The dangers of construction work can take many different forms, depending on the specific project at hand. The types of construction accidents that understandably receive the most attention are the ones the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) refers to as the “Fatal Four”: falls, being struck by an object, electrocutions, and being caught between moving parts.
Almost every project has the potential for these kinds of injuries, and together they account for more than half of all construction worker deaths.
However, these are not the only kinds of construction accidents that regularly cost lives, or that occur in predictable, preventable patterns.
While gas explosions do not crack the top four causes of construction worker deaths, the risk of a gas line leak at construction site workplaces is much higher than in other professional contexts.
Underground gas lines are a known hazard of construction projects that involve digging; construction companies have a responsibility to protect individuals from being injured by them.
Unfortunately, this often does not happen. And, the resulting injuries and illness can be painful, expensive, and life-altering. If you have been injured by hitting a gas line at a construction site, or by the aftermath of a gas line leak at a construction site, The Stoddard Firm can help. Contact us today at 470-467-2200 to learn the value we can bring to your case.
Why Choose Us?
Our Atlanta Gas Explosion Accident Lawyer Can Make a Difference
If you are the victim of a construction site gas explosion, you are likely facing considerable financial and emotional costs; ones beyond what you could, and should, handle on your own. Choosing the firm to review your case and help you move forward is the first, and perhaps the most important, decision you have to make. The right choice can make a very real difference in both your experience throughout the legal process as well as the settlement you may receive.
Because of the complexity of gas line explosion cases, you want to look at some very specific things when selecting your legal representation: multifaceted experience, industry knowledge, and client-focused approach. The Stoddard Firm has all three.
Multifaceted experience: The circumstances of your gas line accident will determine the type of lawsuit you file and legal guidance you require. Some cases may require personal injury, premises liability, and wrongful death knowledge. Other cases may focus primarily on employment law or product liability. The value of working with The Stoddard Firm is that we are experienced in all of those areas and more.
Industry knowledge: Many gas line accidents occur during construction projects. It makes sense, the digging and building can disrupt lines and cause problems. The Stoddard Firm is well-regarded for its work representing victims of construction site accidents. Gas line accidents fall under this umbrella. Our knowledge, which includes all of the players (including construction companies, insurance companies, and state and local entities) uniquely qualifies us to provide our clients with the comprehensive advice and counsel they need.
Client-focused approach: Simply managing a legal claim necessitates intense focus and broad-based technical knowledge. That said, we know that effectively handling the process requires more than just legal experience. The right firm must also be committed to fulfilling its clients’ needs. This means actively listening, answering questions, and addressing concerns, and treating each case individually – no two gas line accidents are the same. At The Stoddard Firm, we are well-known for our compassionate communication and attention to detail. We are committed to helping our clients through what may be the most traumatic time of their lives.
The bottom line is this. You have been through a lot. You need the advice and counsel of professionals who not only understand your position, but who have proven experience in cases like yours. This is us.
Reach out to The Stoddard Firm’s explosion accident lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. Timing with regard to cases like this is an issue, so don’t wait. Our team is ready to begin work on your case immediately.
Our Gas Line Explosion Attorney Brings Tangible Value to You
Gas line accidents are traumatic and life-changing. If you have been injured in one you are likely facing a painful and costly recovery. Embarking on filing a complicated lawsuit may seem like an impossible task. After all, you are likely consumed with your recovery.
When you work with us, you can rest assured that we will handle the legal process on your behalf, leaving you the time and energy to get well.
We take ownership of the legal process and handle your case the way we would for a family member – leveraging the resources of our entire firm.
From overseeing a complete investigation of your gas line accident (reviewing reports, interviewing witnesses, and researching accident history) to determine the at-fault party or parties, calculating your damages, and filing all necessary legal paperwork to communicating with all involved entities, negotiating a settlement and litigating your case, if necessary – we handle each and every aspect of the legal process.
That said, you will never be in the dark about the status of your case. Our pipeline injury lawyer will keep you apprised of what is happening and will always be available to speak with you. We know that questions will invariably arise throughout the process, and we are happy to answer them at your convenience.
We know how to prove negligence and are committed to seeing your case through to a successful resolution. Our goal is always to maximize your settlement, but in all cases, you will have the final say as to whether to accept a settlement offer. The bottom line is that this is your life and your choice.
Our Gas Explosion Lawyer Answers Your Frequently Asked Questions
We Provide the Information You Need
It is not surprising that gas line accidents on construction sites result in so many questions. The impact these events have on the lives of their victims can be life-changing, and the process to obtain a much-needed settlement is complex. Below, we have shared some of the most frequently asked questions along with our responses.
Can I file for worker’s compensation and file a negligence lawsuit against my employer for my injuries in a gas line accident?
No, you can only file for one of the two. That said, workers’ comp does not require you to prove negligence (but may not compensate you fully), while a personal injury lawsuit would. Our pipeline explosion lawyer can explain both in detail and help you determine the best course of action.
Can I file for workers’ comp and sue the subcontractor whose negligence was responsible for the explosion?
