The vast majority of injuries in Illinois auto accidents are caused by the impact itself. Either a vehicle slams into another vehicle at an angle where the force is transferred directly to the occupant (as in a T-bone collision, for instance), or an occupant’s body is forced against the dashboard, seat, or side of the vehicle after a vehicle strikes another object. But there’s another type of scenario that can result in injuries: a vehicle fire.
Vehicle fires are more common than you might think. The National Fire Protection Association reports that 33 car fires are reported every hour in the U.S. About 480 people die each year in vehicle fires, and over three times that number are injured annually. And about three out of every five people who die in vehicle fires were involved in an auto accident of some sort.
You may be surprised to learn that there is a plethora of ways that vehicles catch fire. These include:
- malfunction of the battery
- malfunction of the electrical system
- malfunction of the on-board computer
- overheating engine
- hot engine igniting an intake or exhaust manifold coated in grime or grease
- rupturing fuel line (with fuel leaking onto a hot engine manifold)
- backfiring carburetor
- improperly-stowed portable gasoline cans inside a vehicle
- cigarette butt being sucked back into a moving vehicle after being tossed out of a window
- automotive design flaw (like the Ford Pinto in the 1970s)
- friction from auto parts seizing up (such as bearings)
The most obvious way that drivers and passengers become injured (or die) in vehicle fires is from burns sustained by the flames and heat. But it is also possible for occupants to suffer from the inhalation of smoke and/or noxious fumes that result from a vehicle fire.
Severe burns can lead to widespread or complete damage not only to skin, but also to tissue, muscles, nerves, sweat glands, and hair follicles. It is not uncommon for victims of vehicle fires to become disabled for long periods of time – or even permanently. In addition to the physical bodily destruction that vehicle fires can cause, victims may also suffer from panic attacks, anxiety, depression, and other serious emotional disorders.
If you have been injured in a vehicle fire, the first step you should take is to seek medical attention. After your condition has stabilized, if you believe that the fire was caused as the result of recklessness or negligence on the part of another person or entity, you should contact a qualified auto accident attorney.