Car accident fires should be rare. After all, fire is a known risk associated with the typical vehicle fuel—gasoline—so manufacturers should take precautions to prevent fires associated with accidents.
In general, this is true, and car accident fires represent a small fraction of car accident deaths (2.8% of fatal accidents overall, but 5.9% of truck accident fatalities occurred in accidents with a fire). Sometimes, though, certain models of cars are subject to a higher risk of fires because of defective car design or manufacturing.
Often these defects can turn a minor car accident into a deadly tragedy. Car models that have been associated with elevated fire risk include:
- Ford Pinto: Gained notoriety because of a memo that supposedly showed Ford comparing the cost of an $11 per car repair against the price of settlements for people burned to death.
- Ford Crown Victoria: Notorious because the series of fires that occurred in the 1990s often affected police officers.
- GM Pickups: Were the subject of lawsuits because the side saddle fuel tanks were supposedly placed outside the protection of the frame.
- Chevy Volt: This vehicle experienced an early PR loss when fires occurred after crash tests. The fires were caused by coolant leaks caused by battery tank puncture during the crash test. The fires occurred hours to weeks after the tests.
If you have been hurt or lost a loved one due to a car accident fire that may have been caused by a defect, you should talk to a lawyer. There are many potential defects that have not resulted in recalls, and only by making sure these are all reported to someone outside the closed circle of the auto industry can we be sure that they are being adequately accounted for.