When an automobile catches on fire in a car accident, the victims suffer the terror of being trapped in a burning vehicle as well as the devastating burns caused by the fire. If they are lucky enough to survive the crash, they have months or years of treatment ahead and long-term medical and psychological problems that will most likely change the rest of their lives. Fortunately, a person burned in an automobile accident may be entitled to compensation—from more than just the negligent driver who caused the crash.
What Are Common Causes of Car Fires?
A number of factors can cause a car to catch on fire in a crash. Even worse, the fire can spread, causing occupants of nearby motor vehicles and pedestrians to be burned as well. Common reasons car fires start include:
- Collisions. It only takes the creation of a spark or two caused by scraping metal or severed electrical wires to ignite highly flammable fluids like gasoline and oil in a wreck. This can be especially dangerous if the accident caused one of the vehicle fuel tanks to rupture or if multiple vehicles are involved in the crash. Driver error is often the cause of these tragedies.
- Fuel tank leaks. A leaking fuel tank can leak or spontaneously explode and can be a contributing factor that causes a vehicle to catch on fire when involved in an auto accident. Fatalities are often higher if the fuel tank explodes due to the intensity of the fire.
- Auto part defects. Sadly, defects in vehicle parts—deficiencies often known by the parts and vehicle manufacturers—can cause a fire when the vehicle is hit in a collision. Many tragic fires and deaths have been caused when manufacturers allow vehicles to be driven with defective parts.
- Poor maintenance. When vehicle repairs are not performed or are completed defectively, this can cause a fire in a crash. Improperly installed batteries and starters, high-voltage connections left loose, and seals that allow fluids to leak are a few of the repair issues that can cause a fire to ignite.
- Smoking. When people smoke in the small confines of a passenger vehicle, the hot ash or lighter can quickly start a fire that endangers more than the occupants of the vehicle on congested streets or in a traffic jam on the highway.
Treatments Needed for Burns Caused in Auto Wrecks
Burns are classified by the degree of severity, which depends on the extent of the tissue damage. A victim’s burns would fall into one of these classifications:
- First-degree burn. This is a minor burn only affecting the outer layer of skin and can cause redness, swelling, and pain.
- Second-degree burn. This burn damages the outer layer and second layer of skin. It can cause blisters, swelling, severe pain, and permanent scarring.
- Third-degree burn. A third-degree burn is the most serious type of burn, penetrating down into the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas of the skin can be charred black or white. Besides horrific scarring, a person could suffer destruction or damage to nerves, numbness, vulnerability to infections, and life-threatening breathing problems.
People burned in car accidents often suffer second or third-degree burns, resulting in their needing months or even more long-term medical care. Common ways burns are treated include:
- Water-based treatments like ultrasound mist therapy to stimulate damaged tissues.
- Fluids to prevent dehydration, which are sometimes given intravenously.
- Pain and anxiety medications.
- Ointments and creams for burns.
- Drugs to fight and prevent infection.
- Physical and occupational therapy.
- Surgery, which could be needed for breathing assistance, tube feeding, or easing blood flow around the wound, as well as skin grafts and plastic surgery. Serious burn injuries often require multiple rounds of surgery.
Coping With the Long-Term Effects of Serious Burns
A person who is seriously burned in a car crash can suffer serious emotional trauma from the experience of being in the fire and psychological issues from having to deal with the consequences of his burns—which could include permanent scars to large parts of his body. The trauma can be compounded when the scars are highly visible on the person’s face and hands. Seeking treatment with a mental health professional and joining a support group may help an accident victim cope with the long-term consequences of his burns.
Being burned can also take a huge financial toll on a vehicle accident victim and his family. The person often needs multiple, expensive surgeries to repair the damage and minimize the permanent disfigurement. This can require the person to be off work for months or longer without a paycheck. Some victims are so severely injured that they are unable to return to their former job…or any job at all.
Fortunately, victims of these tragic accidents may have a claim against multiple parties, depending on the cause of the fire. This can include the negligent driver, parts and vehicle manufacturers, mechanics, and more.
If you suffered burns in a car accident, you need an experienced car accident attorney who can determine all the parties who are liable and can negotiate a settlement that provides you with the compensation that you need and deserve. Call our firm at 800-237-3334 to schedule a free case evaluation to learn about your legal options.