What Do You Do If Your Car Catches Fire

What Do You Do If Your Car Catches Fire

What Causes Car Fires?

There are a number of potential causes of car fires, most of them involve a product defect.  That is, a design or manufacturing blunder on the part of the car maker.  For example, Ford famously designed and sold the “Pinto” with insufficient materials to protect the car’s gas tank from being ruptured, even in relatively low impact collisions.  Lawsuits filed by consumers burned and killed by Ford’s Pinto revealed that Ford secretly crash-tested the vehicle more than 40 times before the vehicle was first sold, and that the Pinto’s fuel tank ruptured in nearly every test crash at speeds over 25 miles per hour.  To keep the weight and cost of the Pinto down (i.e., to sell more Pintos), Ford ignored design changes that would have solved the problem confirmed by its own testing and released the Pinto anyway.

What Do You Do If Your Car Catches Fire

First, get out of the car and as far away as you can.  Second, call an attorney experienced in product liability cases.  Even if you weren’t injured, it is important to contact an attorney for several reasons, detailed below.  Third, make a list of personal items lost or destroyed because of the fire and try to locate purchase documents.  Finally, preserve the vehicle for investigation, once the fire is extinguished—i.e., try to prevent the vehicle from being immediately destroyed.

Know Your Legal Rights After a Car Fire

Your legal rights hinge on the nature and circumstances of a car fire.  For example, if the car fire was caused by a crash due to the negligence of another driver, you will have a claim against that driver not only for the value of the car, but also the contents of your personal belongings destroyed and any injuries you or your loved ones suffered.  You will also be entitled to damages for mental and emotional distress, even if you were not physically injured.

You may also have a claim against the manufacturer of the car or its components.  Oftentimes major car manufacturers purchase component parts, like seat belts, from other manufacturers, that are then used to build or assemble the car before sale.  Claims against car and component manufacturers are called “product liability” claims.  In Alabama, such claims are governed by the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine (AELMD).

Finally, it is important that you or your attorney report the car fire to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), even if you were not injured.  The NHTSA tracks and investigates reports of potential product defects, so that car manufacturers and consumers can be warned through product recalls or bulletins when certain vehicles or components, like tires, are failing to perform as intended or performing dangerously on the roadways.  Thus, even if you were not injured by a car fire, your report to NHTSA may provide notice to the car manufacturer and consumers and thus save lives!

If you or a loved one has experienced a car fire, please contact an experienced attorney today.

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