Carbon Monoxide Injuries
Carbon monoxide poisonings account for nearly 200 deaths each year in the U.S. That’s about 4 people each week. If not fatal, carbon monoxide poisonings can cause brain injuries with long-lasting or permanent symptoms. Each year, in addition to the number of deaths, thousands of people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for carbon monoxide poisonings. In the last few years, there have been several high profile cases of carbon monoxide deaths. For example, a restaurant manager died due to carbon monoxide poisoning at a restaurant in an upscale Long Island mall in 2014.
While these types of situations may seem like freak accidents, the unfortunate reality is that carbon monoxide poisoning injuries and deaths are 100% preventable. States have begun to pass laws requiring carbon monoxide alarms in certain types of buildings, usually apartment complexes and hotels. Click here for Pennsylvania’s 2013 carbon monoxide alarm law, which only applies to multi-family dwellings.
Background – What is Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a natural byproduct of incomplete burning (oil, propane, gas, etc.). It is completely colorless, odorless and tasteless, and as a result, is incredibly dangerous because it cannot be detected by the human senses. Symptoms often appear after it is too late. Failure to get immediate medical attention can result in fatality or serious brain injuries.
Carbon Monoxide in Hotels, Restaurants, Etc.
Furnaces, heaters, and generators are probably the most common sources of carbon monoxide. Poisonings occur in both residences and businesses, like hotels, restaurants, etc. Improper venting is a major cause of carbon monoxide poisonings. Leaks in vents and exhaust pipes can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, improper design can lead to issues in venting. For instance, a hotel pool pump placed near an air supply vent can cause carbon monoxide to be recycled into the hotel’s air supply.
Prevention is key. To prevent residential carbon monoxide poisonings, homeowners should install carbon monoxide detectors, which should be operated and tested according to the manufacturer’s instructions. To prevent commercial carbon monoxide poisonings at places like hotels and restaurants, property owners and businesses should be sure to have at least annual checks of all fuel burning equipment. In addition, businesses should install carbon monoxide detectors. Some states require certain businesses like hotels to install carbon monoxide detectors.
Symptoms of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
- shortness of breath
- mental confusion
- loss of consciousness
Legal Rights of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Victims & Families
Individuals who are victims of carbon monoxide poisonings and surviving family members of those who died due to carbon monoxide poisonings have legal rights to receive compensation.
This area of law is commonly known as premises liability, i.e., the liability of a person or business entity for an injury or accident on the premises. Unlike more complex areas of personal injury law like medical malpractice, injured plaintiffs only need to prove ordinary negligence. As a general rule, ordinary negligence is usually defined as the failure to do something that should have been done or doing something that another reasonable person would not do.
Review of Injury Lawyer Paul Bucci (in a Carbon Monoxide Injury Case)
“I had the pleasure of working with him on a very complex case involving carbon monoxide poisoning at a large hotel in the Philadelphia area. During depositions, it was apparent that Paul knew as much about the operations and engineering as did the defense witnesses.”
Proving Negligence in Carbon Monoxide Cases
However, carbon monoxide poisoning lawsuits are not simple cases. In fact, they are often incredibly complex because they typically involve different theories against different parties. In carbon monoxide cases, multiple parties may be held liable, in addition to the businesses where the incidents occurred. This includes machinery/equipment manufacturers, architectural firms, etc.
A typical carbon monoxide injury lawsuit may involve a premises liability claim against the business establishment, a defective products claim against a product manufacturer, and a negligent maintenance claim against an outside contractor.
For example, in a hotel carbon monoxide poisoning case, there is evidence that the hotel’s maintenance company failed to conduct semi-annual inspections of a furnace used for heating the hotel’s rooms. Due to that failure, a leak in an exhaust pipe goes unnoticed. As a result, several hotel guests die of carbon monoxide poisoning. Here, both the hotel and the hotel’s maintenance company may be held liable for the carbon monoxide poisoning injuries and deaths. In addition, if there is evidence of a defect in the vent system, the furnace manufacturer may also be held liable.
Related: Hotels & Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Proving negligence will require aid from a skilled and knowledgeable injury lawyer, someone with experience handling cases involving complex machinery and equipment. These cases often involve specifications from architects and equipment manufacturers as well as complex contracts between the parties. Only an experienced lawyer can review these documents and find key pieces of evidence to present on behalf of an injured plaintiff.
Under the laws of most states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey, injured individuals can receive financial compensation for the following:
- medical bills,
- lost pay, and
- pain and suffering.
In addition, spouses of injured parties may recover under what is referred to as a loss of consortium claim. These claims are reserved for cases where an injured party’s spouse suffers as well, due to the injury/accident. For example, in a carbon monoxide poisoning case, a husband suffers a permanent brain injury that leaves him largely unable to care for himself. His wife now has to handle all of the household duties, child care, etc. In addition, the relationship suffers profoundly due to the brain injury. Here, the wife has a derivative claim for loss of consortium; it derives from the initial incident.
About Our Pennsylvania and New Jersey Injury & Accident Lawyers – We Handle Carbon Monoxide Injury Cases
If you or a loved one has been seriously hurt or killed due to carbon monoxide poisoning in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey or New York, contact our experienced, highly rated injury attorneys for a free, confidential consultation. 215.399.9255/800.220.7600
Related Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Articles
- Avoid Carbon Monoxide Exposure at Work and Home [Read these 5 tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisonings in the home or at work.]
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Hotel Kills Three, Hotel Owner Charged [Hotel owner charged after two separate carbon monoxide deaths.]
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning at Work – The Danger of Forklifts [Indoor forklift operation creates a serious risk of carbon monoxide poisonings.]
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Last reviewed and updated: May 3, 2017