I recently signed up a new client who was filling up his Harley at a local gas station. Little did he know that the gas pump handle was broken. The “float” that tells the handle when to cut off the flow of gas wasn’t working. Someone had even been out to fix it two days earlier, but that wasn’t known to my client.
Most Harley gas tanks are on top of the bike. This means he was filling up the tank much higher than on a car, and the gas tank entry was pointed straight up.
Well, you know what’s coming: the tank filled, the float failed, gas continued flowing and sprayed up directly into “Jim’s” face. It saturated his body within seconds. Because he was in full biker gear, he was wearing a chamois which is meant to collect sweat. Now, he was essentially wearing a diaper filled with toxic, burning gasoline.
Jim complained, of course, and filled out a form, but he wanted to get back home as soon as possible to wash this off of himself. Imagine the terror he felt sparking up a hot Harley after being marinated in gasoline.
My client sustained multiple chemical burns that will largely heal over time, but were incredibly painful, debilitating and embarassing.
Believe it or not, the worst was yet to come. After staying home for more than one week to recuperate, Jim decided to take the Harley out. In first gear, he quickly noticed something was wrong. The engine began to rev higher and higher, the bike was gong faster and faster and he soon lost control of it, crashing and damaging the Harley, and more importantly, injuring himself.
Three mechanics have agreed that the gasoline doused Harley eroded the mechanics of the throttle and when Jim opened it, the throttle stuck wide open.
So, with road rash, ligament damage and many fractured bones later, Jim realized the severity of the gasoline incident wasn’t his rash, it was the mechanical damage to the Harley which could have killed him.
I took a particular interest in this case, since many years ago I was filling up when the hose disengaged from the pump handle dousing me with gas. Knowing gas is an alcohol based product and dries quickly, I didn’t exactly race home to shower, I continued to Orlando for a five day legal seminar. I was as sick as could be for the entire seminar.
The take-away from all of this for me, is now I always use the “auto-pilot” when filling up and I stand back from the hose. I never, ever try to squeeze another ounce of gas out of the pump. I always turn the car off (maybe you’ve seen the parent who leaves the car on so the kids in the backseat can remain cool). I’ve heard that cell phones can create sparks near pumps igniting the gasoline. In preparation for this blog post, I researched and the FCC reports that this is completely unconfirmed. But, when you’re standing between a tank full of gas and a pump with an unlimited supply of it, is it worth diverting your attention?
“Jim” and I don’t think so.