The Real Dangers of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Certain dangers are hard to take seriously when one knows (or thinks they know) they aren’t likely to actually happen. And the more dangerous something is, the less likely someone expects to face it. No one should live in constant fear or paranoia, but that doesn’t mean taking certain precautions is unreasonable or unnecessary — especially when the danger in question is something as serious as carbon monoxide poisoning.
When certain products aren’t inspected or created with safety in mind, it’s innocent consumers who can pay the ultimate price. Just recently, a recall went out for a gas stove responsible for leaking carbon monoxide in at least 44 homes, sending three people to the hospital. Luckily, no one has lost their life, but carbon monoxide poisoning doesn’t have to kill you to cause serious injuries. If you or a loved one learn this the hard way, knowing your legal options can help you secure some form of compensation for your suffering.
How does carbon monoxide poisoning happen?
Unfortunately, a wide variety of home appliances (not to mention cars and trucks) can emit dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in certain circumstances. When these appliances aren’t manufactured, inspected, or maintained properly, they can turn into silent killers. While most people have a carbon monoxide detector (as it is an entirely invisible and scentless gas), even these can malfunction or fail in certain ways, meaning victims may not notice a leak until it’s too late. Some appliances that can emit carbon monoxide include:
- Wood-burning (or gas) stoves
All these devices should have warnings about the dangers, but that doesn’t actually prevent leaks from happening. Improper usage (such as having generators inside your home instead of outside) can and do contribute to dangerous leaks, but so do actual product defects and the negligence of landlords or corporations.
A failure to have and maintain proper ventilation systems, high-quality and tested CO detectors, routine inspections, and even possible escape routes in case of emergency can all contribute to a poisoning or fatal event. Knowing exactly who is responsible is important for a myriad of reasons — and one of those reasons is to prevent it from ever happening again.
What are the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning?
While there are absolutely symptoms to know and look out for regarding this type of poison gas, it is important to know that those sleeping or inebriated can die from it before experiencing any symptoms at all. The symptoms are often not big, dramatic events like those associated with typical “poisoning,” which means they are ignorable or easy to mistake for something else. Usually, they’re flu-like sicknesses that include headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, chest pain, and vomiting. Confusion and even hallucination is also possible, making it even more dangerous. After enough exposure, you lose consciousness, and later, you lose your life.
If you are able to escape without a fatal amount of exposure, you can still face serious health complications like heart damage and life-threatening cardiac events, fetal death or miscarriage, and even permanent brain damage.
How do I protect my family from carbon monoxide leaks?
Not every injury is preventable, but carbon monoxide poisoning usually is. Regardless of where you live, there are certain precautions you can take to help ensure the safety of yourself and your loved ones:
- Install carbon monoxide detectors and test them regularly. If you live somewhere where someone else is responsible for this, and they refuse to comply, talk to a personal injury attorney ASAP.
- Have an escape plan for you and your family members in the event of the alarm going off. If it sounds, evacuating as quickly as possible before calling for help is extremely important.
- Keep the garage door open as long as your car is running inside of it.
- Only use gas appliances as recommended, and make sure to read all safety warnings and directions prior to use.
- Keep other fuel-burning appliances properly vented, inspected, monitored, and maintained.
- Make sure all repairs to any failed, CO-emitting appliance are complete before returning to your home and using them.
- Use caution when using certain substances like solvents and paints.
- Keep vents and chimneys unblocked if you’re remodeling or redecorating.
Holding parties responsible after a carbon monoxide event
Sometimes, a leak is entirely out of your control. When that happens, the best thing you can do after receiving medical attention is seeking out an experienced personal injury attorney to help you figure out the next steps. Depending on whose negligence is responsible for the incident, there are different legal options available to secure compensation for your injuries.
For example, if you and your landlord or employer did all you could to avoid a potential leak, but your CO detector and/or fuel-burning appliance is defective in any way, that could be a product liability case. These cases are taken incredibly seriously by the law, and usually in favor of the victims as long as their attorney can successfully prove that’s what caused the event. Potential damages include any and all medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, punitive damages, and anything else deemed appropriate for your case.
Do not make the mistake of assuming your case can’t succeed without consulting with a personal injury attorney first. Carbon monoxide poisoning may seem rare, but poisoning of any sort is one of the most common preventable accidents in the United States.
If you are seeking justice on behalf of a loved one who lost their life to carbon monoxide exposure, that is a slightly different area of law called wrongful death, but an experienced personal injury attorney can help with that, too. Alabama only offers punitive damages for wrongful death suits, but that amount can vary widely depending on your case and how well your attorney advocates for it. More than one suit may be appropriate, too, if some family members were injured and others passed away, and this is all the more reason to seek legal help as soon as possible.
At Martin & Helms, our experienced and compassionate personal injury attorneys have handled a wide variety of personal injury and wrongful death cases, especially those involving carbon monoxide poisoning. We take your health and recovery as seriously as you do, and are willing to do everything possible to get you as much compensation for which you are eligible. We have offices in Huntsville and Decatur, and serve Madison, Athens, and all of North Alabama, and we are always here to talk over the phone or via our contact form. Don’t wait to get started on your case. Let us help today.
Choosing the right personal injury attorney is an important step in building a better future. You deserve a lawyer who works one-on-one with you, and who can develop a plan for you to move forward. When you choose Martin & Helms, you get Clay Martin and Tara Helms: experienced, compassionate counselors who put your best interests first. We invite you to read more about us.