There are an estimated 100 million plastic gas cans in circulation around the United States, with more being sold every day. Most people have no idea how dangerous they can be. If you’re researching gas can injury, you or someone you love may know it all too well.
Under some conditions, gas vapor inside red or yellow portable gas cans can explode, causing burn injuries for anyone nearby. The Consumer Product Safety Commission found gas can injury caused at least 11 deaths and 1,200 emergency room visits since 1998. They’re calling for manufacturers to improve safety, but so far that hasn’t happened.
Gas Can Injury Causes
An industry crew at Worcester Polytechnic Institute tested gas cans in their combustion lab to see what causes explosions. In the test, scientists put just a few teaspoons of gas in a can. Then, they mounted it to a stand at an angle similar to how a consumer would hold it to pour.
In some situations, gas vapors traveling down the nozzle ignited. The flame traveled back into the can to cause an explosion.
It’s called a flashback explosion. When vapor in the can comes into contact with a spark or a flame, that flame ignites the rest of what’s in the can. Air, gasoline and vapor become a potentially deadly ball of fire.
When Gas Can Injuries Occur
Explosions are most likely to happen under these conditions:
- When gas cans are in proximity to fire
- As the can reaches a pouring angle around 42 degrees
- When there is very little gas left in the can
Any time you’re around gas can, keep in mind it’s a hazardous substance prone to combustion.
Gas Can Injury Types
NBC News conducted an investigation into gas can injury types. They interviewed Robert Jacoby, a young man caught in a gas can explosion. Jacoby planned to use gasoline to light a pile of brush on fire. He set the almost empty can down more than 20 feet away from the pile.
He hadn’t lit the brush, but static electricity from his jeans provided a spark. The gas can exploded, and Jacoby received burns over 75 percent of his body.
William Melvin turned off his riding lawn mower and used a gas can to refuel. It exploded in his hand and blew him back into his shop. He suffered extensive burns all over his upper body.
Those are just a few examples of individuals receiving severe burns from a gas can explosion. For more on burn injuries, read our article Burn Injury Claim Basics.
Defective Gas Can Lawsuits
Personal injury attorneys have filed more than 80 gas can injury lawsuits over the past 20 years. They’ve named both gas can manufacturers and vendors as plaintiffs.
Lawyers for gas can manufacturers say testing doesn’t prove gas cans are unsafe. It seems contradictory they also point out gas cans are imprinted with warnings. “Vapors can explode,” they say. They know it can happen.
There’s a simple fix. Professional grade gas cans come with flame arresters, a component made of metal mesh that keeps flame from traveling back into the can. Manufacturers say they’re looking into adding flame arresters to gas cans.
“This should have happened decades ago,” said Glen Stevick, a mechanical engineer at Berkeley Engineering and Research. If it had, manufacturers could have prevented thousands of injuries.
How We’ll Fight For You
If you or someone you love has received a gas can injury, set up a free consultation and let’s talk about your case. In previous lawsuits, manufacturers tried to say it was the injured person’s fault. They argue the person should have taken precautions to make sure there was no possibility of a spark, or that they were using the gas can incorrectly.
They don’t want to lose money. If they can argue it was your fault you were injured, they might get away with what happened. You need someone on your side who can investigate what happened and help you pursue a fair settlement.
Come talk to our personal injury lawyers in Longview or Shreveport. We’ll fight for you. Set up your free consultation today.