After surviving a flammable gas explosion, or losing a family member to one, it’s completely normal to go through a period of shock. Appliances that run on propane and natural gas have probably been a normal, background part of your life for as long as you can remember. You’ve always known that these substances are potentially explosive, but you’ve used them or seen them used without incident so often that their destructive power seemed to come out of nowhere.
In addition to the horrific physical trauma that gas explosions can cause, this kind of incident can understandably shatter your sense of safety in familiar, everyday environments, making it particularly difficult to recover emotionally. If the explosion occurred in your own home, you likely also lost a lot of your personal property, if not all of it. Life and health are irreplaceable and rightly take center stage in most discussions following a tragedy, but even so, losing your home and its contents is a massive emotional and financial blow worthy of being acknowledged as well.
Many survivors of gas explosions also struggle with irrational feelings of guilt. You might wonder if you could have done something differently to prevent the explosion, or if you should have expected something like this to happen sooner or later, just because you were using gas or propane instead of some other system. These feelings are a normal part of the grieving process after any disaster, but unfortunately, they can make it easier for those who actually did contribute to the explosion to take advantage of you.
The truth is that propane and natural gas are fairly safe to use, but only if they are properly formulated, and the equipment they are used with is properly designed, made, installed, and serviced. Correct usage at the consumer level is important too, but gas and equipment providers, as well as landlords and employers when applicable, are responsible for anticipating potential problems and providing clear instructions.
Unless you or another user deliberately misused your gas equipment, there’s a good chance the explosion was caused by a negligent provider or other company, not your own errors or bad luck.
When a company’s negligence harms someone, the victim is almost always the most convenient person for the company to blame. The best way to protect yourself is to start working with a qualified propane explosion lawyer or natural gas explosion lawyer as soon as possible. That way, you can have the explosion thoroughly investigated by someone other than the gas company, and you’ll be fully informed of your rights at all times.
Below, we’ll go into some more detail on where, how, and why gas explosions happen, and your rights as a survivor. If you’d prefer to discuss your case with an Atlanta gas explosion lawyer directly, feel free to reach out by phone or chat at any time.
Most Household Explosions Involve Flammable Gases
Both propane and natural gas are standard options for home heating and cooking, and together they account for the majority of home explosions. In spite of how commonplace these utilities are, the companies that provide them continue to make needless mistakes.
Georgia residents, in particular, regularly suffer the effects of these preventable accidents.
In October of 2020, here in Georgia, a woman was severely injured by a gas explosion in the home she shared with her mother in Dawson County. The mother was not at home at the time of the explosion, but reported that her daughter had suffered second- and third-degree burns over 35% of her body.
Three years earlier in White County, a man was killed in another home explosion, this one caused by a propane leak. The family had previously reported the leak to the propane company, after they noticed the tank was running empty early, but the company denied there was anything wrong and refilled the tank.
Mobile home residents face extra high risks of gas explosions, both within Georgia and beyond.
In September of 2019, a mobile home explosion in Meriwether County killed one person and sent another to the hospital in critical condition. Earlier that same year, a mobile home park in Colorado was shaken by a propane tank explosion, and one in Iowa by a natural gas explosion.
The frequency of mobile home gas explosions stems from several factors. The nature of their design, with its emphasis on mobility, can mean less physical stability for their gas installations. Many mobile homes use aluminum wiring, which is more likely to spark, providing an ignition source. Then there’s the simple fact that mobile homes are usually a lower-income housing option. This shouldn’t mean that they receive less care and consideration from utility companies or emergency services, but that’s often what happens. Many mobile home residents are also renters, and getting landlords to provide necessary upkeep can be a struggle.
Georgia has nearly 400,000 mobile homes as of 2017, the fifth most in the U.S, so the gas safety issues that continue to plague this style of housing directly affect Georgia families.
If the explosion that harmed you or your family happened at home, and you are renting, your landlord is one of the possible negligent parties. If you live in a mobile home, the home’s manufacturer may be worth looking into as well. Even if you are the owner of a non-manufactured home, the gas company and any third-party companies that did work on the equipment may be the ones at fault. A gas explosion attorney can help you narrow down the possibilities for your particular situation.
Workplace Gas Explosions Are a Serious Danger in Many Professions
Even people who have no flammable gas setups in their own homes can end up victims of gas explosions when they go out or go to work.
