A gas- or fire-related explosion can happen at home, in the workplace or even on the road. Regardless of how or why they occur, explosions can result in devastating consequences including permanent injuries, scarring, fatalities and severe emotional trauma for survivors. There is the danger of explosions at any location where flammable material is present. An explosive fire can be caused by several products including, but not limited to, propane gas, natural gas, gasoline, chemicals, broken furnaces, faulty electrical equipment, household appliances and even aerosol spray cans. Seriously injured victims of explosion accidents and their families face significant physical, emotional and financial challenges in the aftermath of the trauma. These victims and families are hit with medical expenses, income loss as a result of being unable to work and extreme emotional stress. Many survivors are left with lifelong disabilities caused by severe burns or loss of limbs and may never be able to return to work or earn a livelihood. Powerful explosions tend to result in fatalities. In such cases, families must cope with the loss of a loved one while dealing with severe financial burdens. Anyone who has been injured in a New York City fire or explosion would be well advised to obtain more information about his or her legal rights and options.
What Causes an Explosion?
When certain combustible chemicals, gases and other substances are kept in an unstable condition or when they are exposed to heat or fire, they may explode. When a chemical or gas explodes, it usually involves a quick increase in volume and the release of energy, often with great intensity. Explosions are often fiery and involve the release of chemicals and toxins into the atmosphere. It is important to understand the different types of explosions and where and how they typically occur in order to keep yourself and your loved ones as safe as possible.
Residential explosion accidents usually involve combustible gas. Millions of Americans use natural gas every day for cooking food or heating their homes. Natural gas is also used in clothes dryers, ovens and other appliances. As a nation we tend to rely heavily on natural gas and while it definitely has its uses, it is also highly combustible. It has no natural smell. An odor-causing component is added to natural gas specifically to warn consumers about the presence of explosive gas in the air. There is a risk of a serious explosion occurring if a gas leak goes unnoticed even if only for a few minutes. Residential gas explosions may also occur as the result of gas lines that are not properly maintained. Each year hundreds of Americans are killed or seriously injured in residential explosions. Some of the most devastating explosions in New York City have occurred in multi-family units. The explosion of apartment buildings in East Harlem on March 12, 2014 killed eight people and injured at least 70 others, leveling two apartment buildings in the 1600 block of Park Avenue. City officials determined that the explosion accident was caused by a gas leak that was reported to Con Edison just minutes before the deadly blast. But, according to the report, the crews arrived after the explosion occurred.
Chemicals, gases and other combustible materials are present in industrial facilities such as manufacturing plants. Many industries use explosive gases and chemicals for a variety of purposes and even one spark can lead to a catastrophic explosion. A number of the explosion accidents that happen in these types of locations are entirely avoidable. Many of these incidents occur due to safety violations. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment for their employees. Fuel forms such as natural gas and oil are transported through pipelines from refineries to other plants and facilities. A pipeline leak caused by poor maintenance or damaged pipelines may also lead to a deadly explosion.
Propane is an extremely flammable and explosive gas that is commonly used by millions of Americans every day. When handled improperly, propane can be extremely hazardous and may cause deadly explosions. Propane explosions may occur in the workplace because it is used in a variety of industries. Workers who do not receive proper job and safety training may become involved in a serious accident. Propane tanks are also used at home, most commonly for backyard barbecues. When propane tanks are not properly stored, a leak can cause the flammable gas to collect, which may in turn get ignited by a furnace or other source. Propane cylinders must always be stored upright outside on a dry, flat and non-flammable surface. Storing these cylinders in a damp area may cause them to corrode and potentially leak.
Injuries Caused by Explosions
Injuries in explosions – whether at home, in the workplace or in war zones – can be catastrophic or even fatal. Here are some of the most common injuries suffered in explosions:
- Loss of hearing: The loudness of an explosion may cause the eardrum to rupture.
- Loss of vision: Severe injuries to the face, especially the eyes, may result in permanent loss of vision. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 10 percent of all blast survivors have significant eye injuries.
- Limb amputations: Loss of limbs is among the most common injuries seen in explosion accidents.
- Burn injuries: Explosions are almost always accompanied by fires. Injured victims who are unable to get to a safe location may suffer second- or even third-degree burns that can require extensive and costly surgery such as skin grafting.
- Internal organ damage: The heart, spleen, lungs, gastrointestinal tract and kidneys among other organs may suffer significant damage in an explosion.
- Brain injuries: An explosion may cause head injuries ranging from a mild traumatic brain injury to catastrophic brain damage.
- Fractures: Explosion accidents may also result in multiple broken bones or crushing injuries.
