Were you injured in a home explosion from a natural gas or propane leak?
Williams Trial Attorney Sean Williams explains the causes of home gas explosions, how to prevent such tragedies from happening, and what legal options you have if you or a loved one have been a victim of a home gas explosion.
Households all over the U.S. rely on natural gas for heat. Yet few people realize just how dangerous this substance can be.
Undetected gas leaks can result in devastating explosions, causing serious property damage, serious injuries and even death. Survivors of these horrendous events can endure serious burns, lose their limbs, suffer PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.
Sometimes a single explosion can destroy several properties. Negligence is often on the part of gas and construction companies, landlords, and product manufacturers.
Sean Williams and his team of oil and gas personal injury lawyers at Williams Attorneys PLLC have spent the last three decades taking on the big guys on behalf of innocent victims and their families.
Sean Williams: Hello, my name is Sean Williams, and I'm here to talk to you about home gas explosions and your legal options. My firm, Williams Attorneys PLLC, was founded in 2018, and we focus on serious injuries and wrongful death in a variety of fields.
Here, today, we're going to talk about home gas explosions. There are several topics that encompass this broad spectrum of home gas explosions, and one of those is, Why do houses explode? What are the damages and the repercussions from home explosions? How can we prevent gas explosions in general? And then the resulting legal battles that occur as a result of home explosions or gas explosions in general.
So, first, let's talk about, "Why do houses explode?" Basically, gas escapes and pressure builds up, and these gases are very combustible and very flammable. A spark or any kind of open flame triggers an explosion. One of the things that we see is that natural gas, methane, propane, and butane, are the common types of gases that are used to heat homes, water, and are used in a variety of home appliances across the country. These gases are very flammable and can trigger a mass explosion if enough gas escapes and a spark or some kind of ignition source occurs.
One of the things that we see as the common causes of gas escapes are holes in hoses or tanks in the home, appliances, gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters, grills, or dryers. All of these use gas, and any kind of leak can cause gas to escape and fill up your home or room where there could be an ignition source.
Also, there are defective control valves, connectors, pipes, regulators, or meters. These are areas where usually the gas is coming into your home and they can possibly have some kind of malfunction and, thus, gas can escape from that.
And, then, one of the other things is improperly installed gas lines or propane lines. This is a major concern for a lot of people in that, usually, gas comes from the city or some kind of municipality or propane lines. They're usually underground ground and, so, people that are doing yard work or even digging for a pool sometimes can hit one of these lines and cause a leak or, even worse, an explosion by just destroying the line.
Also, all of this can go into, it depends on how old your gas lines, your appliances, your hoses, or your tanks are. The older this equipment becomes, the more likely it is that there's been erosion or that, due to its age, that there could be some sort of a leak, a hole, that would develop where gas could escape.
If we look at gas explosions in the United States, what we see is, there's 64 million households that use natural gas. That may be for heating homes. That may be for water heaters or grills in a variety of different ways. More than half of Americans use gas every day in their home. And thousands of people each year die or suffer from mental consequences from a home gas explosion. That is a significant number given the fact that these explosions cause massive property damage and, also, they can have lasting effects as far as significant injuries, death, and mental health consequences, which sometimes go unnoticed.
We've seen a lot of gas explosions in the news and home explosions. Just recently, February of 2019, in New Jersey, there was a lawsuit where six people were injured, and two people were killed as a result of a gas utility explosion in a home, and there was a settlement for $19.2 million as a result of this case.
In Massachusetts in 2018, a gas company made an error that caused one death and over 20 injuries and fires in as many as 40 homes as a result of a gas leak and gas explosion.
What we see when we have a gas explosion or a home explosion is, it's not just the house where the explosion occurs, you have neighbors, you have a fire component that can cause massive damage to neighborhoods in property damage. But, also, some of these explosions are equating to a bomb going off. And, so, you have a blast radius that could be three to four blocks wide where people are starting to feel, after these home explosions, they're starting to have headaches, nosebleeds, trouble sleeping, trouble focusing. And all of these can be what equate to are blast injuries.
