Injured at the Pump: Who Is Liable?

Published on August 13, 2019, by Matthew Sharp

Personal Injury

Injured at the Pump: Who Is Liable?

When injuries occur at a gas pump, station owners and operators may be liable for injuries to customers. Gas stations have a duty of care that includes ensuring customers are safe from harm. 

Injured at the Gas Pump

There are approximately 10,700 gas stations across the country. Gas station fires and explosions are more common than people realize. Between 2004 and 2008, there were approximately 5,020 fires reported at U.S. gas stations each year. During reported fires, at least 50 people were seriously injured and at least two people were killed each year. These figures don’t include injuries such as burns and smoke inhalation suffered by firefighters and police officers who responded to the scene. 

Most gas station fires and explosions happen at the pump where gasoline is stored for vehicles to refuel. If the gasoline stored in the pumps ignites, sudden intense fire and explosions can create potentially deadly conditions for anyone within 50 to 100  feet of the pumps. Fires are often started by certain conditions including:

  • People smoking cigarettes near the pumps
  • Lit matches and cigarettes dropped near the pumps
  • Drivers overfilling their gas tanks
  • Vehicles crashing into the pumps
  • Leaky gas lines
  • Damaged gas pumps and nozzles

In areas with cold, dry climates, static electricity can build up and get discharged through pump nozzles. If a motorist decides to sit in the car while the gas is pumping, a static charge is more likely when the motorist returns to the pump.

Who’s Liable for Injuries?

If a motorist suffers injuries at the pump, the owner or operator of a gas station is liable for injuries that occur on the premises if the injuries were caused by the owner’s negligence. The owner has a duty to keep the gas station reasonably safe from accidents and injuries. If an accident occurs due to a damaged pump, a punctured or frayed hose, a nozzle that won’t shut off properly, or a leaky gas line, the owner will be held liable for injuries due to negligence.

Since gas stations sell gasoline to the public, they must use care in dispensing such a highly flammable liquid. Many places regulate the sale of gasoline and place certain restrictions on gas stations to enhance customer safety. Common restrictions include requiring a license to sell gasoline, limiting gas stations to certain locations, and barring customers from self-service.