Our firm has handled a number of cases over the years involving fuel-fed vehicle fires. In each of our cases one or more occupants were burned to death in a crash from which – absent the fire – they should have survived. In each case the fire came as a result of a defective fuel system. The design and placement of the most dangerous part of a vehicle, the fuel system and fuel tank, is very important. The tank and lines in the system must be properly placed and protected so as not to burst into flame in a collision. Design engineers know that a single gallon of gasoline explodes with the same amount of force as eight sticks of dynamite. That makes proper design imperative.
Despite this common sense logic it is alarming to know that there are millions of cars on our nation’s highways and roads that have unsafe and defective gas tanks with fuel systems which are unable to endure even the slightest rear impact collision without bursting into flames. This well-known motor vehicle phenomenon known as post collision fuel-fed fires have the potential to cause severe burns, agonizing pain, and death. If manufacturers design the vehicles properly, post-collision fuel fed fires can be avoided in many collisions. We have seen too many examples of unsafe fuel systems including:
• Fuel tanks placed on the side or in the rear where they can be easily punctured during a collision;
• Placing fuel lines in positions where they can be ruptured during a crash;
• The use of inexpensive and weak materials to connect the fuel tank to where the fuel is inserted into the vehicle (the fuel filler neck) causing the two to separate and fuel to pour out during a collision; and
• The use of unsafe materials to manufacture fuel lines, causing lines to decay or break during a crash.
Automobile manufacturers have cut corners and costs by choosing fuel tank and fuel system designs that were less expensive. Unsafe designs sacrifice safety for corporate profit and that is wrong. There have been safer fuel system designs available for years, but a number of manufacturers have not incorporated these safety measures into their designs. It appears that the manufacturers found it more cost effective to defend lawsuits rather than designing the needed safety improvements into their vehicles.
Tragically, every year hundreds of individuals lose their lives in fuel-fed fires and explosions. However, if someone survives an explosion and the ensuing fire caused by an unsafe fuel system, they will likely suffer from severe, disabling and disfiguring thermal third degree burns. As a result of faulty fuel systems and needless suffering from burn injuries, it is crucial that companies be held accountable for the defective products they sell. If you want more information on this subject contact Greg Allen, Cole Portis, or Ben Baker in our Personal Injury Section at 800-898-2034.
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