formal legal advice, also the site does not allow you to form an attorney-client relationship.