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Can I sue for carbon monoxide poisoning in California?

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

In the State of California, if your family has suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning due to no fault of your own, you can sue the responsible party to recover damages such as medical bills, loss of income, and loss of quality of life. It’s crucial to consult with a qualified attorney who specializes in personal injury and premises liability law in California to get advice tailored to your situation. J&Y Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA has helped many families who have suffered due to carbon monoxide related injuries and deaths. Read on to learn more about carbon monoxide cases.

In California, you might have a potential legal claim for carbon monoxide poisoning if:

  1. Negligence: If someone’s negligence, such as a property owner or a manufacturer of faulty equipment, led to the carbon monoxide exposure, you may be able to sue for damages. For example, if a landlord failed to maintain heating equipment properly, resulting in a carbon monoxide leak, they could be held liable.
  2. Product Liability: If a defective product, such as a faulty gas heater or carbon monoxide detector, contributed to the poisoning, you might have a product liability claim against the manufacturer or distributor of that product.
  3. Premises Liability: Property owners and landlords have a legal duty to maintain safe premises. If a property owner failed to provide adequate ventilation or neglected their responsibility in some way that led to the carbon monoxide exposure, you could potentially file a premises liability claim.
  4. Wrongful Death: If a loved one died due to carbon monoxide poisoning, you may be able to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against those responsible for their exposure. This could include manufacturers of stoves, fireplaces, faulty carbon monoxide detectors, or other sources of carbon monoxide exposure.

It’s essential to document your case thoroughly, seek medical attention, and consult with an attorney experienced in personal injury law to determine the merits of your claim. Additionally, there are deadlines, known as statutes of limitations, for filing personal injury claims in California, so it’s crucial to act promptly.

Remember that legal matters can be complex, and only a qualified attorney can provide you with specific legal advice tailored to your situation. Therefore, it’s important to consult with an attorney to understand your rights and options if you believe you have a carbon monoxide poisoning case in California.

How common are carbon monoxide injuries or deaths?

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is relatively common, and it can result in injuries or deaths if not detected and treated promptly. In fact, just recently, on November 7, 2023, a married couple were found dead from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning at their Santa Rosa apartment. The two were found deceased at about 9:30 a.m. by a maintenance worker. First responders donned self-contained breathing equipment to investigate the apartment, where a dog was found inside, still alive. It was turned over to animal control. Santa Rosa firefighters detected high levels of carbon monoxide using air monitoring equipment. The initial investigation suggested that a natural gas-fueled appliance caused the exposure, but the official cause of death was still under investigation.

While the exact prevalence of CO-related incidents can vary by region, time of year, and other factors, but here are some general points to consider:

  1. Incidents in Homes: CO poisoning incidents often occur in homes due to faulty heating systems, improperly vented appliances (such as gas stoves and water heaters), blocked chimneys, or the misuse of generators or grills indoors. These incidents can lead to injuries or fatalities, particularly during the colder months when heating systems are in use.
  2. Seasonal Variations: CO poisoning incidents tend to increase during the winter when people use heating equipment more frequently. Improperly maintained or malfunctioning heating systems can release CO gas into homes, leading to poisonings.
  3. Silent and Odorless: CO is known as the “silent killer” because it is odorless and colorless, making it difficult to detect without a functioning CO detector. People may not be aware of a CO leak until symptoms of poisoning occur, which can include headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and in severe cases, unconsciousness or death.
  4. Deaths and Hospitalizations: Each year, CO poisoning leads to thousands of emergency room visits and hospitalizations in the United States. Tragically, it also results in hundreds of deaths.
  5. Preventable with Awareness: Many cases of CO poisoning are preventable through proper maintenance of heating and ventilation systems, regular inspection of appliances, and the installation of CO detectors in homes and workplaces. Education and awareness campaigns aim to reduce the risk of CO poisoning.

To mitigate the risk of CO poisoning, it’s essential for individuals and families to take precautions, including installing CO detectors, scheduling regular maintenance for heating systems and appliances, and avoiding the use of combustion devices like generators and grills indoors. If someone experiences symptoms of CO poisoning, they should seek fresh air immediately and call 911 or seek medical attention.

While CO poisoning is common, taking preventative measures and being aware of the risks can help reduce the likelihood of injuries or deaths associated with carbon monoxide exposure.

How can you ensure your home is free from carbon monoxide?

