Uncontrollable car fires in a traffic accident can be a frightening experience where the situation quickly becomes dangerous or life-threatening. You may have questions about who is liable and what to do next.

At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, our personal injury attorneys understand the complex issues when someone else’s negligence causes a car fire. We have successfully represented and offered legal help to many clients who have been injured in a car fire and helped them recover compensation for their medical costs and other damages.

Contact our law firm today at 888-424-5757 to schedule a free consultation with our experienced product liability attorneys to discuss your legal options after a collision. All discussions are kept secured through an attorney-client relationship.

car on fire police following accident

Car Fire Statistics in the United States of America

In the United States of America, car fires happen more often than you would think. In 2017, an estimated 169,000 highway vehicle fires were reported to fire departments. These fires resulted in an estimated $1.1 billion in direct property damage and claimed the lives of some 500 people.

A vehicle fire occurred every 2 minutes and 34 seconds and caused about $6,571 in damage every minute. While the overall number of highway vehicle fires has been declining since the early 1990s, the frequency of large truck fires has been increasing.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), careless smoking is the leading cause of cars catching on fire.

Collision fires account for roughly 30% of all car fires. Other causes include an electrical system defect, arson, and a collision. Visit the NFPA website to learn more about the leading causes of highway vehicle fire s and how to protect your family.

Common Causes of Car Fires

Having a thorough understanding of the circumstances that may cause your vehicle to catch fire can assist you in avoiding it. Here are 10 of the most frequent causes of cars catching fire:

Design Flaws

Some automobiles bursting into a flame can be due to the inherent design flaws in the vehicle. In some cases, these problems can be linked to recalls. The manufacturer may know the defect but has chosen not to issue a recall in other instances.

In 2014, Takata Corporation issued a recall for 34 million vehicles equipped with potentially faulty airbags. The airbags were prone to exploding and sending shrapnel into the occupants. Most cars these days are equipped with dash cams and other safety features to protect the occupants.

Careless Smoking

Careless smoking is the leading cause of vehicles catching on fire, accounting for roughly 30% of vehicle fires. If you must smoke while driving, properly dispose of your cigarette butt to avoid starting a fire.

Many smokers mistakenly believe that rolling down the window will prevent a fire from starting if they drop their cigarette. However, this is not the case. The wind can cause the embers to spread, increasing the chances of a fire.

Electrical System Failure

Electrical problems are the second most common cause of motor vehicles catching on fire, accounting for 14% of fires. Most electrical fires in cars are caused by faulty wiring and short circuits. A short circuit occurs when there is a break in the flow of electricity.

Electrical cables run throughout the vehicle, thus posing dangers in every area.


While it may not be the most common cause of motor vehicles catching on fire, arson is responsible for many blazes each year. The NFPA reports that about 5% of all vehicles catching on fire result from arson.

Arson is also a crime of opportunity. One reason why arsonists may target vehicles is that they are easy to set on fire. If a vehicle is parked in an isolated area, it may be more likely to be targeted by an arsonist.


While most people don’t think of collisions as a cause of fires, they cause about 3% of all fires. The vast majority of these fires are the result of vehicle rollovers.

Sparks from car collisions can ignite flammable materials in the vehicle. A collision can rupture the fuel tank, causing gasoline leaks. If the fuel comes into contact with a spark, it can cause a fire.

Engine Malfunctions

Engine failure is the third most common cause of motor vehicles catching on fire, accounting for about 11% of fires. Most automobile fires are the result of a fluid leak.

If gasoline or oil leaks from the motor vehicle, it only takes a tiny spark to ignite it. Once the fire starts, it can spread to other parts of the vehicle if you don’t act quickly.

Poor Maintenance

Many motor vehicles catching on fire are the result of inadequate maintenance. It is especially true for automobile fires.

If you don’t properly maintain your vehicle, it can lead to fluid leaks and other problems. These problems can then increase the chances of a fire starting.


While it’s not as common as it once was, overheating can still cause motor vehicles to catch fire.

