Legal Aspects of Carbon Monoxide Exposure in California

Carbon Monoxide Exposure

Invisible, odorless and deadly, carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning causes thousands of accidental deaths and serious injuries in the United States each year. Exposure to CO has been estimated to account for up to 40,000 emergency room visits each year. Just about everyone faces at least some risk of carbon monoxide exposure on a daily basis, through residential heating and cooking appliances, internal combustion engines of all kinds, and many different industrial processes. Cigarette smoking also generates carbon monoxide in both inhaled and secondhand smoke.

Carbon monoxide is an asphyxiant that interferes with the delivery of blood oxygen to cell tissues. Even at sublethal exposure levels, the resulting injuries can be very serious and disabling, including permanent damage to the heart or lungs, or irreversible impairment of brain function. The first signs of carbon monoxide poisoning usually appear when someone experiences a combination of the following symptoms: headaches, dizziness or disorientation, nausea, respiratory problems or unconsciousness. Untreated exposure to high CO concentrations will often result in death.

Consider Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Medical Emergencies

Fortunately, the levels of CO exposure we face in daily life are typically low and easily dissipated through proper ventilation. On the other hand, it is very difficult to tell when carbon monoxide has built up to dangerous levels without proper monitoring and warning devices. Because the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning resemble those of other illnesses from flu to heart attack, you should seek emergency medical care and let the treatment team know of any suspected CO exposure risks.

Accidental carbon monoxide poisoning can occur through improper maintenance of home appliances, cars and trucks, or industrial equipment. While you can take steps to protect yourself from the buildup of CO, sometimes you’re depending on others to minimize the risks: landlords, home construction contractors, repair and installation professionals, employers, auto maintenance shops and others. Negligence in preventing or warning about carbon monoxide risks could result in liability for any resulting injuries or fatalities.

The California Legislature recently passed a law requiring residential landlords to have carbon monoxide monitoring and warning devices in each rental unit by the end of 2013. Single-family residences have been required to have CO sensors in place since July 2011.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer for Advice: Call 866-288-6010

The attorneys of Weber & Nierenberg have decades of experience with the investigation and proof of claims in accidental injury and fatality cases of all kinds, including claims related to carbon monoxide poisoning. In one case, we recovered $700,000 for a 69-year-old man whose brain injury was traced to CO exposure caused by negligent installation of a home heating exhaust flue.

With offices in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and San Rafael, our law firm is convenient for clients throughout the Bay Area. Contact us to schedule a free consultation about your case, or visit our website at www.weberandnierenberg.com.

PG&E Releases List of Pipelines at Risk

Public Outcry and Pressure from Officials Results in List

Due to pressure from state regulators and public outcry, PG&E released its list of top 100 priority projects in Northern and Central California on Monday, September 20, 2010. Interestingly enough, the segment of 30-inch pipe that exploded in the San Bruno gas explosion was not on the list. Additionally, the list did not include a segment of the same pipeline to the North in South San Francisco that PG&E identified as a top priority in 2009. Although state regulators approved $4.87 million in 2008 for repairs to the line in question, PG&E spent the money on other projects only to ask the state for an additional $5 million in 2009 to complete the project. To date, however, work has not started on the project.

Corrosion Problems in the San Bruno Gas Explosion?

While state and federal officials have yet to identify a definitive cause for the San Bruno gas explosion that killed 4 people and destroyed as many as 37 homes, pipe corrosion as a likely culprit is a growing concern. If the pipe that exploded was weakened by corrosion, several questions arise: How many other neighborhoods are at risk from corroded pipes? Why didn’t PG&E act sooner if they knew they had a potential problem? Why weren’t funds allocated for repairs spent on intended projects and upgrades?

Direct Assessment – A Failed Method for Maintaining Gas Pipelines?

Part of the problem may be due to the method used by PG&E to assess the safety of its gas pipelines. PG&E uses a “direct assessment” technique to create an electronic mapping of a pipeline. When testing for problems, an electric current is sent through a pipeline while utility workers walk along the segment in question inserting in the ground above it sensors that look like ski poles. Theoretically, if the pipeline is in good shape, the sensors will register an electric signal. If a weakened signal is registered, corrosion is likely the cause, indicating the need to investigate further the integrity of the pipe being tested.

Safety experts and consultants have raised a number of concerns regarding the “direct assessment” method used by PG&E to test its pipelines. For instance, direct assessment and electronic mapping can only test for corrosion in those areas where poles can reach. Secondly, other things like stress and pressure can weaken pipes. In fact, Jim Hall, a former NTSB chairman, has said the method is too unreliable for identifying stress and pressure fractures and should not be used in high-density, urban areas.

Negligence on PG&E’s Part? What should have been done Differently?

As more light is shed on what PG&E did – and failed to do – questions are beginning to emerge as to whether or not they could have prevented the San Bruno gas explosion. Failure to implement best practices, allocate money for needed repairs and upgrades, or prioritize issues when people complained of smelling gas suggests PG&E may have acted negligently. As evidenced by their initial unwillingness to release their list of top priorities, PG&E and their attorneys may not be willing to share information with you or your insurer. Working with an experienced utility and personal injury attorney can ensure your rights and interests are protected.

Contact San Bruno Gas Explosion Attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg

At Weber & Nierenberg, we have represented numerous clients in cases involving burn injuries and carbon monoxide poisoning. We understand the issues involved when dealing with negligence on the part of a public utility – especially involving natural gas. For more information regarding our practice or to speak with one of our attorneys for a free consultation, call San Bruno gas explosion attorneys at Weber & Nierenberg at 415-788-3900 or toll free at1-866-288-6010 today. If you prefer, you can email us and a we will contact you

 
 
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