The explosion attorneys at Pritzker Hageman represent clients nationwide and have won multiple settlements over $10 million for clients who suffered serious injuries from explosions. Here, our lead lawyers for these cases, Fred Pritzker and Eric Hageman, answer the questions they are most frequently asked about explosion lawsuits.
Q: Can people who have lost a loved one in an explosion file a lawsuit?
A: Yes. If an explosion results in a wrongful death, certain family members or “next of kin” have the right to sue for compensation. Generally, spouses, children and parents can file these claims, but depending on the state where the lawsuit is filed, other family members are also permitted to do so.
Q: Can an injured person or grieving family member get a settlement without filing a lawsuit?
A: Yes. It’s not always necessary to file a lawsuit to get compensation. A settlement can be negotiated before or after a suit is filed. But, when a party isn’t willing to settle, the only way to get compensation is to file a lawsuit. When we do that, we don’t stop our settlement negotiations. Sometimes cases are settled right before or during a trial.
Q: What are the most common causes of explosions that you see?
A: In commercial or industrial settings, sometimes a chemical is involved and dust explosions are a risk in agricultural settings, but most of our explosion cases have involved propane or natural gas.
Propane and natural gas are odorless in their naturally occurring states and have an odorant added to them that is meant to serve as a warning. If you smell that smell, get outside quickly and call 911 from a safe distance. That’s a public service message for a reason.
There are a variety of more specific causes for the explosion cases we see. For example, sometimes a line is accidentally cut by a construction or maintenance crew, sometimes it wasn’t capped properly, sometimes safety protocols weren’t followed before work was performed.
With home appliances, faulty manufacturing that creates a leaky line, valve or hose can cause them to explode. Or, sometimes they aren’t installed or vented properly. Faulty lines and valves on residential propane storage tanks and the smaller tanks used for outdoor grills or fire pits can cause them to explode, too. So can filling the tank improperly. One of our recent cases that settled for $10 million involved a propane tank that wasn’t filled properly. Our client, who suffered third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body, spent nearly two months in a burn unit.
Q: What are the most common explosion injuries you encounter?
A: Explosion injuries cover a wide spectrum. Flying or falling debris can cause blunt force trauma, crush injuries, and lacerations. The pressure from the blast wave can rupture your eardrum, your eyeball, or damage your heart, lungs and brain. But burns are probably the most common explosion injury we see and very often their severity causes excruciating pain. The courage that our clients show as they endure this level of suffering is really inspiring.