Fast & Furious movie fans will remember that actor Paul Walker survived the violence of a crash in his Porsche, but burned to death in the fire that followed. Actress Anne Heche also died in a crash that she survived, only to die in the fire which followed.
Most fire injuries occur because of manufacturing issues and are not the victim’s fault. Very rarely is the cause of the fire the actual crash. Fires following crashes occur often because of the release of fuel. A post-collision fuel fed fire often occurs due to a defect in the vehicle.
Burn injuries are devastating, life altering, require lengthy painful treatment and a lifetime of physical and mental scarring. The costs of medical treatment can be in the millions of dollars. The loss of income can be permanent and life-long. The loss of self-esteem due to disfiguring burns can be the worst injury of all.
Burns range from 1st degree, like a bad sunburn, are rarely permanent and easily treated with over-the-counter salves, to 4th degree burns, which damage every layer of skin and muscles, nerves and bones below. Persons burned in post-collision fuel fed fires typically suffer 3rd and 4th degree burns resulting in the need for extensive skin grafting and permanent scarring.
Fuel-Fed Fires in Crashes:
Post-collision fuel fed fires are the number 1 cause of car crash deaths. There were 174,000 highway vehicle fires in 2021. This is down from 456,000 in 1980. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 301, the purpose of which is to reduce deaths and injuries occurring from fires that result from fuel spillage during and after crashes, was first in effect in 1968 and requires vehicles to withstand certain specified impact tests ranging from 20-30 mph without leaking fuel in excess of 1 ounce per minute. But merely complying with this guideline does not make the vehicle safe for its intended uses. The Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests as “best practices” that the manufacturer consider foreseeable consumer use and misuse of the vehicle.
Also, there are many vehicles in use, ATVs, side by sides, snowmobiles, wave runners, boats, to list a few, that are not governed by the Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, and governed only by standards established by their own industry developed and run organizations.
Can I recover my damages caused by a fuel fed fire?
Yes. The law requires that all products be safe for their intended and foreseeable uses. A company has a duty to design, manufacture, distribute, lease or sell products that are not defective. Even if the company took all possible care in design and manufacture, such as following industry or Federal guidelines, if the danger is unknowable and unacceptable to the average customer, then the product is defective. So, if a side-by-side which has roll bars and is designed to keep occupants safe in a rollover catches fire because gas is released from the fuel system, the product can be deemed defective if a jury decides it is.
If a jury determines that the product is defective and that the defect caused the fire which caused the injuries, the jury will decide what amount of money fairly compensates you for your past and future medical costs, your past and future lost wages, and most significantly, your physical pain and emotional distress.
Can Baratta Law help?
Yes, Baratta Law has represented clients against products made or sold by Polaris, Daimler Chrysler and Penske Truck Rental. These cases require immediate investigation and preservation of evidence. These manufacturers, as soon as they learn about a fuel fed fire incident, immediately hire investigators, fire experts and lawyers to protect them. If you don’t hire a capable lawyer, who is experienced in the prosecution of these cases and has the ability to fund the great expense of the fight, you may not be able to properly hold accountable the companies responsible for the defective product.
Baratta Law, LLC works thousands of hours and pays hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight for you and you pay nothing unless the fight is won.