Some of the riskiest jobs for workplace gas explosions are construction, food service, and the gas and propane industries themselves, but anyone who works on or near flammable gas systems in any capacity can end up caught in a blast.
Again, this isn’t just an abstract danger but a pattern of real accidents that affect Georgia residents on a regular basis. In May of 2021, a Dekalb County woman was killed when her restaurant’s natural gas oven exploded.
Some five months earlier, also in Dekalb County, a construction crew ruptured a gas line. Atlanta Gas Light responded to the emergency, but was unable to prevent an explosion. Two of their workers were injured while trying, and 10 families were displaced from their apartment building.
Just over a month before that, a construction worker was injured in a suspected gas explosion while working on a retirement home in Woodstock. Thankfully, the home did not yet have residents, and no one was killed, even though the blast was powerful enough to blow out walls, doors, and windows, according to the Woodstock Fire Chief.
Workplace gas explosions are legally a little more complicated than gas explosions that happen at home, or while you’re out and about on your own time. If the explosion was due to your employer’s negligence, you may be limited to collecting worker’s compensation, which will not fully cover your losses. However, if a company you don’t work for shared fault in the explosion, or if your own employer put you at risk on purpose or denied your worker’s comp claim, you may be able to sue for full compensation.
Even if you think the explosion was just accidental negligence on the part of your employer, it’s worth speaking with a gas explosion attorney to check whether litigation is a viable option for you.
Common Sources of Gas Explosions Can Frequently Be Traced to Corporate Negligence
As noted above, a lot of steps go into providing safe propane and natural gas services, and a given cooking or heating setup will often be the work of multiple companies. In situations where the victims of the explosion are tenants, employees, or guests, rather than direct customers of the gas company, there are yet more layers of potential liability.
When an explosion happens, it’s important to look into the entire chain of events that led to the problem, in order to figure out exactly who failed in their responsibilities and how.
To prevent explosions, injuries, and deaths, propane and natural gas providers should:
- Blend their products with a sufficient amount of ethyl mercaptan, so that users can easily detect leaks by smell. Propane and natural gas are both odorless without this additive.
- Warn users of the dangers of flammable gas and instruct them of best safety practices.
- •Be responsive to requests for help or information, in case of emergencies, new construction, or customer concerns.
Equipment providers should:
- Engineer their products to be as safe as possible and difficult to accidently misuse.
- Include up-to-date safety features, such as emergency release valves on propane tanks and pilot light guards on water heaters.
- Issue recalls on any potentially unsafe products as soon as flaws are discovered.
Construction companies should:
- Make sure their work adheres completely to the Georgia Gas Code.
- Communicate with local gas companies before beginning new projects, to verify the location of existing gas lines.
- Include adequate ventilation in spaces intended for flammable gas use, to minimize the risk of gas building up and igniting.
Employers and landlords should:
- Make sure all flammable gas equipment they control is used correctly and in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Schedule regular recommended maintenance.
- Correct any unsafe conditions as soon as they become apparent.
- Evacuate workers, tenants, and guests from areas with active leaks (except for qualified workers specifically tasked with stopping leaks).
This is not an exhaustive list of all the duties a company can have related to preventing flammable gas explosions, just an illustration of how many things can go wrong that are neither blameless nor the fault of the person caught in the explosion.
A good gas explosion attorney will look at the explosion in question from all applicable angles, investigate the cause, and help you identify the right defendant or defendants to bring your case against.
The Stoddard Firm Has Gas Explosion Attorneys Who Can Help
Even though gas explosions are tragically common and follow many of the same predictable, preventable patterns, gas explosion lawsuits can be quite complex, because they can touch on many different areas of law.
The gas explosion lawyers at The Stoddard Firm have extensive experience in personal injury, wrongful death, product liability, premises liability, employment law, and landlord-tenant law.
We’ll personally investigate your accident, make sure the evidence is preserved, figure out what went wrong, and identify your best chances of gaining fair compensation. We’ll also collaborate with you and your doctor to reach an accurate calculation of what the explosion has cost you and will continue to cost you over the course of a lifetime, then present this information in a way that judges and jury’s respect.
Our top priority is helping the victims of preventable accidents put their lives back together as completely as possible, and we’re proud to help hold negligent companies accountable in the process.
To discuss your case in a free consultation with an Atlanta gas explosion accident lawyer, just give us a call at 678-RESULT, or reach out through our online chat function.