You may have been a block or two blocks away from the actual home that exploded. It might not have been at your home, but just because of your proximity, you may be suffering from some physical and mental damages, that we'll talk about a little bit later, as a result of these explosions.
In 2018, again in September, in Nebraska, there was a settlement from a gas explosion that occurred in 2016 and, again, another person died, and it caused the destruction of three homes. What you see from these explosions, you're seeing a significant loss of life and property due to the fact that when one of these tragedies occurs, the amount of damage usually results in loss of property which is tragic in itself, but what really occurs is, you're having significant injuries and, sadly all too often, loss of life.
In Dallas in 2018, we saw that aging gas lines, which I talked about a little bit earlier, caused three explosions, one that tragically killed a 12-year-old girl. Aging gas lines are such a significant problem because gas that is contained in a container or gas line, once there's a leak or a hole, gas is looking to escape from those lines.
And what we see is, once gas starts escaping from one of these aging lines, like we saw in Dallas, is that then gas starts to fill up in a home or in mobile homes or whatever the situation and, then, any little ignition source can cause the gas to create an explosion. And that's one of the problems and the reason why gas explosions are so dangerous is because of the fact that gas can escape.
There is a smell to natural gas, referred to often as "rotten eggs." It may smell like rotten eggs or have a foul odor to it. But all too often, by the time people smell the gas, often it's too late.
We talked a little bit about some of the cases and explosions that have been in the news, but there's some serious damages that are caused from gas explosions. What you have is; basically, gas explosions are broken into four categories. You have the primary blast and the injuries that that causes. That, basically, would be the home or the immediate explosion radius. That would be the property damage, the death, or injuries resulting from the actual home in which the explosion occurred.
Then you have the secondary blast radius, and that would be whether there's fires or flying debris in the immediate area surrounding the home or where the explosion occurred.
And, then, you have the third, the tertiary blast area caused by bodies being thrown by a blast and basically, again, where you have injuries as a result of the blast to human beings that are in the blast radius that may not have been in the primary blast zone but are close enough to where the blast causes them to fall or be blown back by the explosion.
And, then, the last blast area we have is a blast area that results in to where you're not close enough maybe to have immediate physical falling down or being blown back, but you're close enough to the blast radius where you're going to start to feel some of those symptoms which I talked about earlier. And this is one of the blast areas that most people may not even recognize. They hear the explosion. They may see the fire, but they don't really realize that they've had something happen to their own body as a result. And that's where you might see nosebleeds, headaches, anxiousness, loss of sleep.
All of these things can be attributed to a closed head injury as a result of the explosion, even though we've seen this from people that may be a block away, two blocks away, depending on how large the explosion was. We've seen a lot of this in the news as a result to what's happened to our military in wars, and we're studying the results of the blast injuries and concussions which you've heard about and has probably been in the news very significantly as relating to the NFL football players and the NHL players as far as concussion injuries as a result of jarring head injuries.
And blast injuries can kind of manifest themselves in a similar fashion in that you may initially feel woozy, but you get better, and you don't really realize that you had a head injury or a traumatic experience. And one of the problems with this is that a lot of these injuries go untreated. And that's one of the reasons why, if you start to feel some of these symptoms, you need to get to a physician as soon as possible.
Home explosions are a terrible plight on our society due to the loss of life and the injuries and destruction they cause to families as well as the property damage. Over $133 million in property damage each year is a significant problem. And, like I was talking about earlier, explosions can affect entire neighborhoods. Speaking a little bit about the PTSD or other mental effects as a result of blast injuries, concussions, headaches, hearing loss, and tinnitus is a significant problem and also an indication that you need to go see your doctor as soon as possible.
Other unexplained symptoms may be loss of sleep, anxiousness, any kind of change in personality, could be related to a head injury or a head trauma. And, then, obviously, property damage, you're seeing people lose their homes, neighbors, fires, fire damage, a loss of property as far as cars and other family heirlooms, things that are tragic to lose.
