The National Fire Protection Association reports that there are about 267,000 vehicle fires every year. This represents about 20% of all fires in the United States. If you or a loved one were involved in a car fire following a collision, it’s important to understand how to protect your legal right to compensation.
Types of Injuries Associated with Car Fires
Car fires can result in:
- Burns and disfigurement
- Chronic pain
- Lung damage and general respiratory problems
- Amputation (as the result of damage related to infection)
- Immunodeficiency complications
These injuries are often linked to lengthy hospital stays and extensive recovery times. Lifelong disabilities that require ongoing care and affect a person’s continued earning potential are common. Victims can also have significant mental health effects—including anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms related to the accident and the resulting disability.
Severe injuries from a car fire can be fatal, especially if the victim is an older adult or someone with medical conditions that could cause complications during the healing process. About 440 people in the United States die in auto fires each year.
Causes of Car Fires
Typically, a vehicle’s crumple zones absorb the force of a collision and help protect the engine, battery, and gas tank. However, high speeds or direct impact can create enough force to cause damage that could lead to a fire.
Car fires are most often caused by ignition of the flammable fuel in the gas tank. An average car or SUV holds a full tank of 12 to 20 gallons of gasoline. Every gallon creates the explosive force of a half dozen sticks of dynamite if ignited.
Often, a car fire is somehow linked to a defect in the manufacture or design of the vehicle. For example, the car’s fuel delivery system may have a defect that doesn’t cause problems while you are driving, but leads to a fire in the event of a collision. Overheating engines, hot exhaust components, electrical shorts, or battery problems in electric cars are some other examples of issues that could be linked to a design problem.
In some cases, poor maintenance can contribute to a fire. Neglecting to repair leaky seals or frayed wiring creates a safety hazard that can have devastating consequences following an accident. Repairs that were not properly performed can have the same effect.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim for a Car Fire
If you’re injured in a car fire, you’re entitled to file a personal injury claim for accident-related expenses. This includes:
- Medical expenses, including anticipated future medical costs related to permanent disability
- Lost wages, including applicable loss of future earning potential
- Pain and suffering, including both physical pain and emotional trauma
If your loved one has died due to a car fire, you can file a wrongful death claim. This is a type of personal injury claim seeking compensation for:
- Medical expenses up to the time of death
- Loss of a person’s income to support his or her family
- Pain and suffering up to the time of death
- Loss of your loved one’s care and companionship
- Funeral and burial costs
In most cases, Louisiana has a one-year statute of limitations for personal injury or wrongful death claims. If you do not file within the mandated time frame, you lose your right to compensation.
The Value of Experienced Legal Representation
Establishing liability is a vital step in a personal injury claim. Since car fires can have multiple potential causes, it’s important to hire an experienced personal injury attorney who can establish responsibility for your accident-related expenses. Your attorney can gather evidence and expert testimony to document the degree of responsibility the other driver, manufacturer, or repair company might have for your injuries.
If your own actions are determined to have contributed to the accident, you can still receive compensation for your injuries. However, your settlement will be proportionally reduced to reflect your liability for the incident.
The award-winning legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault has extensive experience protecting the rights of Louisiana residents who’ve been injured or lost loved ones as the result of a car fire. Contact us online or call our office directly 318.541.8188 to schedule a no-fee consultation.