201712.03
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The Dangers of Post-Collision Fires

Any severe car accident can leave injuries and deaths in its wake. But your odds of dying go up significantly if a post-collision fire breaks out. According to the statistics in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) FARS database, although the number of vehicles in accidents went down from 2002 through 2014, the percentage of those vehicles that experienced post-collision fires went up. Deaths due to post-collision fires also went up over the same period, to 5.36 percent in 2014 from 4.54 percent in 2002.

Do these percentages seem insignificant? Consider this: The estimated number of fatalities directly caused by post-collision fires amounts to roughly one-third of all crash-related deaths during the time period. Not only that, it’s estimated that up to 88 percent of victims would not have been seriously injured if they hadn’t undergone a post-collision fire.

Post-Collision Fires: Extremely Deadly

Data from the National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) drives the point home. In the time period from 2005 through 2013, 3.6 percent of all car fires took place after a collision. However, this seemingly small percentage of fires was responsible for well over half—55.2 percent—of all car fire deaths. Simply put, if you are unlucky enough to be a victim of a post-collision fire, you are at great risk of dying.

Indiana No Stranger to Fiery Crashes

Post-collision fires happen often enough that you are right to be concerned. In our state, the following serious accidents involved post-collision fires:

  • In Indianapolis, a motorist trapped inside their car died after it caught fire in a crash at 79th Street and River Road. The battalion chief for the Indianapolis Fire Department, Rita Reith, commented in a news release that removing the victim immediately was, unfortunately, not possible. (June, 2016)
  • In DeKalb County, a sideswiping accident resulted in a vehicle’s striking a utility pole and bursting into flames. The driver suffered lacerations and burns. The driver in the other vehicle was uninjured. (September, 2017)
  • Two persons, one a former FBI agent, died in a post-collision fire in Indianapolis north of 16th Street on Illinois Street. The Tesla struck a tree before bursting into flames. Rescue was hampered by the numerous fires due to the car’s lithium-ion batteries. (November, 2016)

The last crash on the list brings up a point that concerns many: a future increase in post-collision fires attributable to the growing prevalence of electric and hybrid cars using lithium-ion batteries. In this specific fire, the intense blazes from the vehicle’s batteries prevented firefighters from saving the victims. A member of the Indianapolis Fire Department, Kevin Jones, commented, “Lithium ion batteries burn very hot. To extinguish that type of fire with those batteries involved, it’s necessary to apply copious amounts of water.”

Why Have the Number of Deaths Risen?

Much speculation swirls around the reason for the increases in fires and deaths. What is known about post-collision fires includes the following information:

  • The bigger the impact of the collision, the more likely it is that a post-collision fire will take place.
  • The odds that a vehicle’s occupants will be trapped inside increase with the crash’s severity.
  • Post-collision fires are correlated with frontal crashes, often beginning in the engine compartment.
  • If you are in a passenger vehicle and have an accident involving a large truck, you are more likely to be injured or killed by a fire that originates with the truck. That’s because post-collision fires occur with greater frequency in large trucks than they do in passenger vehicles. Reasons for this include the larger amount of fuel on board the truck and any possible hazardous materials being hauled.

Admittedly, the facts as known do not yet explain the trend.

The Aftermath

Post-collision fires can do horrible damage that can take a lifetime to overcome. Painful, life-threatening burns can leave behind permanent nerve damage, extensive scarring, and disability.

A number of post-collision fires originate with a faulty fuel system and possibly-defective designs of the system’s components. The routing of the fuel line, the protection provided for the fuel line, the fuel tank’s location, the design of the filler cap and pipe, and the shutoff switches for the fuel pump can all play a part in sparking a fire. Fires that originate with the fuel system tend to be deadlier.

If you or someone you love has been a victim of a post-collision fire, it could be in your best interests to explore your legal options.

At McNeely Stephenson, we believe justice matters.

If you are thinking about hiring an Indiana car accident lawyer, you should look for an attorney who will give you competent and compassionate representation with a “client first” approach. That’s exactly what you’ll get with proven advocate Mike Stephenson. His entire legal team is committed to doing whatever is necessary to achieve the best possible outcome in your case. While a financial recovery cannot heal all wounds after a devastating accident, it can help ease the burdens caused by overwhelming medical bills, loss of income, and disability. At McNeely Stephenson, we know exactly how to go about handling your car accident claim so that you receive maximum compensation.

If you are online researching the legal rights and resources available to you in the aftermath of a car accident, we hope you’ll hand the worry over to us and let our resources back you up. The initial consultation is always free, so call attorney Mike Stephenson to talk about your questions at 1-317-825-5200. If you prefer, you can use our confidential online contact form.