Anyone who drives is familiar with the steps necessary to refuel their vehicle. Depending on the amount of driving someone does, they could stop at a gas station one, two, or three times a week. However, people are not aware of how many individuals are injured or killed in refueling fires and explosions. While these events are rare, the injuries someone sustains in a refueling or gas station fire could be painful, life-altering, or deadly.
Many vehicles explode or catch fire during the fueling process due to manufacturing and vehicle design defects, manufacturing flaws, or negligence. Simply stated, fuel tank fires and vehicle fires do not happen on their own. Therefore, if you were injured in a refueling fire, another person or party should be held liable for your damages. Our experienced Pennsylvania attorneys for injuries caused by refueling and gas station fires understand the challenges facing people who suffered severe burns in a preventable accident.
The Reiff Law Firm has been handling complicated personal injury cases for over three decades – we have the lawyers, staff, and resources to help you. Because refueling and gas station fires are rare, you need a firm dedicated to investigating and litigating difficult cases. Call (215) 709-6940 to take the first steps in fighting for your legal rights.
Causes of Gas Station fires
Surprisingly, there has been a sharp increase in motor vehicle refueling fires and explosions over the last couple of years. The Petroleum Equipment Institute, as well as automobile manufacturers, started documenting and investigating refueling fires in 2000. Generally, a refueling fire or explosion is caused by a spark of electricity that can be caused by static electricity or an electrical short or defect. The Petroleum Equipment Institute has noted that many refueling fires are caused by a transfer of static electricity, which can be caused by a cell phone, ungrounded fuel pump, getting into the automobile, or sliding across the seat and grabbing for the fuel pump. Many times, a refueling or fuel-fed fire will lead to catastrophic injuries and wrongful death. Most gas stations require the operator to shut off the vehicle’s engine while fueling and to avoid smoking while in the vicinity of fuel.
Post-fueling fires can also occur due to defects in the fuel lines, fuel pumps, or electrical system of the vehicle. It is a basic principle of automotive design and crashworthiness for fuel systems to be properly designed and remain secure and intact. However, often, fuel tank design defects and defects in the placement of fuel tanks can cause a leak during a collision or due to violent forces, which may cause an explosion and resulting fire. In a fuel-injected vehicle, significant pressure forces fuel through the fuel lines and into the engine. Proper design would require the system to shut off properly after an accident so that gasoline does not circulate through the fuel lines and fuel system.
Who is Liable for a Refueling Fire in Pennsylvania
Whether you were injured in a slip and fall, car accident, or a gas station refueling fire, you will have to prove that another party was legally liable for your injuries if you want to be compensated for your damages. In many injury cases, determining liability is straightforward. For example, it is usually easy to prove a drunk driver was negligent if one rear-ended your vehicle while you were stopped at a traffic light. However, a refueling fire presents several hurdles.
While filling your car with gas is a safe operation, there has been a rise in fueling fires and accidents over the last two decades. Some of the common causes including people refueling while smoking, sparks from the engine compartment, and a lack of electrical continuity between the grounded dispenser and the nozzle. If you were smoking or left the engine running while you were pumping gas into your car, you could be at fault.
There is also a growing concern that static electricity is igniting refueling fires. For example, someone might charge particles of electricity by simply entering and exiting their vehicle when refueling. If you are injured in a gas station fire, a competent defense attorney will attempt to blame the fire on your actions. However, there are other potentially liable parties for gas station and refueling fires. Our Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys will thoroughly examine the facts of your case to determine what party could be held accountable for your damages.
The Owner of the Gas Station
Some gas station fires are caused by faulty or defective equipment. The owner or manager of a gas station has a legal responsibility to ensure that their pumps and other equipment are in safe operating condition. If there are any problems or hazards, adequate warning signs should be visible. People using gas pumps are considered “invitees,” so they are afforded the highest standard of care under Pennsylvania premises liability law. This means that an owner or manager could be held liable for a danger they knew or should have known about it. Part of the legal duty of care gas station owners have is to regularly inspect and repair the pumps. When a gas station owner fails to adhere to their duty, they could be held accountable for any damages.
The Vehicle Manufacturer
There could be a defect in the vehicle, such as the fuel line, that makes it susceptible to igniting when refueling. Our Pennsylvania product liability lawyers will have to thoroughly examine your vehicle to determine if a manufacturing defect or design flaw resulted in the accident. Typically, this will require hiring the services of an expert engineer to conduct the investigation.
The Pump Manufacturer
A defect or design flaw could also exist in the pump and its mechanisms. While the owner of a gas station has the responsibility to ensure the station’s equipment is functioning properly, a pump could have an inherent design flaw that would not be noticed when inspected. Perhaps there is an internal defect or the nozzle has a design flaw. Similar to ascertaining whether a design defect exists in an automobile, our Pennsylvania personal injury attorneys will have to engage an engineer or another expert to determine if such a flaw exists.
Damages Available to a Refueling or Gas Station Fire Victim in Pennsylvania
Explosions and fires cause serious burn injuries. If you suffered a burn injury, you could require an extended stay in a hospital burn unit or need multiple surgeries to repair damaged skin, tissue, and muscle. Many burn victims undergo long periods of physical therapy to regain motion and use of their damaged limbs. This type of treatment is expensive. Fortunately, a refueling or gas station fire victim could be compensated for their damages and harm through a personal injury lawsuit.
Damages are usually categorized as either economic or non-economic damages.
Your economic damages are your financial losses related to your injury. For example, you could recover your medical expenses, including copays, medication costs, and even parking fees for doctor’s appointments. Another substantial economic loss is income. If you missed work or are no longer capable of working, you could recover your lost wages through an injury claim.
Non-economic damages are more challenging to calculate. Victims of fires often experience significant emotional and mental trauma. In addition to the physical pain they endure, many burn victims experience depression or other psychological harm. Some victims struggle with the long and painful treatment or are embarrassed because they are scarred or disfigured. While it might be difficult to place a dollar figure on this type of harm, injured victims have every right to be adequately compensated for the emotional and mental harm they endured.
Call the Refueling and Gas Station Fire Attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm for Help With Your Case
If you have been injured during a fire or explosion while refueling a vehicle or due to a fuel-fed fire in a vehicle, please contact one of the experienced fuel-fed fire lawyers of the Reiff Law Firm. Our skilled Pennsylvania trial lawyers have over three decades of experience representing generations of individuals and their families who have suffered catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths due to negligence, design defects and flaws, failure to warn, and premise liability in relation to vehicle refueling accidents and fires. We always offer free, no-obligation consultations and never charge a fee unless we make a successful recovery. Please contact us toll-free at (215) 709-6940 for a confidential appointment.