Smoke inhalation occurs when we breathe in particles and gases discharged during a fire. According to the Burn Institute, more than half of all fire-related fatalities occur due to smoke inhalation. When a victim inhales smoke during a fire, there is the potential for oxygen deprivation as the smoke affects the lungs, causes inflammation and blocks the airways.
In addition to severe breathing problems, this can potentially lead to respiratory failure and even death. Smoke inhalation commonly occurs when individuals get trapped in a contained area such as a kitchen or bedroom near a fire. Most fires that occur at homes are often a result of cooking ranges, fireplaces, space heaters and electrical malfunctions.
What Causes Smoke Inhalation?
Materials that burn as well as chemicals and gases generated by a fire induce smoke inhalation either by simple asphyxiation or by removing the oxygen in the air, and chemical irritation, chemical asphyxiation or a combination of these. There are two ways in which smoke can cause oxygen deprivation. Combustion sucks up oxygen near a fire leaving victims without oxygen to breathe. Smoke also contains carbon dioxide that causes further damage by limiting the amount of oxygen in the air.
Combustion can cause chemicals to form in the air that cause injury to your skin and mucous membranes. These chemicals may seriously damage your respiratory tract, causing swelling and airway collapse. Ammonia, sulfur dioxide and chlorine are some of the examples of chemical irritants that are present in smoke. Compounds produced in fires can cause cell damage in your body by interfering with the delivery or use of oxygen. Carbon monoxide, a lethal gas, is a compound that is often released as a byproduct in these situations.
Who Can Be Held Liable
If you have suffered smoke inhalation injuries in a fire, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that your legal rights and best interests are protected. The first step is to ensure that you receive medical attention. This creates a record of the types of injuries that you have suffered and the treatment you have received, and also gives you the best chance at recovering from your injuries.
If you are having trouble breathing or have suffered burns, you should go immediately to the emergency room. Save all receipts and paperwork relating to your smoke inhalation injuries including all medical bills and any documentation for the time that you had to take off work in order to recover from the injuries.
In cases involving building fires, property owners and/or property managers or other responsible parties can be held liable for the injuries, damages and losses caused. For example, if the building did not have working smoke detectors, which may have warned occupants to get out in time, the property owner and/or property manager may be held liable because they are required under the law to install and maintain smoke detectors in the buildings.
Under New York City law, smoke detectors should be placed in every room of an occupied building. In addition to smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors should also be placed. City ordinances also require the installation of carbon monoxide detectors (alarms) in all new and existing one- and two-family homes, apartment buildings, hotels, dormitories, nursing homes and schools. Escape routes must be reviewed periodically. A negligent property owner and/or property manager who failed to install and/or maintain smoke alarms, carbon monoxide alarms etc. may be held liable in such cases by filing a premises liability lawsuit.
Injured victims may be able to seek compensation for damages such as medical expenses, lost income and benefits, hospitalization, cost of rehabilitation, permanent injury, disability, past and future pain and suffering, etc. Families that have lost loved ones may also be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a fire or in a smoke inhalation incident, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our firm obtained a $985,000 settlement out of a $1 million policy for two people who suffered smoke inhalation injuries because the homeowner did not have smoke detectors installed and the $15,000 was left for a person that we did not represent. One of our clients recovered $2,500,000 due to a faulty space heater.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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