A recent surge of electric bike fires in NYC has brought new attention to the dangers of lithium battery fires and increased scrutiny of safety compliance. Although electric bikes, also known as e-bikes, are subject to federal and state regulations, fires can still occur due to improper maintenance, faulty construction, or regulatory noncompliance on the part of manufacturers.
An e-bike fire can pose a significant risk of injury, as well as property damage. If you’ve been injured in a fire involving an e-bike or had property that was damaged as a result, you may be wondering what your next steps should be. Here’s an overview of e-bike fires and what legal options might be available to you.
Why e-bike fires happen
E-bike fires are typically caused by the lithium batteries that power the bike. Lithium batteries include a highly combustible electrolyte fluid that can catch fire if the battery is overheated, damaged, or otherwise faulty in its construction. This can create a chain reaction that causes the battery to explode.
Common causes of lithium battery combustion include:
- Manufacturing or design flaws
- Damage to the battery causing the battery to short
- Exposure of the battery to intense heat
- Use of the wrong charger to charge the battery
Tips for avoiding e-bike fires
Many e-bike fires can be avoided by observing proper maintenance and use guidelines. If you own an e-bike, you can minimize the risk of a fire by taking the following precautions:
- Avoid leaving your e-bike battery unattended during charging
- Always use the battery charger and power adapter that were provided by the manufacturer
- Avoid purchasing used batteries or chargers for your e-bike
- Carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions for charging and use
- Keep the battery away from flammable materials such as upholstery or clothing while it’s charging or in use (this won’t prevent the battery from catching fire but may stop the fire from spreading and causing more damage)
While taking these steps can help you avoid some instances of e-bike fires, it’s important to note that fires can also be caused by flawed manufacturing processes or the sale of bikes that don’t meet regulatory requirements.
What to do if you are involved in an e-bike fire
If you own an e-bike that catches fire or are involved in a fire caused by someone else’s e-bike, it’s best to evacuate the area and call 911 immediately. Although it may be tempting to try to put out the fire yourself, lithium battery fires are highly dangerous and very difficult to extinguish. The best course of action is to protect your own safety and allow the fire department to handle the fire.
Legal next steps after an e-bike fire
E-bike fires aren’t always preventable, especially if the fire is caused by a faulty battery or you’re involved in a fire involving someone else’s improperly maintained e-bike.
If you suffer an injury or property damage as the result of an e-bike fire, your first priority should be to call 911 so you can ensure that the fire is properly extinguished and that you can get any medical attention you may need. Once you are safe and in stable medical condition, you should try to do all of the following if you can:
- Take pictures of the accident site
- Speak to any police who arrive on site so that they can take down your account of the events
- Get in touch with an experienced accident and personal injury attorney
This last step is especially important, as your attorney may be able to help you obtain compensation for your injuries or the damage from the fire. For example, if the fire is found to have been caused by a manufacturing flaw, the manufacturer may be held liable for the damages.