If your vehicle’s engine gets too hot, it can ignite any flammable fluids leaking from it. In addition, the heat can damage electrical components, causing them to short circuit.

Defective Fuel Pumps

The fuel system is another common source of motor vehicles catching on fire. If the fuel pump is damaged after a collision, it can cause oil to leak.

These leaks from a defective component can then increase the chances of a fire starting. Several things can cause damage to the fuel pump. Some common causes:

  • Running over debris can puncture the fuel tank or damage the fuel lines
  • Fuel pump or system damage due to corrosion; over time, the fuel tank and lines can corrode, causing them to leak.
  • Defective fuel pumps can cause a vehicle to catch fire. If the fuel pump is not working properly, it can overheat and catch fire.

If you suspect that your fuel pump is damaged, it’s essential to have it repaired as soon as possible.

Exposed or Spilled Flammable Fluids

Flammable fluids are a common source of car fires. If these fluids are exposed or spilled, they can easily ignite.

One way that these fluids can become exposed is if your vehicle is involved in a traffic accident. The impact of the collision can cause the fuel tank or lines to rupture, resulting in a spill.

You should always be careful handling flammable fluids. If you spill them, make sure to clean up the mess immediately. If you improperly fill your car’s tank, it can increase the chances of a fire.

Preventing Automotive Fires

Most car fires are preventable. If you take some simple precautions, you can help keep your vehicle safe from fire:

Keep Flammable Objects Away From Your Car

Flammable objects like gas cans and bottles of cleaners should be kept away from your vehicle. Make sure they are stored in a cool, dry place.

Have Your Car Serviced Regularly

Regular servicing can help prevent many common causes of car fires, such as electrical issues. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends having your cars serviced by a certified technician.

Never Leave Your Car Running Unattended

Many car fires are caused by leaving a vehicle running unattended. If you must leave your car running, keep it in a well-ventilated area.

Use Caution When Refueling

Refueling your car can be dangerous if you’re not careful. Be sure to turn off your engine before refueling to disable power to other vehicle electrical parts; also, be sure to secure any fuel containers in your car properly.

Be Careful With Road Flares

Road flares can be useful in an emergency, but they can also be dangerous. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using them.

Store Spare Tires Properly

Spare tires should be stored in a cool, dry place. And be sure to check on them regularly to make sure they are properly inflated. In addition, the NFPA recommends that you check your car’s tires regularly for wear and tear.

Check Your Car’s Battery

Your car’s battery can be a fire hazard if it leaks or overcharges. Be sure to have it checked regularly by a certified technician.

Car Fire Safety Guide

According to the National Fire Protection Association, an estimated 371,500 car fires happen each year in the United States. That’s over 1,000 car fires every day!

While most of us have never experienced a car fire firsthand, they are quite common. Your odds of experiencing a vehicle fire are about 1 in every 367 drivers, according to the NFPA.

What to Do If Your Car Catches Fire

A vehicle on fire is a particularly hazardous scenario since it might trigger panic among the passengers. There may be a variety of reasons that cause a vehicle fire, and it can be deadly in some cases due to the presence of a gasoline tank filled with petrol or diesel, which is a highly flammable liquid.

Here are some of the possibilities for vehicle fire risks, as well as how to avoid them:

While You Are Driving the Car

Follow the steps below to get out of danger if your vehicle is on fire while driving on the highway:

  • Stop and get out: As soon as you realize that your vehicle is on fire, gently step on the brake pedal to stop the vehicle. Do not slam on the brakes, as this could cause the car to skid or lose control. Once the car is stopped, remain calm but act quickly and get out of the vehicle.
  • Do not re-enter the car: Once you are out of the vehicle, do not try to re-enter it. Even if you think you can put out the fire, it is not worth the risk.
  • Do not open the vehicle’s hood: Many people think they should open the hood to release the heat and smoke, but this is not the case. You could be exposing yourself to more danger by doing this.
  • Contact the fire department and police immediately: Give them your location and wait for help to arrive. Do not try to put out the fire yourself.

Inform Your Car Insurance Company

After the event, inform your car insurance provider about the incident so that they can process any claims. An experienced attorney will also be able to help you with this process.

