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What you should do if you've experienced carbon monoxide poisoning

Posted April 29, 2020 4:30 p.m. EDT

Carbon monoxide poisoning can lead to serious injury or death. People who have been affected by this lethal gas could be entitled to legal compensation and a personal injury claim may help cover present and future medical expenses. (Olando Stocker/Big Stock Photo)

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

Colorless, odorless and potentially lethal, carbon monoxide earns its moniker of the silent killer. This often-lethal gas can be found virtually anywhere — from homes to hotels to offices — and originates primarily from fumes produced by burning wood, charcoal, propane, and natural gas.

Oftentimes, carbon monoxide is found in the vapors of vehicles, stoves, fireplaces, gas ranges, water heaters and clothes dryers.

When inhaled, carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in a person's bloodstream, disrupting blood flow and interfering with organ function. Without proper circulation, a person can experience anything from muscle damage to brain damage.

The CDC estimates that each year around 430 people die due to accidental exposure to carbon monoxide and an additional 50,000 people are sent to the emergency room due to symptoms of exposure. These symptoms include headaches, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, shortness of breath, confusion, and loss of consciousness.

"If an individual suffers from extreme carbon monoxide poisoning, it can cause a number of dangerous short- and long-term health risks, including brain damage," said Ben Whitley, an attorney and partner at Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh. "In some cases, that damage could cause complications in an individual's memory, mood and mannerisms, language skills, and cognition, effectively changing the way they think, act and function. Those with preexisting conditions like pregnancy, heart damage or advanced age are particularly vulnerable."

Since carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, it's often difficult to detect, meaning an individual could be exposed without even knowing. From a legal standpoint, it's critical to determine what party or parties are responsible for exposure, whether it's landlords in control of a residential property like apartments and condos or owners of commercial properties like offices and hotels.

If an individual is exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning due to negligence on the part of a landlord or land owner, they may be entitled to a personal injury claim grounded in a premises liability, which states that it's the responsibility of property owners to maintain the safety of their guests and tenants at all times. At the same time, these cases tend to not be so black and white in nature.

"Premises liability cases can often be complicated due to differing injuries and definitions of 'reasonableness,'" Whitley explained. "In short, what's reasonable for one landowner may not be reasonable for another. Take, for example, a building maintenance company. Considering the resources available to them, they should be able to maintain proper ventilation for their heating system. For a private landowner, however, that same request may not be as reasonable."

In order to avoid liability, property owners must take the necessary precautions to ensure that any guests or tenants are protected from injury. Since many liability cases are subjective, it's crucial to enlist the help of an experienced carbon monoxide injury attorney in order to fully evaluate the legitimacy of a case and advocate for one's full rights.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning is wholly avoidable if proper safety precautions are taken," Whitley emphasized. "Unfortunately, not all property owners properly maintain their land and facilities. In these cases, it's important for fast action to be taken in order to preserve evidence, including testing the air and inspecting any equipment on the premises."

While contacting legal representation may be the last thing on the mind of those suffering from a death of a loved one or injury caused by carbon monoxide poisoning, time is of the essence — and the compensation gained from a lawsuit may grant victims the ability to cover present and future medical expenses caused by exposure.

This article was written for our sponsor, Whitley Law Firm.

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