Gas tank fire blamed for crash fatality

Along with a negligent driver, design flaws can cause a fatal car accident. In a recently-filed wrongful death lawsuit, the family of a 58-year-old woman killed in a crash blamed the location of her vehicle's gas tank for her death in a fire in Ohio.

On Oct. 20, 2017, the victim's 2004 Jeep Liberty was rear-ended by a concrete truck. The collision caused the fuel tank, mounted in the SUV's rear, to erupt into flames. The victim's head was placed close to the burning rear area of the vehicle after the seatback of her seat collapsed. The intensity of the fire's heat prevented bystanders from rescuing the victim.

The plaintiffs claim that the trailer hitch pierced the tank and caused a fuel link because of its placement in the rear axle. Chrysler claimed that the trailer hitch was presumably installed to protect passengers.

Chrysler was accused in this lawsuit of placing the gas tank in the crush zone behind the Jeep's rear axle, using a trailer hitch to guard the gas tank in a rear-end collision and manufacturing a defective seatback. The plaintiffs also claim that the manufacturer knew for 40 years that rear placement of a gas tank increased the risk of deaths in a crash fire because of the accidents involving Ford Pintos and through its various advertisements and testing.

Chrysler initially said that the SUVS were safe, but finally agreed to recall 1.5 million vehicles to install trailer hitches, which it said allowed limited improvement in low to moderate speed rear end crashes. Chrysler's vice-president for engineering also admitted that trailer hitches did not protect gas tanks in the 2011 vehicles.

The plaintiffs claim that trailer hitches increased the risk of a fire because it becomes a spear that pierces the fuel tank. The victim's husband said that this vehicle was taken to a dealership after the recall because a tow package/trailer hitch was installed on the Jeep.

An attorney can help families who experienced the loss of a loved one to seek compensation in a lawsuit. They can help hold negligent parties accountable.

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