Car Fire Accidents Can Cause Deadly Injuries

Car Fire Accidents Can Cause Deadly InjuriesCar accidents take on numerous forms – fender benders, head-on collisions, multi-car pile-ups – but many are not aware of the danger of “thermal incidents.”

Hyundai and Kia recently recalled approximately 90,000 vehicles in the U.S. and are advising owners to park them outside away from other vehicles and structures due to an issue with the electronics in the vehicles’ Idle Stop and Go system that causes them to catch on fire. In March 2023, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) warned drivers to be on the lookout for indications of a possible issue, including warning lights in the gauge cluster, smoke from underneath the vehicle, and burning or melting odors.

Hyundai models being recalled include 2023 Elantras, Sonatas, Tucsons, and Konas, and 2023 and 2024 Palisades. Kia is recalling 2023 Souls, Sportages, and 2023 and 2024 Seltos models. Although there have been no confirmed crashes, Hyundai knows of at least four thermal incidents related to this problem and Kia has identified six incidents of “localized melting.”

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Hyundai and Kia have recalled vehicles due to thermal incidents:

  • In 2022, the owners of almost half-a-million Kia and Hyundai vehicles were alerted of the risk of fire related to the anti-lock brake control electronics.
  • Kia and Hyundai recalled over 250,000 vehicles in 2022 due to a trailer hitch wiring concern.
  • In 2021, 380,000 Kia owners were advised to park outside because of a risk of fire from electric circuits under the hood.
  • Hyundai recalled 82,000 electric vehicles in 2021 due to a defect in the lithium-ion batteries that could cause them to burn – even when parked.
  • In 2020, Kia issued a recall of 295,00 vehicles that could potentially catch fire while running because of fuel leaks.

Hyundai and Kia plan to start notifying owners of the recall in late September, directing them to contact their dealership to schedule a free repair.

What causes car fire incidents?

Car fire incidents can take place due to various factors, such as driver error, mechanical problems, and chemical issues. Some of the most common reasons for a vehicle to catch on fire include:

  • Design flaws. The S. Fire Administration has estimated that less than one percent of car fires are due to design flaws and car manufacturers often detect problems, and issue recalls before these before incidents become widespread. However, since 2012, nearly 10 million vehicles (both gasoline and electric) have recalled by most major car manufacturers because of fire hazards.
  • Spilled fluid. Cars contain numerous flammable fluids – gasoline or diesel fuel, engine oil, power steering fluid, transmission fluid, brake fluid, and coolant – that circulate throughout the vehicle while it is running, making them prone to catching fire in the event of an accident.
  • Battery problems. Hybrid and electric vehicle batteries can be prone to catching on fire, although gas cars actually have the most manufacturer recalls for fire risk due to battery issues. Although electric vehicles catch fire less frequently, these fires are typically more difficult to put out than gas car fires.
  • Overworked catalytic converters. When catalytic converters work too hard to burn off excessive exhaust pollutants, they frequently overheat and ignite anything nearby – parts of the car, tall grass, and adjacent structures.
  • Electrical system failure. The charging cycles of a car’s standard lead-acid battery can result in a buildup of dangerous hydrogen gas in the engine, and the electrical current from the battery can spark and rapidly cause fluid to drip or vapors to leak and catch fire.
  • Car accidents. Most vehicles’ crumple zones are designed so that the body and frame absorb the force of the impact and protect dangerous spots like the engine, battery, and gas tank. However, a forceful blow can cause heat, smoke, fluid leaks and spillage. Intense heat and leaked fluids create the perfect conditions for a car fire.


According to research by CarsDover, approximately 213,000 cars catch fire annually in the U.S., or an average of 600 each day. Approximately 190,000 of these fires are started by mechanical or electrical problems, while the rest occur because of accidents or arson.

What types of injuries result from car fires?

Car crashes cause many serious injuries, particularly when a vehicle catches on fire. Here are some of the most common injuries that result from car fires:

  • Burns. Moderate or severe burns happen when an accident victim comes in contact with hot metal, coolant, hot water, or steam escaping from a damaged vehicle. The most severe car fire burns can result in scarring, amputation, and death.
  • Toxic exposure. Fires arising from car accidents often prompt the release of toxic fumes, which can result in deadly exposure, respiratory issues, and lung damage.
  • Lacerations. When a car catches on fire it might explode, producing flying debris that can hit and seriously injure the vehicle’s occupants.
  • Disfigurement. When car accident burn victims have burns over 50 to 80 percent of their bodies (as many do), this can result in permanent disfigurement and the need for emergency surgery, rehabilitation, and ongoing medical care.

Car fire injuries are frequently life-threatening and require extensive and ongoing medical care and a long and painful recovery. If you sustained a burn injury in a motor vehicle accident caused by another driver’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for the physical and emotional pain resulting from the injury. You might also be entitled to compensation if a faulty vehicle design or production issue contributed to the fire, no matter who was responsible for the crash.

At Phelan Petty, we use our knowledge, resources, and advocacy skills to stand up for the victims of car fire accidents. Our attorneys help you gather the necessary evidence, work with expert witnesses, and build a strong case for you. With our support, you can expect a fair resolution that provides the financial compensation you need to move on with your life. Call us or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation and discuss your options with a qualified attorney. We serve clients in Richmond and throughout Virginia.