Far too many drivers and passengers survive car crashes, only to perish in post-collision fires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that vehicle fires occur in only 1 percent of accidents, and yet, these fires are responsible for 3.5 percent of light vehicle fatalities. An analysis of National Automotive Sampling System data indicates that an average of 15,820 vehicle occupants are exposed to post-collision fires every year.
Although some victims of fires caused by defective auto fuel systems are fortunate enough to survive, they may suffer for years or even decades due to severe burns or lung problems. Those who experience moderate or severe burns covering 90 percent of the body nearly always die.
Causes of Vehicle Fires and Explosions
Vehicle fires can be caused by everything from problematic tank placement to substandard welding; both issues may cause tanks to rupture if a collision occurs. In cases involving poor tank placement, tanks may be installed outside of frame rails or behind the vehicle’s rear axle. Even if fuel systems are properly welded or located in the appropriate location, they may put vehicle occupants at risk if their purge valves do not work correctly.
Notable Recalls Involving Defective Auto Fuel Systems
The bad publicity surrounding vehicle explosions can easily destroy an auto manufacturer’s sales, so it should come as no surprise that most manufacturers are eager to issue recalls as soon as they learn of potential problems. Thus, numerous recalls involving defective auto fuel systems have taken place in the last several years.
An especially noteworthy recall occurred in late 2015; this recall involved over 450,000 Ford vehicles, including 2010 and 2011 editions of the Ford Fusion and the Mercury Milan. The case revolved around the canister purge valve, an essential component in auto fuel systems. Improper functioning of the purge valve could result in pressure changes, which, in turn, could cause cracks in the fuel tank.
Another 2015 recall involved the possibility of leaking fuel, but instead of an issue with the canister purge valve, this recall focused on fuel injection system leaks caused by vibration from driving the Audi A6 and the hybrid version of the Volkswagen Touareg. Although small, these potential leaks are every bit as concerning as more obvious ruptures, as leaks of any size can cause devastating vehicle fires.
Although many manufacturers are swift to act when they learn of fuel system issues, this cannot be said of Chrysler. In 2013, Chrysler issued a recall of 1.5 million vehicles, including many older Jeep Liberty and Jeep Grand Cherokee models. This recall was initially requested by NHTSA, which claimed that the implicated vehicles’ fuel tanks could easily rupture in rear-impact collisions. According to NHTSA, at least 51 victims died in collisions involving fuel tank ruptures in Chrysler vehicles. Chrysler initially refused to recall the vehicles of concern, but eventually relented. However, many individuals continue to voice concern about the problematic placement of the vehicle’s fuel tank.
Defective Fuel Systems: Holding Responsible Parties Accountable
There is no way to eliminate the pain experienced by victims of accidents involving defective fuel systems. However, it remains possible for these suffering individuals to achieve justice while also alerting others to faulty auto fuel systems that may cause vehicle fires. Additionally, by launching a lawsuit, it may be possible for affected individuals to achieve financial remuneration. Chances of success in court or during the settlement process are far greater for those who work with knowledgeable legal professionals capable of determining when design defects are responsible for fuel leaks — and when other factors are involved.
Our firm has successfully resolved numerous personal injury and wrongful death cases; we possess the knowledge and legal skill necessary to bring your current case to a satisfactory close. Get in touch today to learn more about defective auto fuel systems and the personal injury process.