Carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely dangerous. The CO compound doesn’t have an odor. Survivors may suffer long-term brain damage. CO is dangerous because it takes the place of oxygen in your bloodstream. It is also a poison which can cause damage to cells and to the immune system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • CO is located in fumes whenever fuel burns. CO can come from vehicles, stoves, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, furnaces, small engines, and lanterns. It can build up if it forms indoors.
  • Symptoms, when noticeable, include headaches, dizziness, chest pain, vomiting, and flu-like symptoms. If you’re sleeping while CO escapes, there’s a good chance you may die.
  • Each year, about 400 people die from CO poisoning. About 4,000 people are hospitalized. 20,000 people need emergency room treatment.

Many victims don’t realize they’ve been exposed to the toxic chemicals until it’s too late. The time between consciousness and unconsciousness can be a split second, and without immediate help, the person exposed could die.

Liability for CO poisoning

Common defendants include property owners, hotels and motels,, and the contractors who are hired to install the items that can release CO if leaks occur. Contractors who may be liable include companies and individuals that install HVAC systems. Property owners and contractors should anticipate which products may cause CO poisoning and precautionary steps.

Many products that can cause CO poisoning come with warnings that property owners and contractors need to follow. Warnings focus on such matters as:

  • Keeping the products clean
  • Avoiding any negative pressure
  • Ensuring that the fuel burning device provides enough fresh air and the device is vented properly (such as through open windows or a chimney).
  • Avoiding certain chemicals such as fluorocarbons and other dangerous solvents.
  • Making clear that CO poisoning can be fatal

The manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of products that are defective and that leak CO may also be liable based on the theory of product liability.

Liability for CO poisoning generally requires:

  • Determining the source of the CO. Professionals can normally inspect the room or location where someone was injured for possible causes.
  • Showing how the CO traveled from the device to the person who was injured or killed. Sometimes this is fairly clear. Other times, experts will need to show that the device traveled from the source through pipes or other pathways to ultimately reach the victim.
  • Confirming, through medical evidence, that the CO poisoning is what caused the victim’s injuries or death. Victims should be tested, through a blood test, for carboxyhemoglobin (COHb). High levels of COHb indicate the likelihood of brain damage.

As winter approaches and people, schools, and businesses use more fuel-burning devices to stay warm, property owners should be extra-cautious that CO leaks don’t happen.

At Martin & Helms, P.C., our skilled Huntsville premises liability attorneys work with inspectors and safety professionals to determine the cause of carbon monoxide and what precautionary steps should have been taken. We work with physicians and, sadly, coroners, when needed to confirm that a loved one’s injury or death was due to CO poisoning. To pursue a wrongful death claim or to file a claim for pain and suffering and economic damages, call us at 256-539-1990, or complete our contact form to schedule an appointment.

Martin & Helms, P.C. has offices in Huntsville and Decatur. We file claims on behalf of victims and families in Athens, Madison, and across North Alabama.