Defective Vehicles Can Expose Occupants To Increased Risk Of Fire And Explosion In A Collision
If you are involved in a motor vehicle collision on a Kentucky highway, the risk of injury from the force of impact can be significant. However, many serious life-threatening injuries experienced during crashes are caused not by the initial force of the impact, but explosions and/or fires fueled by gas leaking from the damaged vehicle. A fire caused by a punctured or leaking fuel tank or a gas tank explosion can result in devastating permanent injuries and wrongful death even if the initial collision did not cause severe injury.
Many motor vehicle accidents that cause horrific burns and devastating internal injuries because of the force of an explosion involve vehicles that burst into flames or blow up because of defects in the design of the vehicle. Automakers have an obligation to design vehicles that are reasonably safe and reduce the risk of gasoline leaks and fuel tank explosions when vehicles are involved in motor vehicle collisions. When automakers ignore their legal responsibility to minimize the risk of explosion and fire, the vehicle manufacturer may be liable for producing a defective motor vehicle.
The most famous example of this phenomena involves the notorious lawsuit during the 1970s against Ford involving Pintos that exploded because of a defect in the location of the vehicle's fuel tanks. The Pinto was designed so that the fuel tank was located nine inches behind the rear axle. This meant that the fuel tank was not protected by the frame of the vehicle during a rear end collision. Evidence produced in lawsuits involving the defective design revealed that the Pinto was susceptible to fire and explosion during a rear-end collision at relatively low rates of speed. There also was evidence that the company was aware of the defect but used a cost-benefit analysis to determine it would be cheaper to pay the personal injury and wrongful death claims suffered in fires and explosions than to correct the design flaw.
While the Pinto case is one of the most notorious product defect cases in U.S. history, there are many examples of vehicle defects that can result in preventable catastrophic injuries and wrongful death from fire or explosion-related injuries. Some of these vehicle defects including the following:
Defective Fuel Lines: When the materials used for fuel lines are not adequate, they may be susceptible to tearing or separation from the fuel tank or other fuel system components. Separations or tears in the fuel lines of a vehicle can cause fuel leaks that cause a fire or even an explosion.
Improper Fuel Tank Location: The auto industry has been aware for decades that location of fuel tanks outside the protective structure of the vehicle frame rails increases the risk of the fuel tank being ruptured during a collision. Vehicle designs that include the fuel tank being located behind the rear axle or anywhere outside the frame of the vehicle is a defect that can increase the risk of punctured or ruptured fuel tanks leading to an explosion and fire.
Defective Fuel Tanks: The materials used to construct the fuel tank should be durable enough to withstand the impact of a collision so that the tank does not leak. When there is not a sufficient buffer between the fuel tank and other parts of vehicle like bolts that can puncture the tank, this type of construction of the fuel tank is defective.
We recognize the devastating consequences of auto accidents where vehicles explode and/or burst into flames. Our Kentucky fire and explosion attorneys work diligently to get victims and their families the compensation they deserve. We encourage you to schedule a FREE consultation and contact us or visit our website at www.kylawpractice.com. We look forward to hearing from you and assisting you with your legal needs!