A few weeks ago, veteran actor Dick Van Dyke was pulled from his Jaguar as the vehicle was engulfed by flames on a Los Angeles highway. Pictures of the burned wreck are an example of how quickly a fire can destroy a car. According to The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), an average of 33 highway vehicle fires occur every hour in the U.S. And besides significant property damage, these fires can inflict serious injuries and even death.
Causes of Car Fires
Nearly half of highway vehicle fires that occur on U.S. highways are attributed to mechanical failure or malfunction resulting in gas line leaks, ruptured fuel tanks, or broken parts throwing sparks as they drag along the roadway. Mechanical failure alone causes 11% of the deaths attributed to these fires. Of the NFPA-reported electrical issues, 23% contributed to highway vehicle fires. Older vehicles were more prone to these issues than late-model vehicles.
Typical Car Fire Victims
According to statistics compiled by the National Fire Incident Reporting System, recently licensed male drivers are most likely to be involved in car fires. However, no age group or gender is exempt from this potential catastrophe.
Auto Insurance and Highway Vehicle Fires
Standard auto insurance does not generally cover highway vehicle fires. If your car catches fire while parked in your garage or anywhere on your property, it may be covered by your homeowner's insurance. Or you can purchase a more expensive auto policy that provides “comprehensive” coverage. Only safe driving and preventive maintenance can reduce the risk of mechanical and electrical failures that can result in car fires.
The National Safety Council recommends these simple steps to lower your risk:
- Have your vehicle inspected by a certified auto mechanic at least once a year.
- Check for gas or oil leaks. Do not ignore the smell of gasoline or telltale oil drips.
- If you have to replace a blown fuse, have your electrical system checked.
- If you smell smoke or gasoline while driving, pull off the road immediately.
Even if your auto insurance covers a car fire, your insurance carrier may deny your claim if the cause of the fire can be attributed to negligence. Keep records and receipts for all mechanical and electrical repairs made on your car.
Although rare, a car fire may be due to the failure of your car’s manufacturer to recall and repair defective equipment or address a design flaw. Documented highway vehicle fires and resulting lawsuits have exposed design flaws in models from every major automaker—both domestic and foreign.
In some cases, the car that caught fire was owned by a company that provides vehicles to employees for business purposes. If a company car catches fire and causes injury to the employee, the company may be liable if it was not properly maintained.
When to Get Legal Help
Vehicle fires can be terrifying. Regardless of the cause or circumstance, the survivors of highway vehicle fires can be left with serious injuries, long-term disabilities, and medical bills they have no way to cover. To make matters worse:
- Insurance companies attempt to avoid compensation to cut their losses.
- Employers evade responsibility for improperly maintained company vehicles.
- Automakers avoid recalls to hide known design defects.
That is when we go to work for you. When you have been the victim of a vehicle fire, we work hard to get you the compensation you need and deserve.
- Atlanta attorneys Bruce A. Hagen and associates have more than 30 years of experience.
- We’ve won thousands of cases, and our clients have been awarded millions of dollars.
- There is never a fee for a consultation or for filing a lawsuit unless you receive money.