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Off-Duty Sheriff’s Sergeant Critically Injured When Fuel Catches Fire at Gas Station

As a Harley rider and a Davie burn injury attorney, I was dismayed to read about serious burns a sheriff’s supervisor sustained in an unusual accident. The Palm Beach Post and WPEC reported Oct. 5 that Richard Ragali, a Palm Beach County sheriff’s sergeant, was burned over nearly 60% of his body Oct. 2 when he was caught in a fuel fire at a gas station. The fire reportedly started when Ragali’s Harley-Davidson fell over during a stop for gas, igniting a puddle of gas left on the ground and pinning him under the bike. He suffered serious burns and is hospitalized in serious but stable condition. No one else was hurt, although two children were rescued from a nearby minivan that was ignited.

I’m sorry to say that the burn injuries this article describes sound very serious. Doctors use burn percentages to determine whether the patient should be hospitalized and the treatment he or she receives. For patients with moderate burns, about 10% is the threshold for hospitalization; more severe third-degree burns may require hospitalization if they affect just 1% of the body. At 60%, Rigali has lost so much skin that his body may have lost its ability to regulate basics like temperature and hydration. He also faces infection and, once he recovers, scarring so severe that it could limit his physical movement. As a Pompano Beach burn injury lawyer, I’m glad he was able to get to the trauma center so quickly, which substantially raises his chances of a good recovery.

I am also interested in the chain of events that started this fire, which will be very important when Rigali and his family begin to consider insurance claims and legal responsibility for this terrible accident. A small amount of spilled gasoline is almost inevitable at any gas station, but a large spill may constitute an unreasonable and serious safety hazard. If that’s the case, the operator of the station may be legally responsible for failing to clean it up. If the motorcycle slipped from a seemingly secure kickstand or center stand, the stand may also be defective, making the manufacturer liable for designing and selling a defective part. An experienced attorney should be able to negotiate with insurance companies for the at-fault parties — or, if necessary, sue to recover the victims’ costs and damages.

At Cohn, Smith & Cohn, we represent people who have suffered very serious burns and other severe injuries through no fault of their own. With more than 25 years of experience, we understand that burn injury cases are legally, medically, financially and emotionally complex. Burn victims who make a good recovery are likely to need years of medical care in the future to prevent or treat scarring and regain lost movement and abilities. In some cases, they may be left with lifelong disabilities, permanent scarring or both, drastically changing their daily lives forever. Our Hialeah burn injury attorneys help victims claim compensation for these and other injuries, including the financial cost of treating a serious burn over a lifetime.

Cohn, Smith & Cohn offers free, confidential consultations to potential clients, including house calls for patients who cannot leave their homes or hospital beds. If you’ve been severely burned and you’d like to talk to an experienced attorney about your options, we can help. To set up a consultation, please contact us online today or call our main Broward County office at (954) 431-8100.

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