While action movies may include hundreds of car explosions, they are typically pretty rare occurrences in real life. When they do happen, though, they can cause serious and devastating damage that can be deadly. Vehicle gas tanks and fuel systems have been designed with safety in mind, but the presence of even the smallest defect can lead to a gas tank explosion. Those defects are especially dangerous in the event of a collision. Post-collision gas tank explosions resulting from defects in the gas tank or fuel lines can kill the driver and passengers in the vehicle in an instant. If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a gas tank explosion, contact our gas tank explosion attorney today for a free consultation.
Vehicle Fuel System Overview
Fuel systems and gas tanks have evolved over the past century in an attempt to keep drivers and passengers as safe as possible in their cars. Modern fuel systems have multiple components that work together to keep the car running. These components include:
- Gas tanks: This is where gas or diesel is stored.
- Fuel Lines: These lines facilitate fuel moving from the gas tank, through filters, and to the fuel injectors. The fuel travels at a high pressure to make it through the lines smoothly.
- Fuel pumps: The fuel pumps draw the gas out of the tank and into the fuel lines. Most modern fuel pumps are electric.
- Injectors: Inject a fuel-air mixture into the engine.
- EVAP systems: An evaporative emission control system uses a gas line to keep the pressure from building up within the gas tank.
Even a fuel system that has been property constructed can pose a safety hazard. A defect in any of these components can lead to vehicle fires and gas tank explosions. Fuel systems were not always designed this way. Until the 1960s, cars were designed with vented gas caps where gas was pumped into the car. With the fuel system not being fully closed, pressure was always able to be equalized and gas tank explosions could be avoided. This unfortunately also allowed gas to leak out into the environment, contributing to pollution. Vented gas caps were phased out after the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) instituted a rule in 1971 that required all cars with internal combustion engines to have an EVAP system. This would keep pressure in the main gas tank stabilized.
Gas Tank Defects
Even with these new safety standards, gas tank explosions still occurred. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) performed an investigation in 1977 to determine why Ford Pinto and Mercury Bobcats were vulnerable to gas tank explosions when involved in rear-end collisions. It was determined that a defect in the gas tank could easily lead to fuel leaking if these vehicles were struck from the rear, resulting in a possible vehicle fire or gas tank explosion. Automakers had to change their vehicle designs to place gas tanks in less vulnerable areas. This, unfortunately, has not stopped defects in fuel systems from causing gas tank explosions. In 2013, Chrysler had to recall 2.7 million Jeep Grand Cherokees and Liberty SUVs after 51 people were killed in post-collision vehicle fires caused by ruptures in the gas tanks of those vehicle models. The most common gas tank defects we see currently include:
- improper gas tank placement (having the gas tank in a vulnerable place),
- cracks in the gas tank itself,
- improper material being used to construct the gas tank, and
- failure to shield the gas tank from impact during a collision
Other Defects Can Lead to Tragedy
Because the fuel system must maintain pressure at a certain level to work, any gas that leaks from the fuel lines with be turned into a mist that is incredibly susceptible to ignition with or without an impact. This makes fuel line ignition incredibly dangerous and could cause a gas tank explosion as the fire moves through the fuel system. Fuel lines in a vehicle are supposed to be designed to seal off after a collision to prevent fire. If the fuel lines do not seal off, ignition of gas particles can quickly occur, and fuel will continue to feed the fire until all gasoline in the car is burned. The electric fuel pump should also be designed to shut off in the event of an impact. If the fuel pump is defective and fails to shut off, the pump will continue to push gas through the system which provides a constant source of flammable material that can cause an explosion.
Gas Tank Explosion Lawyers
Vehicle manufacturers have the legal responsibility to produce vehicles that are safe for drivers and passengers, even if a car accident occurs. Vehicles should be free from defects that could cause devastating gas tank explosions. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a vehicle defect, we are here to help. John Flood has over 30 years of experience handling vehicle fire claims and is ready to fight for victims who have been injured or killed by negligent automakers. Call trial attorney John Flood at (361) 654-8877 today for a free initial case evaluation.