While most vehicle crashes don’t result in fires, vehicle fires are especially dangerous. According to a FEMA report, from 2014 to 2016, there were estimated 171,500 highway vehicle fires each year, resulting in 345 deaths annually. According to Consumer Reports, Kia recalled 380,000 vehicles in 2021 because of potential fire risks. There are many reasons cars catch fire, and if you or a loved one has experienced a car fire, a Buttafuoco & Associates car fire lawyer serving Northern New Jersey can help you navigate your legal options. However, there are several steps you can take to prevent car fires in the first place. Below, I’ll cover what you can do to prevent a car fire, as well as steps you should take to keep yourself and others safe.
Steps to Prevent Vehicle Fires
While car fires may seem unavoidable after a serious accident, there are actually plenty of steps you can take to keep your commute and road trips safe. Taking your vehicle in for maintenance is one of the best ways to do this, but here are some things you can do on your own:
- Regularly Check for Oil and Gas Leaks: Make sure your gas cap is secure; if you notice your car leaking oil, take it to a certified mechanic to address the issue.
- Regularly Check Your Car Battery and Wiring: A failing car battery or frayed wiring can quickly turn into a fire hazard. To prevent this, have a certified mechanic regularly check your car battery’s health and your vehicle’s wiring.
- Don’t Store Flammable Materials in Your Car: If you need to transport flammable materials, such as propane tanks or gasoline canisters, only do so in certified containers and make sure all caps are securely closed.
- Know if Your Engine is Overheating: If your engine is too hot, there is a high chance of your vehicle catching fire, so pay attention if your engine light goes on. A hot engine can also result in hazardous fluid leaks. If an overheating part of the engine, such as the catalytic converter, comes into contact with flammable material, such as oil, a fire could be on the horizon.
- Be Vigilant Regarding Burning Odors: One of the first signs of a vehicle fire is often the smell of burning oil or rubber. If you detect these or other burning odors, stop the car in a safe location and investigate immediately. If these odors or smoke are emanating from the wheel wells or under the hood, there is a high likelihood that a vehicle fire has begun or could soon occur.
- Don’t Smoke in Your Car: It’s common knowledge that burning cigarettes cause house fires and even forest fires, but those embers can cause vehicle fires as well. An easy step to preventing a cigarette-caused car fire is to simply not smoke while driving. Cigarette smoke can also mask odors that serve as warnings for other causes of car fires, like burning oil or rubber.
Even after taking these precautions, car fires are of course a possibility, but that doesn’t mean that if one happens it is necessarily the driver’s fault. A defective car part could be to blame, in which case a Northern New Jersey car fire attorney at Buttafuoco & Associates can help you determine who is at fault and how to legally proceed.
What to do if your Vehicle Catches Fire
Proper vehicle maintenance can do a lot to prevent car fires, but if you are on the road and a fire occurs, take the following actions:
- Pull Over, Turn Off the Engine, and Exit the Vehicle: The first and most important step after a fire is to exit the vehicle. Pull onto the shoulder or the median immediately and turn off the engine. Fires can move from the engine into the passenger compartment with alarming speed.
- Get at Least 100 Feet Away from the Vehicle and Keep Others Away: Don’t go back into the vehicle for any reason, and warn other pedestrians and drivers to stay away. Car fires are especially volatile and there may be an explosion at any moment.
- Do Not Attempt to Put Out the Fire: Touching the vehicle can lead to severe burns, and opening the hood, trunk, or doors may provide additional oxygen to the flames, intensifying the fire. In some circumstances, however, a Class B or Class C fire extinguisher (usable on flammable liquids or live electrical equipment) can be used to extinguish small car fires. Consider keeping one in your car in case of emergencies.
- Call 911
Legal Help After a Car Fire
If you experience a vehicle fire, you should file a claim with your car insurance provider as soon as possible. We then recommend getting in touch with a car fire lawyer in Northern New Jersey with experience in these cases.
Reach out to Buttafuoco & Associates for more information on your legal options free of charge. Call 1-800-NOW-HURT.