Yes, you can; the Stoddard Firm can help prove negligence and guide you through the legal process with the goal of maximizing your compensation. The restriction on workers’ comp and negligence lawsuits exists only with regard to your employer.
How long do I have to file my gas line accident lawsuit?
If you were injured, Georgia law provides you two years from the date of the injury to file your lawsuit. Our explosion accident attorneys will ensure we meet all filing deadlines.
What type of damages can I receive?
What you receive will depend upon your specific situation. In Georgia, you can sue for both economic and noneconomic damages. And, if the negligence is deemed extreme, you may be awarded punitive damages.
Will I have to appear in court to testify?
As your gas line accident attorney, our goal is to settle your case during the negotiation phase. However, should we be unable to reach an appropriate agreement, we will litigate your case in which case your testimony could play a valuable role.
While we are well aware that the information shared above does not answer all of your questions, we hope it provides you with some useful information. We can provide more specific answers to all of your questions if you contact us at 470-467-2200 to schedule a free consultation. During this meeting, we can learn about your accident, and we can share how we would address your situation. Our team knows how to handle cases like this and is ready to go to work for you.
Facts Regarding Gas Line Accidents
Excavation Errors Are the Leading Cause of Significant Gas Line Accidents
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) keeps thorough records of all underground pipeline breaches in the U.S., including natural gas. In the past, ruptured gas distribution systems have killed an annual average of ten people and injured an average of 46 more.
As shared, excavation damage has almost always been the top cause of “significant incidents” – meaning ruptures that resulted in a fatality, an injury requiring inpatient treatment, or at least $50,000 in damage. Excavation accidents can account for anywhere from a quarter of these ruptures to more than half in a given year.
Obviously, construction companies need to be much more careful around gas lines for the safety of everyone. But these statistics are especially grim for construction workers. They indicate that every time a gas line breach happens, there is a very high probability that a construction worker will be somewhere nearby, placed right in harm’s way by inadequate safety precautions.
Construction Companies Are Subject to Specific Safety Protocols When Digging
Before beginning any digging project, OSHA requires employers to check whether there are any underground installations that employees may be injured by hitting, as gas line systems are present in virtually all residential and commercial areas. Electrical cables are also sometimes installed underground, posing a similar hazard. Companies can perform this check by calling 811, a free service that will help coordinate them with the specific utility companies in question.
If a utility company does not respond to information requests within the legally required time frame, usually 24 hours, companies are allowed to proceed with excavation, but only by using detection equipment to map the potential hazards themselves. Once a team encounters an underground installation, it must be shielded, supported, or removed in whatever way is feasible and necessary to create a safe work environment.
Utility lines may also have visible markings at the surface level, and employees should be trained to check for and recognize these.
Following this step could have saved the life of one construction worker in Michigan in 2006. In that case, the construction company had called to check on the location of the underground systems and received responses from all but one of the relevant utility companies. They decided to proceed and promptly struck a gas line belonging to the one company that had not responded. The breach caused an immediate explosion, which killed the worker. His coworkers called 911 and then noticed markings along the side of the road, identifying the location of the gas line.
When Construction Companies and High-Profile Clients Get Careless, The Danger Rises
Negligence Is an Overwhelming Problem
When the rules are followed, gas line accidents should be extremely rare or nonexistent. When ignoring regulations becomes a habit or a culture, they become absurdly common.
A few years ago, the city of Sacramento, California, was dealing with a particularly carelessly handled long-term construction project involving the city’s water mains. Between the years 2012 and 2016, there were at least eight separate gas line breaches associated with the project, 100% of them due to contractor error. In some cases, the supervisors had not called 811 to check for underground installations or had ignored clear, accurate gas line markings on site. In one case, the company did not even notice the breach had occurred. It was only discovered when a family with a toddler and an expectant mother reported the gas smell leaking up through their yard.
As well as general disregard for safety, unsafe construction sites and practices can also stem from a lack of organization and structure. Because construction is done on a project-by-project contracting basis, business relationships can become vague or overcomplicated, leaving room for each individual company to shift responsibility onto the other companies involved.
This seems to have been the case with one Verizon construction project in 2019, also in California. Verizon hired a Florida-based engineering company to install fiber optic cables in the Inner Richmond neighborhood of San Francisco. This engineering company then hired another New Jersey-based subcontractor, which hired yet another subcontractor to do the actual work in the Californian city. When a worker for the final subcontractor struck a gas line, it started a fire that damaged several buildings, destroyed a restaurant, and sent flames 50 feet into the air.
In the following investigation, it was found that the second-to-last subcontractor, Advanced Fiber Works (AFW), was not licensed to operate in California. AFW argued that this did not matter, because they were not performing the physical work, but they ignored multiple inquiries into what exactly they were contributing to the project. Another contractor reported that AFW was expected to lay the actual cables after the trench digging was complete.
How A Company Responds Immediately After a Gas Line Rupture Is Critical
Ideally, construction companies should be able to avoid disturbing gas lines at all. However, it is also important for every excavation team to have a strong damage control plan ready in case a breach does occur and be ready to implement it quickly.
Gas explosions can sometimes occur instantaneously when a line is breached, but more often, there is a short window of time after a leak starts when an explosion can still be prevented.
