$10 Million Settlement for Man with Third-Degree Burns
Our lawyers recently represented a man who was seriously burned in a propane explosion. He suffered third-degree burns on about 60% of his body and underwent 8 major surgeries during his hospital stay of 55 days. His survival seemed like a miracle. Like many survivors of severe third-degree burns, he developed acute stress disorder and faced many other challenges throughout his recovery.
When his wife contacted our law firm and asked us to represent him, we took on his case. We knew that discovering who was responsible for the explosion would be challenging, but we also knew that he and his family needed our help. Our team of investigators inspected the accident scene and looked through records to find what caused the explosion, and to find out who was responsible for it.
We discovered that the explosion had been caused by a propane leak. But unlike most propane leaks, there hadn’t been a “rotten egg” warning smell to alert our client of the leak. We alleged that was due to the propane tank only being filled with one third of the propane needed, in violation of industry safety standards and the explicit warning on the tank. Our argument was that, because the tank was under-filled, resulting in the propane gas not having an odor, our client could not smell the gas and was, therefore, not given the proper warning that a propane leak had occurred. We won a settlement of $10 million dollars for him and his family from the company responsible for the improper filling of the propane tank.
Compensation for Injuries
Explosion injuries have four classifications; all can be fatal. Primary injuries are blast wave injuries caused by the increased pressure exerted on the body. Secondary injuries are penetrating trauma injuries from flying debris. Tertiary injuries result from being thrown by the blast. All other injuries, including smoke inhalation, burns, crush injuries, and complications of existing medical problems, are classified as quaternary injuries. Contact our law firm about a lawsuit if you were injured in an explosion and want compensation.
Burn injuries from explosions can be from the heat generated from the blast or the resulting fire, or from flames touching the skin. The severity of the burns depends on the percentage of the body burned and the depth of the burns. There are horrific injuries. In some cases, a column of fire shoots into the air, creating such intense heat that it can melt the siding on houses almost a mile away. That kind of heat also melts skin off of flesh. One of our clients lost limbs. In all of our cases, our lawyers find that a company did something wrong, either a safety violation, sloppy maintenance, or careless excavation.
Most deaths in explosions are from smoke inhalation, which includes both searing heat and chemicals, both of which can cause severe burns to the esophagus and lungs (so this is a type of burn injury). The smoke can prevent intake of oxygen, which can cause brain damage due to oxygen deprivation, or cerebral anoxia. Smoke inhalation injuries can include the following:
- Cerebral anoxia, a kind of brain damage caused by insufficient oxygen;
- Atelectasis–a partial or full collapse of a lung;
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome – a life-threatening condition caused by fluid buildup in the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs, characterized by severe shortness of breath;
- Carbon monoxide poisoning – characterized by flu-like symptoms including headaches, nausea and fatigue, this condition can cause brain damage and death;
- Cyanide poisoning – characterized by weakness, confusion, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, and unusual behavior, this condition can cause heart attack, seizure, stroke, coma, and death;
- Hypoxia – oxygen deprivation that can cause brain damage.
There are several ways the brain can be damaged in an explosion.
- The pressure from the blast can cause a concussion, symptoms of which including headache, vomiting, dizziness, unexplained drowsiness, blurry vision, and cognitive problems;
- The head can hit a hard surface when the body is thrown by the force of the blast;
- Smoke can prevent oxygen from getting to the brain.
Blast lung is a common injury. Imagine what happens to the lungs when extreme pressure hits the body and then reverses. Air is sucked out of the lungs as tissue is constricted. This damages the lungs, and can create bubbles of air that release into the blood and travel to other parts of the body. If one of these bubbles gets to the brain or heart, the person can have a stroke or heart attack.
When the blast wave inflicts blunt force trauma to the chest, the pressure on the heart can cause cardiac arrest or other damage. In addition, debris, flying through the air at tremendous speeds, can pierce the chest and lacerate the heart muscle, valves, or arteries and veins. This both injures the heart and creates internal bleeding, which on its own can cause damage.
Crush Injuries happen when part of a building or large pieces of debris fall on someone or when a person’s body is slammed onto a hard surface, like the ground or a wall. When a house, apartment, office building or other structure collapses whole floors can fall onto people below. In a recent explosion, a boiler was blown through the air and onto another building, where it tragically killed one person and injured two. Bones can be absolutely crushed, requiring limb removal. There is often internal organ damage, nerve damage and severe bleeding in these injuries.
The most common injury is a ruptured eardrum. The overpressure from the blast wave can rupture the tympanic membrain and fracture ossicles in the middle ear, causing permanent hearing loss.
Eye injuries from explosions can include:
- orbital fracture, a break in the bone of the eye socket;
- ruptured globes, tear in the cornea and/or the sclera, the white part of the eye;
- traumatic optic neuropathy, damage to the optic nerve;
- the total loss of an eye.
Propane, also referred to as LP gas, is highly combustible, meaning it ignites with a bang very easily. Because of this, there are regulations regarding its use and industry standards that must be followed to prevent explosions. Our lawyers are some of the few in the nation who have successfully handled these cases and won multi-millions. To win requires a significant understanding of the laws and industry standards, the causes of these kinds of explosions, and the investigation process and procedures. For example, the lawyer needs to know that a chemical odorant is added to propane, which is odorless, to allow people to smell it if there is a leak. If this is not added, too little is added, or anything is done to fade the odorant, there may be a propane explosion lawsuit against a company.
“As most people know, propane has a distinctive odor, added by the manufacturer, but various environmental factors can cause propane to lose its odor, which allows escaping gas to go undetected and result in a serious hazard. Odor fade is a major problem with new propane tanks, which can absorb the odorant into the metal shell of the tank. We have found liability for ‘underfilling’ propane tanks, causing odor fade.”Attorney Eric Hageman
Natural Gas Pipline
Natural gas blasts are generally caused by either a gas line or defective product exploding. In these cases, the gas company, a manufacturer, and others may be liable, meaning they are legally responsible and can be sued for personal injury or wrongful death.
Some products that have caused blasts include water heaters, outdoor grills, ovens, and generators.
For more information, read Gas Explosion Lawyer.
Boiler blasts can occur when there is excessive pressure. When the boiler can no longer contain the excessive pressure allowed to build in the boiler, the boiler explodes. Excessive pressure accidents can completely destroy a building. Fuel-related boiler blasts can occur when there is a failure to purge combustible gases from the firebox before ignition is attempted. Leaking fuel valves can also cause a blast.
In some cases, a blast can be caused when the boiler is allowed to operate without adequate water. For more information, read Boiler Explosion Lawyer.
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