Emotional Support for Victims
Explosions are extremely traumatic incidents for both victims and their families. These tragedies have long-term physical and emotional implications for those who are affected and their family members. Explosion victims often deal with psychological issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress. There are several support groups available for victims of explosion accidents that can help provide them not only with emotional and moral support, but also with resources that they need to cope with their situation. If you have been injured in an explosion accident, it is important to remember that you are not alone and help is available. Connecting with others who have undergone similar traumatic experiences can help you find the strength you need to continue with your recovery process and move forward. This is critical because explosion victims and families tend to ignore their emotional needs. Victims and families would be well served not to isolate themselves, but seek the support of extended family members, their friends and communities. This may help play a critical role in the healing process.
Potential Liable Parties
There are a number of parties that may be held potentially liable for an explosion accident. Liability in such cases depends on the cause and circumstances of the accident. The most important factor in determining liability is “negligence.” Did the careless or reckless actions of an individual or entity cause the explosion accident? Was there a breach in the duty of care owed to the victim? These are just some of the questions that must be asked in order to determine fault and liability for an explosion accident. Here are some of the parties that may potentially be held liable for victims’ injuries and damages:
- Property owners: Those who own and/or manage residential properties in New York City have a responsibility to provide a safe living environment for their tenants. This includes maintaining the property. When a residential gas explosion occurs as the result of a gas leak caused by poor maintenance, the landlord and/or the property owner can be held financially responsible for the injuries and damages caused.
- Utility companies: Often, we see that utility companies do not make the investment necessary to update and upgrade their infrastructure. In this case, we’re talking about miles of pipelines that carry natural gas to homes and businesses. When utility companies are negligent about making the necessary repairs, the consequences may be devastating.
- Employers: Workplaces, especially manufacturing facilities and factories, use flammable materials to build a variety of products. When flammable gases and chemicals are not stored or used properly, a catastrophic explosion may occur. It is also the responsibility of employers to ensure that workers receive adequate job and safety training needed to handle these hazardous and flammable substances.
- Manufacturers: Explosions may also occur as the result of defective products that are poorly made or have substandard parts. In such cases, the manufacturers of the defective products can be held liable for the injuries and damages suffered by the victims.
- Negligent drivers: In cases where an explosion is caused by a traffic collision, the at-fault driver and/or owner of the vehicle may be held liable. In cases where a vehicle’s gas tank explodes, the automaker may be held liable if a vehicle defect is linked to the blast.
Wrongful Death Claims
It is a sad fact that a number of explosion accidents result in fatalities. In such cases, families of deceased victims can seek compensation by filing what is known as a wrongful death claim. Such claims are usually filed by surviving family members of the decedent such as a spouse, children, parents or siblings. Wrongful death claims seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, lost future income and benefits, medical and funeral costs, pain and suffering, etc.
Damages in Explosion Accidents
Injured victims of explosion accidents can seek compensation for damages such as:
- Medical expenses: This includes emergency room costs, hospitalization costs, cost of any surgeries that are required, cost of medication and medical equipment.
- Continued treatment and care: Most explosion accident victims require continuing treatment. For example, those with burn injuries may require several skin graft procedures. Some patients may also need 24/7 nursing care until their recovery begins, which may be quite expensive.
- Rehabilitation: A number of victims also need physical, speech and/or occupational therapy to help cope with various disabilities and permanent injuries. Victims may need rehabilitative therapy for weeks, months or even years and these costs can add up very quickly.
- Cost of prosthetics: Amputations are a common and unfortunate consequence of explosion accidents. Victims often need costly prosthetics to regain some function and mobility of their limbs and to be able to return to work.
- Lost income: The physical and emotional recovery period after an explosion accident is often lengthy. This means that victims may lose significant income or even lose their jobs.
- Loss of livelihood: If the victim has suffered catastrophic injuries, he or she may never be able to return to work. In such cases, they may seek compensation for lost future income and benefits.
- Permanent injuries and disabilities: This includes compensation the victim may need to cope with his or her new injuries and disabilities that are permanent or lifelong in nature.
- Past and future pain and suffering: This includes compensation for the victim’s physical pain and emotional suffering.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
There are several steps injured victims and their families can take after an explosion accident to ensure that their legal rights and best interests are protected. Collect as much evidence from the scene of the accident as possible. Obtain contact information for all the parties involved, including eyewitnesses. Document all your expenses as well as the nature of your injuries. Maintain a journal detailing your recovery process and suffering. Contact an experienced personal injury lawyer who can help guide you through what can be a complex legal process. If you or a loved one has suffered neck injuries, 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. 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 cases in 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. Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com
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