A car accident is traumatic, but combined with a car fire, the consequences can be catastrophic. Many car fires often happen without the catalyst of a car crash, too, which means that being a responsible motorist requires you to have a better understanding of the statistics, your vehicle, and emergency procedures to help keep your family safe.
How common are car fires? Here are some of the latest statistics:
- Fire departments in the U.S. respond to over 60,000 vehicle fires each year.
- Over 150,000 car fires are reported in the U.S. annually.
- On average, 300 people a year die in vehicle fires, while hundreds more are critically injured.
- Although the least common, vehicle fires caused by collisions are the most fatal.
Keep a Cool Head During a Car Fire
The most difficult thing to remember during an emergency situation is to keep calm. Your primary objective is to get everyone safely out of the car. Signs of a fire may include smoke, sparks, or flickering light in the console, but you might not have even these small indicators of trouble. As soon as you suspect something is wrong, stop your vehicle and proceed with the following steps:
- Turn off your engine. You don't want to feed a potential fire by allowing your engine to overheat or release flammable fumes. Shut it down immediately.
- Crack a window. Where there’s fire, there’s smoke, and where there’s smoke, there’s carbon monoxide. If you can't get out right away, crack a window and allow the smoke to escape the confines of your car. This will help reduce the potential of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Unbuckle yourself first. Even though you may be more concerned about your passengers’ safety, you can’t help them if you’re unable to move freely. Unbuckle yourself or cut the strap to allow for free range of movement. Then attend to other passengers and help them remove their seat belts.
- Get out of the car. This may seem like a no-brainer, but during stressful situations the easiest steps are often the hardest, especially if the accident has somehow pinned your doors shut. If you’re unable to exit through the doors, stocking a window breaker in a first aid kit allows you to break a window and climb out to safety.
- Move away from the vehicle. Just because you’re no longer in the vehicle doesn’t mean you’re out of danger. Fumes, gasoline, and upholstery can ignite and potentially explode. Stay far enough away to avoid further injury, and encourage onlookers to do the same. Wait for trained emergency personnel to put out the flames.
- Call the fire department. If emergency personnel have not arrived by the time you’ve exited the vehicle, ask onlookers to call 911 or do it yourself. If you or any of your passengers sustained burns, lacerations, or any other injuries, or experience difficulty breathing, call for medical assistance immediately.
- Attend to your injuries as best you can. While you wait for an ambulance, check yourself and passengers for any superficial wounds such as cuts or scrapes that you or an onlooker can treat with items from a first aid kit. Severe burns, neck and spine injuries, and internal complaints should not be addressed until medical professionals arrive. This is also a good time to drink water and offer some to your passengers. Although you may not have inhaled a lethal dose of smoke and carbon monoxide, you might still have throat irritation.
You may not be able to prevent an accident or a car fire, but you can prepare for one. Before your next outing, remember to properly stock your vehicle with a first aid and safety kit, which may include some of the items previously mentioned, as well as flame-retardant blankets, reflective road triangles, and a fire extinguisher.
Call an Experienced Lawyer
Depending on the cause of your fiery accident, you may be entitled to injury compensation. Car issues such as negligent maintenance or poor wiring, or reckless driving caused by someone else, could mean that you can rightfully pursue an injury claim. To learn about your claim options following a fire, contact the law offices of Johnson & Gilbert, P.A. We’ve spent our entire careers helping those in need—let us help you. For more information on car safety or to speak with an experienced car accident injury lawyer, contact our office by calling 386.673.4412 or by filling out our online contact sheet to set up your free consultation.