What to Do If Your Car Is Parked and Catches Fire

Be careful extinguishing a burning car and follow safety procedures, including:

  • Use a fire extinguisher: If you have a fire extinguisher in your car, use it to put out the fire. Be sure to aim at the base of the flame, not just the top.
  • Do not use water: Many people think they should use water to put out the fire, but this is a bad idea. Water will not extinguish a grease or electrical fire, it will make the fire worse.
  • Alert other vehicles and pedestrians: If you are parked in a garage or near other vehicles, alert them of the fire. You should also clear the area of any pedestrians who might be at risk.
  • Call the fire department: Even if you think you have extinguished the fire, it is always good to call the fire department. They will be able to inspect the area and make sure that the fire is completely out.

What to Do If You Had An Accident and Your Car Catches Fire

If you are involved in an auto collision, and your car catches fire, it is crucial to stay calm and follow the steps below:

  • Get out of the vehicle: Protect yourself and act quickly by immediately getting out of the vehicle. Do not try to drive away from the scene or move the vehicle.
  • Help other occupants: If there are other occupants in the car, help them get out.
  • Contact emergency services: Call the fire department and police. Give them your location and wait for help to arrive. Their services include towing the car away and investigating the cause of the fire.
  • Do not try to put out the fire: Even if you think you can control the fire, it is not worth the risk. Let the professionals handle it.

Warning Signs That Your Car Is on Fire

Several warning signs are intended to let you know that your car is on fire. If you see any of the following, pull over and get out of the motor vehicle immediately:

  • Loud exhaust sound: A loud exhaust sound is one of the first signs that your car might be on fire and not just backfiring. If you hear a loud bang or pop, pull over and get out of the vehicle.
  • Strange burning smells: Another warning sign of a car fire is a peculiar burning smell. If you notice any unusual odors, pull over and get out of the vehicle.
  • Flames: One of the most obvious signs that your vehicle is on fire is flame. When you see it, get out of the vehicle immediately.

Defective Car Body Part Could Cause a Fire

Many different car parts can be defective and cause a fire. Some of the most common include:

Electrical System

The electrical system includes the battery, wiring, and alternator. When an electrical defect is present, it can cause a short circuit that may result in a fire. Faulty wiring in the vehicle’s cabin can cause fires in the passenger compartment.

Fuel System

The fuel system includes the fuel tank, fuel lines, and fuel pump. A defective fuel pump can cause a leak, resulting in a fire if the leaked fluid comes into contact with an ignition source.

Exhaust System

The exhaust system includes the muffler, catalytic converter, and exhaust pipes. A defective exhaust system can lead to a build-up of heat, resulting in a fire.


The engine compartment is an essential part of the vehicle. A mechanical failure can cause a build-up of heat, friction, or sparks that may result in a fire.


The transmission system controls the power transfer from the engine to the wheels. Defective transmission parts are dangerous and can result in fire.


Tires are made of rubber and are subject to wear and tear. A defective tire can cause a blowout, resulting in a fire if the tire comes into contact with an ignition source.

Manufacturing Defects

Defective vehicles can cause fires. If there is a defect with your vehicle’s design, manufacturing, or assembly, you may have a product liability claim against the automaker.

Human Error

It is the most common cause of cars catching fire. It is usually the result of smoking while driving or attempting to repair the vehicle without proper training or tools.

Many different factors can contribute to a car fire. If you have been injured in a car fire, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the defective part or the company that sold you the defective vehicle.

You may also be able to sue the mechanic who attempted to repair the vehicle without proper training or tools.

Common Injuries Sustained in Auto Fires

When a car catches on fire, the vehicle’s occupants can be seriously injured or killed. Some of the most common injuries sustained in auto fires include:

  • Burns:Burns are the most common type of injury sustained in car fires. Burns can range from mild to severe and can be caused by the heat or chemicals present in the smoke.
  • Fumes inhalation: Fume inhalation can occur when the occupants of a burning motor vehicle inhale the toxic fumes produced by the fire. Toxic fumes can cause severe respiratory problems and can even be fatal.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning: Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas produced by burning fuel. When inhaled, carbon monoxide can cause serious health problems, including death.
  • Injuries from escaping the vehicle: In some cases, occupants of a burning motor vehicle may be injured while trying to escape the flame. These injuries can include broken bones, lacerations, and bruises.

