Personal Injury Lawyer
Not all personal injury lawyers handle cases arising out of explosions. An explosion poses unique challenges for the injury attorney, related to both the investigation and resulting injuries or wrongful death.
The investigation into the explosion begins with the official investigation. Depending on the circumstances, the official investigation may be conducted by the local fire department and/or OSHA, if it occurs in the workplace. The investigation centers around the source of the ignition and the flammable substrate. Explosions are predictable and preventable. The laws of physics work the same way every time. When a flammable material comes into contact with a source of ignition, the result is predetermined.
Sources of ignition might include fire or electricity. Less commonly, some explosions result from lightning strikes or chemical reactions. Flammable materials are usually well-known and well-marked, unless stored in an unapproved container. There are also instances when materials not considered flammable will ignite and explode, such as corn dust in the confined space of a silo.
Another source of explosions is over-pressurization. When the pressure from an expansive gas exceeds the container’s capacity to hold it, there will be an explosion. Again, physics. I once investigated an explosion at a steel plant that resulted from water falling into an open vat of molten steel. The water quickly converted to steam. When the pressurized steam escaped, it erupted in an explosion of hot steel that showered the massive steel plant in molten steel. Many men were injured. The culprit in that case was overfilling the electric bucket with scrap metal that tumbled over the side of the vat thereby causing a water leak from nearby water pipes. Many safety violations were involved.
When a workplace explosion occurs, unfortunately, depending on the applicable state law, the injured worker’s recovery may be limited workers compensation. In other states, there is a potential for an intentional tort claim against and employer who acts recklessly or with conscious indifference to the safety of its employee.
Injuries associated with an explosion can be catastrophic, such as burns, traumatic brain injury, multiple fractures, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), deafness, amputations, paralysis or PTSD. Many of these injuries pose unique disability that is challenging to prove. Unlike objectively observable physical injuries, TBI and PTSD are difficult to prove. There is a cottage industry of defense experts waiting to call the injured individual a malingerer or to allege that the severely injured individual is exaggerating.
As you can see, serious personal injury or wrongful death associated with an explosion requires an experienced personal injury or wrongful death attorney. In order to be able to perform an independent investigation, the injury victim or his/her family should be contacted as soon as possible after the accident.