Ensuring your home is free from carbon monoxide (CO) involves a combination of preventive measures and regular maintenance to minimize the risk of CO exposure. Here are some steps you can take to help safeguard your home:

  1. Proper Ventilation:
    • Ensure that your home is adequately ventilated, especially in areas with gas-powered appliances like kitchens and bathrooms. Proper ventilation helps disperse any CO that might be produced.
  2. Regular Appliance Maintenance:
    • Schedule annual inspections and maintenance for gas-powered appliances such as furnaces, water heaters, stoves, and fireplaces. A qualified technician can check for leaks and ensure that these appliances are functioning safely.
  3. Chimney and Flue Maintenance:
    • If you have a fireplace or wood-burning stove, have your chimney and flue inspected and cleaned regularly to prevent blockages that could lead to CO buildup.
  4. Avoid Indoor Use of Generators and Grills:
    • Never use gasoline or charcoal-burning devices indoors, including generators, grills, and camping stoves. These can produce high levels of CO and should only be used in well-ventilated outdoor areas.
  5. Properly Vent Gas Appliances:
    • Make sure that gas appliances are properly vented to the outside. Blocked or malfunctioning vents can cause CO to accumulate indoors.
  6. Install CO Alarms:
    • While you mentioned excluding CO detectors, it’s worth emphasizing their importance. Install CO detectors on every level of your home, near sleeping areas, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placement and maintenance. Test them regularly and replace the batteries as needed.
  7. Awareness and Education:
    • Educate yourself and your family about the dangers of CO poisoning. Be aware of the symptoms of CO poisoning, such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and confusion.
  8. Carbon Monoxide Safety with Vehicles:
    • Never leave your vehicle running in an attached garage, even with the garage door open. CO can enter your home through the shared space.
  9. Regular Inspections:
    • Periodically inspect the areas where CO sources may be present, such as your garage and furnace room, to ensure there are no signs of leaks or issues.
  10. Stay Informed:
    • Stay informed about safety recalls related to gas appliances and equipment in your home. Manufacturers occasionally issue recalls for products that may pose a CO hazard.

Remember that carbon monoxide is often referred to as the “silent killer” because it’s odorless and colorless, making it difficult to detect without a CO detector. These preventive measures, in addition to having working CO detectors, can significantly reduce the risk of CO exposure and help keep your home safe. If you suspect a CO leak or experience symptoms of CO poisoning, evacuate your home immediately and seek medical attention.

What can I do if myself or a loved one was injured or killed due to CO exposure?

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed due to carbon monoxide (CO) exposure, it’s essential to take certain steps to protect your rights and potentially seek compensation or justice. Here’s a general outline of what you can do:

  1. Seek Medical Attention (if necessary):
    • If you or anyone else is experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning (such as headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, or loss of consciousness), seek immediate medical attention. Your health is the top priority.
  2. Evacuate the Area:
    • If you suspect a CO leak, evacuate the area immediately. Get to fresh air and ensure everyone is safe before taking any further action.
  3. Contact Emergency Services:
    • Call 911 or the emergency services number in your area to report the incident. Inform them of the suspected CO exposure and request assistance.
  4. Document the Incident:
    • If it is safe to do so, document the circumstances of the incident. This may include taking photographs or videos of the affected area, any faulty equipment or appliances, or any visible signs of CO sources.
  5. Preserve Evidence:
    • Preserve any evidence related to the incident, such as medical records, witness statements, maintenance records of appliances, and any written communication with landlords or property owners regarding the issue.
  6. Report the Incident:
    • Report the incident to the appropriate authorities, such as your local fire department, utility company, or relevant regulatory agencies. They may conduct investigations or inspections.
  7. Consult an Attorney:
    • Consider consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney who specializes in cases related to carbon monoxide exposure and premises liability. An attorney can provide legal advice specific to your situation, help you understand your rights, and guide you through the legal process.
  8. Notify Insurance Companies:
    • If applicable, notify your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance company about the incident. They can provide guidance on filing a claim for property damage or injuries.
  9. Gather Medical Records:
    • If injuries occurred, gather medical records and bills related to the treatment and recovery process. This information will be essential if you decide to pursue a personal injury claim.
  10. Consider a Wrongful Death Claim (if applicable):
    • If a loved one has died as a result of CO exposure, you may have grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Consult with an attorney experienced in wrongful death cases to understand your options.
  11. Cooperate with Investigations:
    • If authorities or investigators conduct inquiries related to the incident, cooperate fully and provide any requested information.

Remember that legal processes can be complex, and the specific steps you need to take can vary depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction. Consulting with an attorney early in the process is crucial, as they can help you determine the best course of action and advocate for your rights and interests.

Contact Our California Carbon Monoxide Injury Lawyers

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed due to carbon monoxide exposure, you are entitled to receive compensation from the guilty party (or parties) to compensate you for your suffering. Call J&Y Law Firm today at (877) 310-2104 to receive a free consultation so you can begin the process of getting justice.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.