This is where an efficient, well-coordinated response can save lives, prevent injuries, and contain the potential damage to surrounding property.
In one bulletin on gas line safety for construction companies, OSHA revisited the St. Cloud, Minnesota explosion to illustrate this point. In that incident, a construction crew struck a gas line shortly before Christmas of 1998. OSHA would later determine that the company had not taken the required precautions to identify underground hazards. Once breached, the gas line did not explode immediately. The worker who was operating the equipment alerted the supervisor, but the supervisor chose not to pass along the information any further, at least not in a timely manner. A bystander not associated with the project did call 911 about 15 minutes later, but by the time an emergency response team arrived and began assessing the situation, a dangerous amount of gas had collected in the basement of a nearby restaurant. Approximately 39 minutes after the line was breached, the gas buildup exploded, killing two technicians on the construction site, one person in the restaurant, and one pedestrian. At least eleven more people were also injured, one of them seriously.
Because of avoidable tragedies like these, OSHA urges employers to make sure workers at every level know to inform both emergency services and the gas provider immediately upon noticing a leak.
Gas companies usually have more complete information about their own infrastructure, and about the process of containing gas leaks in general, than construction companies do. That is why it is so important to involve them in the response. Some companies also provide general advice they would like construction companies to be aware of, in addition to the standard OSHA requirements.
For example, one district director from CenterPoint Energy in Houston reminds construction companies to remove all personnel and possible ignition sources from areas where a gas leak has occurred, and offers the following insight on what construction companies often do wrong after rupturing a gas line:
Attempting to repair the damaged pipe themselves, with the gas still flowing.
Attempting to extinguish the escaping gas if it catches fire.
Covering or filling in the hole where the gas is leaking, potentially forcing it into sewers and other underground paths of least resistance.
One of the most important things a construction company can do to protect people from gas explosions is to resist the urge to cover mistakes or take care of them “in-house.” When stakes are high and time is short, as they are during an active gas leak, the responsible move is to get the most qualified people available to the scene as fast as possible.
Gas Companies Can Also Put Construction Workers and Bystanders at Risk
Anyone managing a construction project has a responsibility to take the necessary steps to avoid disturbing gas lines, and to call for a prompt response if an accident does happen. However, gas companies may also contribute to deadly accidents by making their lines unnecessarily difficult to avoid, or by responding poorly to an incident in progress.
This happened here in Georgia in August of 2018. Contractors who were laying fiber optic cables in Homerville accidentally ruptured a gas line and called to notify Atlanta Gas Light (AGL). The gas line had not been properly marked, and when the AGL team arrived, they fixed the rupture but did not shut off the main gas valve while working or check the nearby buildings for gas buildup. The leaking gas seeped into a sewer line and collected in a neighboring coffee shop, where it exploded, seriously injuring the three women – two employees and a customer – who were inside at the time.
The Georgia Public Service Commission initially calculated a $2.3 million penalty against AGL, which was later revised to a $347,000 donation to various preventative causes. AGL was allowed to make the donation without officially admitting any wrongdoing. However, if any of the survivors were to sue, they would still have a good chance of winning compensation from AGL, more so than from the construction company in that particular case.
Although these scenarios are less common, utility companies can be held just as liable for damages caused by their negligence as construction companies can.
The Stoddard Firm Has the Skills and Experience to Help Gas Explosion Survivors Get Fair Compensation
Contact Us Today
The Stoddard Firm believes strongly in making sure injured workers and their families have the resources they need to rebuild their lives and heal as completely as possible. We’re experienced in employment law, personal injury, wrongful death, premises liability, product liability, and all other areas of law relevant to helping survivors of gas line explosions.
If you or a loved one have been injured by hitting a gas line during construction work, or injured as a bystander to a gas line explosion at a construction site, The Stoddard Firm can help you get the compensation you deserve. We will establish what happened, where the mistake occurred, and who was responsible, whether it was the construction company, the gas company, or a combination of both. We will also help you analyze the true cost of your injuries over the course of your lifetime, both financially and emotionally, and make sure their full weight is given due respect in court.
To talk to a lawyer about your case today, reach out to us at 470-467-2200 or through our online chat function for a free consultation.
Attorney Matt Stoddard
Matt Stoddard is a professional, hardworking, ethical advocate. He routinely faces some of the nation’s largest companies and some of the world’s largest insurers – opponents who have virtually unlimited resources. In these circumstances, Mr. Stoddard is comfortable. Mr. Stoddard provides his strongest efforts to his clients, and he devotes the firm’s significant financial resources to presenting the strongest case possible on their behalf. Matt understands that his clients must put their trust in him. That trust creates an obligation for Matt to work tirelessly on their behalf, and Matt Stoddard does not take that obligation lightly. [ Attorney Bio ]
Tell us about your concern and request a free, no obligation, confidential legal consultation.
Any time you walk into a building in Georgia and see an elevator, you’re looking at a collaboration between at least two separate organizations, usually more.
First, there’s the Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner, which is responsible for performing regular inspections on all licensed elevators in Georgia.
Typically, there’s also a private company providing regular maintenan...