CO poisoning, also known as carbon monoxide poisoning, is a silent killer. Most people do not realize that they are being exposed to a high level of CO until it is too late. At that point, they may have suffered serious injuries. In some cases, people simply fall unconscious suddenly and do not wake up.
What Is Carbon Monoxide?
Carbon monoxide is a colorless gas that escapes into the air. When a person breathes in carbon monoxide, it goes into the bloodstream, eventually replacing the oxygen. When this builds up in the blood, it results in poisoning. The major problem with carbon monoxide is that it is colorless and odorless. Thus, it is very difficult to detect that there is a leak until someone starts to feel symptoms if they even feel them at all.
Many different things can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide. Burning gasoline, charcoal, propane or other substances can cause carbon monoxide to be released. In fact, a common cause of CO poisoning comes when someone is in their vehicle and breathes in the exhaust. In addition, carbon monoxide poisoning can also result from improperly ventilated appliances such as a heater or furnace in an enclosed place. Even space heaters and stoves can release poisonous amounts of this substance into the air. As a result, people are not even safe in their own homes.
Many people have some sort of warning system that alerts them when the carbon monoxide level elevates past a certain level. Many states require carbon monoxide detectors in newly constructed residences built after a certain date. However, older buildings are not necessarily subject to these laws. As a result, a majority of people are unprotected by a carbon monoxide leak and do not receive any warning of a harmful buildup.
People May Not Even Realize That They Are Being Poisoned
Many people will not even know that they have been exposed to a harmful amount of carbon monoxide. They may simply fall asleep due to the poisoning and not be able to take any action to either call for help or exit the room. Those who do feel the symptoms can feel dizziness, chest pains and nausea. However, these symptoms may still debilitate them to the point where they cannot call for help.
Carbon monoxide poisoning injures thousands of Americans each year. An average of 25,000-30,000 people may suffer an injury from this in a given year. Roughly 500 people each year will die from carbon monoxide poisoning. Some of those who are injured suffer permanent and debilitating injuries. The deprivation of oxygen can result in permanent brain damage in extreme cases. It can also cause damage to the tissue and nervous system. Many of these injuries can cause long-term damages that can keep people from working and having any quality of life. Thus, the damages from carbon monoxide poisoning can be quite high, even if someone survives their injury.
Can I Sue for CO Poisoning?
Carbon monoxide poisoning is legally actionable if it results from the negligence of another person or entity. In fact, there have been numerous instances of jury awards and settlements that have resulted from cases of CO poisoning.
There are several key factors in determining whether someone can recover for the death of a loved one from CO poisoning or an injury that they have suffered. Here are some considerations in a CO poisoning lawsuit:
- Make sure that it can be proven that the person died from CO poisoning. Since the person dies suddenly and without many symptoms, it may be difficult to zero in on CO poisoning as the cause of death.
- Name the right defendant in the lawsuit. In some cases, it may not be the building owner who is liable for the injury, but instead, could be someone who has performed work in the building. Alternatively, the manufacturer of something like a furnace or a heater could be responsible for a defect that caused the CO poisoning.
- Be able to prove when the possible buildup of carbon monoxide began if the case is focused on long-term CO poisoning.
CO Settlements and Jury Verdicts
Carbon monoxide jury verdicts and settlements can be considerable. First, many cases that involve CO poisoning result in death, and thus, there is a wrongful death ground for the lawsuit which leads to higher damage awards. Second, some cases of CO poisoning involve a very high level of negligence and culpability from the defendant, resulting in the possibility of punitive damages if the case goes to trial. Here are some examples of CO poisoning settlements and jury awards.
A 20-year old Wyoming college student was seriously injured by CO poisoning from a malfunctioning furnace. She was originally awarded $27 million, but it was reduced by an appeals court that found the punitive damages award to be excessive. Nonetheless, the total recovery ended up being nearly $4 million. This case shows that damages can be high and there is a possibility for punitive awards.
The family of a 62-year old Chicago man received a $1.4 million settlement after their loved one died of CO poisoning while at a friend’s home. It took a couple of days to realize the cause of death. Once that was realized, there was an inspection of the home that revealed a partially clogged vent from the boiler. The landlord was responsible for not installing a carbon monoxide detector in the apartment.
20 employees at a Ruth’s Chris Steak House were awarded a total of $34 million when they suffered permanent injuries due to a carbon monoxide leak. An investigation revealed that there was a crack in the boiler in the basement, and the restaurant admitted that they were responsible for the leak. Ultimately, it was the hotel that owned the building who was found liable for the injuries.
Legal representation is a must in carbon monoxide poisoning cases. When dealing with high damage amounts, it is essential to have an attorney who knows how much your case is worth and how to negotiate the right settlement amount. The attorneys at Sadaka and Associates have represented numerous clients in high-dollar legal actions.