A young Hayward woman was severely burned in an auto accident fire on Sunday, December 12, 2010. The fire occurred after her 1991 Honda crashed into the center divide on the San Mateo bridge. Her passenger also suffered major burns. The California Highway Patrol is still investigating this San Mateo car crash.
Many car fires can and should be prevented by proper design of the automobile. According to the United States Fire Administration one in every four fire department responses is to a vehicle fire. Mechanical and design problems are the leading causes of such fires. Fires following car accidents are the leading cause of death in auto accidents. Each year auto accident fires result in an average of approximately 515 deaths, 3,000 injuries, and 1.1 billion dollars in property damage.
When an automaker puts a car out on the market that catches fire because it is defectively designed or manufactured, it is legally responsible for personal injuries and wrongful deaths caused by fires. Under California product liability laws, any manufacturer of a defective product, including an auto manufacturer is legally liable for damages caused by defective products sold to the public. In the past we have seen poorly designed gas tanks, filler caps, and locations of gas tanks as among the leading causes of such fires.
As an Oakland personal injury lawyer, I've witnessed the good that comes from our product liability laws. Starting with the Ford Pinto back in the 70's, personal injury lawyers representing victims of auto fires have taken on the auto industry in an effort to make cars safer for the driving public. Keeping the auto industry accountable is one of the most effective ways to improve the safety of our cars.
Oakland Tribune, Hayward woman still critical after San Mateo bridge crash, December 15, 2010
United States Fire Administration, Highway Vehicle Fires, March 2002