Many different types of injuries can be sustained in a car fire. If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident where your vehicle caught fire, it is essential to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Once you have received treatment for your injuries, you should speak with an experienced legal representative who can help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Liability for Car Fires After a Crash

It’s not uncommon in car accidents for one of the vehicles to catch on fire. If you were injured in the accident and your car was the one that caught fire, you may be wondering whether you can sue the person liable for your injuries.

Your medical costs, lost wages, and other damages may all be recovered if you are harmed in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence. The at-fault party may include:

  • The person who caused the crash
  • The car manufacturer if the fire was due to a defective part or design flaw
  • The mechanic who worked on the car if the fire was due to negligence in performing repairs

A car fire can cause irreparable damage, and you may be able to recover the cost of repairs or replacement and any other losses you suffer.

Car Fire Insurance Claims

If you were in a traffic accident and your vehicle caught fire, you may be wondering if you can sue for your damages. After all, no one wants to be in a position where they are stranded on the side of the road with a burning vehicle. If you have comprehensive coverage, your insurance should cover the damages caused by the fire.

However, if you only have liability coverage, you will likely be responsible for paying for the repairs yourself. Most vehicles that catch fire are declared a total loss by insurance firms because the cost of repair often outweighs the car’s value.

If you are considering filing an insurance claim or lawsuit against the at-fault driver, there are a few things to keep in mind.

  • You will need to prove that the other driver was at fault for the accident.
  • In some cases, the party at fault might not have enough insurance to cover your damages. If this is the case, you may be able to file a claim with your own insurance company if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
  • If a mechanical issue caused the fire with your car, you will likely not be able to file a claim or lawsuit against anyone. In this instance, your best option would be to contact your car manufacturer to see if the issue is covered under warranty.

It is essential to consult with an experienced auto accident attorney to discuss your specific case on how to get the compensation you deserve.

Call Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers for Legal Help Today

Car fires occur more frequently than you may believe after a collision. A legal representative can assist you in obtaining the money you need for medical costs, lost wages, and other losses as a result of the accident by representing your interests.

Our personal injury lawyers are here to provide legal advice and answer all your questions. Our car accident attorneys have a proven track record of success in fighting for our client’s rights and have recovered millions on their behalf.

You deserve compensation for your injuries, and we can help make that happen. Schedule a free consultation with an attorney at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC today by calling 888-424-5757 or filling out our online form for legal advice on how to proceed.

We will review your claim and determine the best course of legal action to get you the compensation you need to recover. There is no risk inscheduling a free consultation, so call us today to learn more about your legal options.

All sensitive information you share with your attorney in our initial consultation concerning your claim and our services will be kept confidential through an attorney-client relationship.


Client Reviews

Jonathan Rosenfeld was professionally objective, timely, and knowledgeable. Also, his advice was extremely effective regarding my case. In addition, Jonathan was understanding and patient pertaining to any of my questions or concerns. I was very happy with the end result and I highly recommend Jonathan Rosenfeld.

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Extremely impressed with this law firm. They took control of a bad motorcycle crash that left my uncle seriously injured. Without any guarantee of a financial recovery, they went out and hired accident investigators and engineers to help prove how the accident happened. I am grateful that they worked on a contingency fee basis as there was no way we could have paid for these services on our own.

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Jonathan helped my family heal and get compensation after our child was suffered a life threatening injury at daycare. He was sympathetic and in constant contact with us letting us know all he knew every step of the way. We were so blessed to find Jonathan!

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This lawyer really helped me get compensation for my motorcycle accident case. I know there is no way that I could have gotten anywhere near the amount that Mr. Rosenfeld was able to get to settle my case. Thank you.

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial.

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