So, how do we minimize gas explosions? One of the things that we need to realize is that there's a couple things that you can do in order to minimize the risk of home explosions. One is, install gas detectors. Two, obviously, keep flammable materials away from gas appliances and gas lines, water heaters that are run by gas, and especially electrical equipment because gas can go through electrical equipment, and electrical equipment can provide a spark that results in an ignition source that results in an explosion.
Having your appliances, your gas lines, checked very regularly is a very good way to ensure that you limit the possibility of a gas leak or a gas explosion. Furnaces, water heaters, stoves, dryers, any of those appliances in your home that are using gas, you need to have those checked out every couple of years to make sure that there's no leaks and no malfunctions in them.
And, also, if you're having any work done at your home, make sure that the people are aware, or you're aware, of where your gas lines are and, lastly, have your gas company come out and check your gas lines every year or so to make sure that there's no corrosion or leaks that's happened.
So, if a tragedy and a gas explosion does occur, who's responsible for the explosion? All too often, what we see is, if a gas company or a propane company was defective in putting in the lines as we saw in the Dallas case, they had let gas lines erode and they hadn't been replaced or hadn't been maintained properly. Sometimes it's a contractor or sub-contractor that's doing work in an area around your home that hits a gas line that can cause a problem that can cause a gas explosion.
Sometimes there's a manufacturer of a product such as a stove, a water heater, or another appliance that is defective that allowed gas to escape in your home and resulted in the explosion. All of these are possible parties that could be responsible for a gas explosion.
And, so, if you're in a situation where you've had a home explosion either to you or to a family member, and you're wondering, "What can I do?" How do I go about trying to recover and file a lawsuit against the companies that are involved that wronged you? Basically, what can you recover is, all your medical expenses, if you have any disfigurement as a result of any burns or cuts or scars that are permanent, loss of income, not being able to work, or losing your job as a result of this.
And, then, a lot of people suffer from chronic pain or disability, back injuries, lower leg extremities where they can't maybe do the physical work that they had been doing before. And, then, one of the major ones in a home explosion is emotional and mental anguish. Tragically, a lot of people lose their lives as a result of this, and the people that are left behind have extreme emotional distress. They've lost a loved one. They've lost their home. And the mental pain and suffering that you go through to deal with this tragedy is immense.
Obviously, loss of life is the most tragic of all. All too often, we see fathers losing sons and daughters, wives losing husbands, and mothers losing sons or daughters in these terrible explosions. And the loss of life is the greatest tragedy of all.
One of the things that happens when you have an explosion like this that usually garners a lot of national attention or local attention from the news, you're going to have a lot of attorneys coming towards you or coming towards families looking to try to represent them. One of the things you need to remember is that attorneys are not supposed to contact you directly as a family.
And, so, if you have attorneys coming up to you, and sometimes we hear these horrific stories about attorneys meeting families in the hospital as your family member or you are lying in a hospital bed fighting for your lives, you have attorneys coming up trying to sign up your case. That's against the law, and you should be aware of that.
One of the things that you should look for is, you should ask for attorneys that demonstrate their success, that they have handled big cases, they've handled explosions, they've handled head injuries, they've handled loss of property in these kinds of situations, that they've negotiated with large insurance companies, that they have the experts and the money it takes to basically provide your prosecution of this claim. House explosion cases are going to cost the attorney a significant amount of money to do the case right, to really get the maximum amount of money that they can for their client and for you.
What you have to do is, you have to have the right experts. They have to get you to the right doctors and the right medical care. And make sure they have the proper experts to deal with the different layers of the case and have the ability to maintain all those expenses and fight for you to secure the maximum compensation for you and your family. That includes whether going to mediation or in the sense that it has to go all the way to trial and to verdict, that they have the ability to handle all of those possible outcomes when you file a lawsuit.
I hope this was an informative discussion and provided you some insight into home explosions. I hope that everyone got something from it, and if you or your loved ones have had the unfortunate tragedy to have a home explosion, please know that our prayers are with you. And if you have any questions or concerns or would like additional information, my contact information is on the screen and would be happy to discuss anything with you. Thank you.