What are the Main Causes of Vehicle Fires?
May 12, 2020
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, approximately 1,300 people are injured and 345 more die each year in vehicle fires. A typical vehicle fire occurs due to a combination of conditions. A poorly maintained car might not catch fire by itself, but when it gets into an accident, a fire may break out. More than 60 percent of highway vehicle fires originated in the engine, wheel area, or gears. The causes cited include:
- Mechanical failure. This includes fuel leaks and components breaking down, resulting in about 45 percent of highway vehicle fires. Leaking gasoline can catch fire instantly from a single spark if the weather is 45 degrees or warmer. This can easily occur in a collision.
- Electrical system failure. The charging cycle of a car battery can cause hydrogen gas to build up and explode. Combined with faulty wiring, sparks can quickly ignite vapors or drips of fluid. Electrical system wires run through the entire vehicle, including under heated seats, inside doors, and under the carpet. Electrical failures contribute to more than 20 percent of all vehicle fires.
- Spilled gas or other flammable liquids. If gas, transmission fluid, or brake fluid is spilled during routine maintenance, the resulting droplets and vapors can cause a fire when the vehicle starts up. Spillage accounts for about 13 percent of vehicle fires.
- Defective parts. While automobile defects account for less than one percent of all vehicle fires, defects in cars and trucks are common. Automakers have recalled millions of vehicles over the past decade due to high risk of vehicle fires. Examples include oil pan leaks that can cause fires or defective parts that leave metal shavings in the engine.
Know the Warning Signs
Drivers can take steps to reduce the risk of vehicle fires. First, know the warning signs, which include:
- Loud sounds from the exhaust
- Oil leaks on the pavement
- Smell of gas
- Fuses that keep blowing
- Broken or loose hoses
- Cracked or loose wiring
- Loose or missing oil cap
- Wiring with exposed metal
If you smell smoke or see flames shooting out of your car, stay calm but act quickly. Do not try to open the hood or trunk of the car as the additional oxygen can cause the fire to flare up. Once first responders arrive and put out the fire, take photos of the damage, if possible, and obtain the names and phone numbers of any witnesses. Have the vehicle towed and inspected to determine the exact cause of the fire. This information may be vital if you decide to file a personal injury claim.
Who is Liable If I am Injured in a Vehicle Fire?
If you were injured in a vehicle fire, it is possible that another party is liable, such as the driver of the car that caused the accident, a mechanic, or the vehicle manufacturer, if the car was found to be defective.
Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Advocate for Victims of Vehicle Fires
Vehicle fires cause property damage, debilitating injuries, and even death. If you or someone you know was seriously injured in a vehicle fire that was caused by another party’s negligence, contact our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. We represent clients across New Jersey and Pennsylvania from our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania. To arrange a free consultation, call us at 800-222-8792 or contact us online.