In a typical action movie, when a car catches fire, it’s moments away from erupting in a dramatic explosion. And while an explosion like that is extremely unlikely to happen in real life, vehicle fires still pose a threat to drivers and pedestrians, as they can result in significant property damage, severe injuries, and, in a worst case scenario, fatalities. Thus, it’s crucial for drivers to understand the common causes of vehicle fires, how to prevent them, and what to do in the event of a fire.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle fire caused by someone else’s negligence, experienced personal injury attorneys like our team here at Great West Injury Law can help protect your rights and secure the compensation you deserve.

Common Causes of Vehicle Fires

Vehicle fires are not an everyday sight (and thank goodness for that!). But the ingredients for a roadside fire are always present, and there are several things that can go wrong to cause a vehicle fire, including:

  • Mechanical or electrical issues: Faulty wiring, electrical short circuits, and overheating engine components can all ignite flammable materials in a vehicle, like upholstery, cargo, or fuel, leading to a fire.
  • Fuel system leaks: Leaking fuel lines, hoses, or tanks can create highly flammable conditions within a vehicle, and any spark or heat source, like a discarded cigarette, can ignite the fuel vapors.
  • Collisions: In high-impact accidents, ruptured fuel lines or tanks can lead to fires, as can damaged electrical systems.
  • Poor maintenance: Neglecting to properly maintain a vehicle, such as not addressing known defects or failing to perform routine maintenance, can contribute to fires.
  • Overheating catalytic converters: These exhaust system components can reach high temperatures, and when debris accumulates around them, it can ignite and cause a fire.
  • Arson: Intentional acts of vandalism or insurance fraud can lead to vehicle fires.
  • Electric cars: Electric cars, a new and rapidly emerging technology, are known to catch fire due to issues with the starter; according to a University of California-Irvine study, electric cars account for about a third of all vehicle fires in the United States.

Though it’s impossible to completely mitigate the risk of a vehicle fire due to the necessity of internal combustion in vehicle engines, there are certain precautions one can take to significantly reduce one’s risk of a vehicle fire.

Follow these safety tips to help protect yourself and your vehicle:

  • Regular maintenance: Adhere to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule for your vehicle, addressing any mechanical or electrical issues promptly.
  • Inspect for leaks: Regularly check for signs of fuel, oil, or other fluid leaks, and address any problems as soon as possible.
  • Keep your vehicle clean: Remove debris, such as leaves or trash, from the engine compartment and around the catalytic converter.
  • Avoid overloading electrical systems: Don’t overload your vehicle’s electrical system with too many devices or accessories, and ensure all wiring is in good condition.
  • Drive safely: Avoid high-speed driving or aggressive maneuvers that can increase the risk of an accident and subsequent vehicle fire.

What to Do in the Event of a Vehicle Fire

If you notice a fire or smoke coming from your vehicle, your first inclination may be to panic. Instead, try to focus on taking the following steps:

  1. Pull over safely: Turn on your hazard lights and move to the side of the road or a safe location as quickly and calmly as possible.
  2. Turn off the engine: This can help prevent the fire from spreading further.
  3. Evacuate the vehicle: Get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle, moving at least 100 feet away and upwind of the fire.
  4. Call 911: Notify emergency responders of the situation and provide them with the necessary details, including your location.
  5. Do not attempt to put out the fire: Vehicle fires can be highly unpredictable and dangerous. Leave firefighting efforts to the professionals.

Great West Injury Law to the Rescue

Understanding the causes of vehicle fires and taking the necessary steps to prevent them can greatly reduce the risk of such incidents occurring. By maintaining your vehicle, and driving safely, and following best practices in the event of a fire, you can help protect yourself, your passengers, and other road users.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or property damage as a result of a vehicle fire caused by someone else’s negligence, such as a manufacturing defect or another driver’s actions, it’s important to seek legal aid. Our experienced personal injury attorneys at Great West Injury Law can help protect your rights, gather crucial evidence, and fight for the compensation you deserve for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages resulting from the incident.

Contact us today for a free consultation.