Covered with gasoline due to a malfunctioning pump...

by Patricia
(Scottsdale, AZ)

On Monday, 12/30/13 I drove my convertible into a new gas station. The gas gauge was a little under 1/2 full. The gas tank in my car is on the driver's side. I slid my visa card, was authorized, pushed 87 octane, took the hose, put the nozzle into my gas tank and pressed the lever. Gas went into the tank until it was full. The gas hose clicked off and the meter stopped running at $35 and 11 gallons. I then removed the nozzle and hose from the gas tank.

The nozzle then surged out an enormous, forceful flow of gasoline that was uncontrollable. I aimed it up into the air. The gasoline soaked me and my car. When gasoline got into my eyes and I could not see, I dropped the gas hose onto the ground where it continued to flow. I felt around the outside of the car for some water, and in the trunk to put in my eyes.

A woman's voice said she had eyesaline to put in my eyes and I followed her direction to put back my head. She opened my eyes and poured in the eyesaline. She said it is a law that every gas station have eyesaline on the premises. I am an RN and she had the voice of a medical authority. So I did what she said. Someone called 911 and the firemen came. They put sand under the car. Then asked me if I could see. They wanted me to get out of the soaked clothes and shoes.

I lived nearby. They said to take off my clothes and wash for 5 minutes my body and hair. They put plastic on my seat for me since I was soaked and so was the car. The next day was new years eve and then new years day, so no doctor was available. I was in state of shock and confused anyway, so I saw Urgent Care on Thursday. My son drove me.

I stopped at the gas station to ask about an incident report. They said then sent it to the corporate office in Kentucky. My car needed film peeled off window, a back window regulator, and cleaning of gasoline. I fixed the car and paid $783. I needed a car and could not drive with the back window down. My insurance wanted $500 deductible under comprehensive. I said no thanks, and paid to have the car fixed myself.

I saw the eye doctor and got an extensive exam. I got a Rx for new glasses. He took a picture of a wave in my retina which the retina specialist had taken before cataract surgery. Outside of swelling under my eyes, my vision seems OK except for eyes getting tired more quickly. I've had 3 surgeries for basal cell carcinoma on my nose (lost half of nose). I had MOHS surgery then plastic surgery twice. They worked a long time on the scar before it looked better.

Now the gasoline has burned my face and the scar. I'll see the plastic surgeon for an examination. Also, my feet soaking in gasoline for an hour has increased my peripheral neuropathy caused by monoclonal gammopathy (diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic). I'll also see the Neuro doctor for NCS. The gasoline also has an affect on my central nervous system. I could not walk for a few days after the incident and now feel like I am walking on rocks.

This whole gasoline soaking has impacted me. Inhaling the gasoline fumes caused throat soreness and heaviness in my chest. Confusion and fatigue still bother me. I spoke to a poison control doctor and he said to drink lots of water. They have no data on gasoline toxicity and its affects on us.

The gas station company is self-insured and they have another company do their claim management. They left me a message with a claim # and their phone #. Every time I called I got voice mail. They are 2 hours ahead of Arizona. I finally connected with them and they were only interested in the car damage estimate - not the 911 tape or the firemen's report. I, however had requested both of them and paid for them. I should receive them by next week. The claims adjuster said they only wanted to establish liability.

I received a call from the adjuster this afternoon and she said that "the store had no liability with the gas surge," I said of course not. The store just collected money and sold food. The liability was with the gas company and the company that installed the new gas pumps.

There was obviously a flaw in the handle that flips the nozzle off when the tank is full. The surge could have come from the time the tanker filled the gas pumps. How can the gas company not have liability? There was no way I could have caused the surge in gasoline. And wouldn't they have a 3rd party lawsuit against the company that installed the gas pumps? How can the adjuster decide that they are not liable? Any information and options you can give here would be much appreciated.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Covered with gasoline due to a malfunctioning pump...":

Patricia (Scottsdale, AZ):

Hire an attorney, and do so immediately. Do not continue to communicate with the gas station, their insurance company, or anyone else who may be involved with your injury claim. From the facts you present there appear to be at least three (3) parties who may be liable individually, and collectively for your damages:

First: The gas station owner

Second: The property owner (if different from the gas station owner)

Third: The manufacturer of the gas nozzle (this would be considered a product liability claim)

Begin by doing some research. Fortunately, most personal injury attorneys do not charge for initial office consultations. Gather copies of all your medical bills, medical records, receipts for out-of-pocket expenses, and if you’ve had to miss work, a written verification from your employer stating the days you lost and the corresponding amount of wages.

To prevail in a case like yours takes expert witnesses. The most important will include professionals with superior of knowledge of the operation of gas nozzles, and medical experts who will be able to clearly and unequivocally link your injuries to the events at the gas station.

With a case as serious as yours you can be confident one or more lawsuits will have to be filed on your behalf. Pretrial discovery, including depositions, subpoenas, and court hearings will have to take place. These are all actions which can only be carried out by an experienced injury attorney.

Personal injury attorneys do not charge legal fees in advance, nor do they require their clients to pay costs of expert witnesses, court reporter fees, and other pretrial costs in advance. The only time you will have to pay is if your attorney succeeds in settling your case during trial, or wins your case after trial.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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