Understanding the Causes and Consequences of Natural Gas Explosions
In California, gas companies are responsible for installing, operating, and maintaining the gas pipelines and valves to ensure the public is safe from harm. While gas explosions are not common, they do occur.
Gas lines are everywhere in our residential and business communities in California. They are generally assumed safe from the risk of harm and replaced when necessary, but some unforeseen factors.
When a gas line becomes corroded, it can rupture and explode due to poor repairs or maintenance with severe consequences.
A natural gas explosion occurs in a flash with no warning and is life-threatening to anyone nearby.
Another type of natural gas explosion occurs when a repairer accidentally leaves the gas line open, which places anyone in residence at severe risk of harm with little time to escape.
Construction sites are another common place where a gas explosion can occur. In most gas line explosions, flames can rise hundreds of feet, quickly spreading the fire.
Burn injuries will require painful and extensive rehabilitation, skin grafts, and numerous reconstructive surgeries.
Gas explosions are preventable, and some workplace explosion accidents occur when employees do not correctly handle flammable or pressurized materials.
If you or a family member has been injured in a natural gas explosion, you might be entitled to financial compensation.
In the unfortunate tragedy where a family member was killed, the family of wrongful death victims can hold negligent parties responsible.
Our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys provide an overview below to help you better understand natural gas explosions.
Natural Gas Line Statistics
Natural gas in the United States is big business. It accounts for 34% of this country's total energy consumption, second only to petroleum (and only by a razor-thin margin; petroleum represents 35% of America's energy).
About a third of our natural gas usage goes to powering the electrical grid, while the industrial second demands another third. The remainder is split between residential, commercial, and transportation uses.
Natural gas is also undeniably dangerous, by definition. With some three million miles of pipeline traversing the country and transporting hazardous liquids and gasses, there are bound to be explosions and other accidents.
That's due in part to the sheer combustibility of these materials and inadequate oversight, inspection, regulation, and enforcement of our government.
In the span between 2010 and 2018 (the last year for which data are available), explosions have cost this country more than $4 billion in damages.
According to a non-profit organization, FracTracker Alliance study, a pipeline explosion occurs once every 11 days.
When gas explosions occur, mainly if injuries and fatalities result, it's essential to hold any responsible parties accountable.
Most Common Causes of Natural Gas Explosions
What is behind the typical natural gas explosion? There are three primary reasons that these deadly situations can develop.
Excavation of a construction site. Construction companies, home remodelers, and anyone who must excavate underground in a commercial or residential area are required by law to determine where gas and other pipelines lie.
If they fail to do so, or if the information provided by the gas company is erroneous, the construction equipment may strike and rupture pipes, leading to a potentially deadly explosion.
Household appliances. Gas has been used to light our streets and power our household appliances for two centuries. While today's gas appliances are much, much safer than their 19th and early 20th century counterparts, the fact remains that natural gas is and always will be volatile.
It doesn't take much for a faulty stove, furnace, or water heater to become an unwitting instrument of destruction, thanks to the gas that powers it.
Gas leaks. Most people know that if they smell a foul, sulphuric odor, not unlike rotten eggs, there could be a gas leak nearby. But that's a relatively recent development. Natural gas itself is entirely odorless, so providers are obliged to add an odorant to it as outlined in regulation 49CFR, 192.625, “Odorization of gas.”
However, certain materials used to create the pipes that transport gas have been known to absorb the odorant, rending it ineffective and causing gas leaks to go unnoticed—with deadly results.
Other reasons that a gas explosion could occur are improper propane tank venting, gas-powered appliances that have been installed incorrectly, or a failure to inspect and maintain those same appliances.
Improper installation and poor maintenance, and product defects that lead back to the manufacturer can be grounds for negligence in the event of a gas explosion.
Three Types of Gas Explosion Injuries
When natural gas explodes, either in a building or outdoor area, any bystanders can risk serious injuries.
- Blast injuries. An individual near the source of the explosion can be harmed directly by the pressure waves emanating from the explosion itself. These can range from minor bruising and contusions to severe or even fatal internal injuries.
- Impact and debris-related injuries. Someone blown away from an explosion may have impact injuries from hitting a solid surface or structure such as the sidewalk, a brick wall, an iron railing, and the like. An explosion also sends debris flying, which can, in turn, lead to traumatic brain injury, traumatic amputation, penetrating injuries, eye injuries, and more.
- Burns and other blast-related injuries. Chemical burns or burns from an actual fire are different expected results of a natural gas explosion. Additionally, people who have experienced a gas explosion may incur asthma and other breathing problems from the dust, smoke, and toxins released into the air during the eruption.
Psychological Trauma and PTSD
Understandably, explosions can lead to severe and long-lasting emotional issues. It's not at all unusual for a person who has survived a natural gas explosion to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress-disorder, or PTSD.
This is a complex, debilitating condition that can affect all other aspects of the individual's life—and not for the better.
In addition to seeking medical treatment from the physical injuries caused by an explosion, it's essential to check in with a mental health provider and to be aware of the symptoms of PTSD:
- Intrusive thoughts,
- Depression or anxiety,
- Hypervigilance or always being “on edge,”
- Anger, irritability, or lashing out at loved ones,
- Trouble concentrating,
- Increased substance use, self-medicating,
- Engaging in risky behaviors.
Compensation for Gas Explosion Injuries
Recovering from gas explosion injuries will require expensive medical care, especially if you suffered severe burns or a catastrophic injury.
Victims could be eligible to recover these costs by filing a personal injury claim for damages. You will need legal representation to help maximize your recovery.
In the state of California, you are entitled to file a claim for damages to recover compensation from a negligent gas company for your injuries.
Economic damages can be awarded for injury-related losses, such as hospital emergency room care, surgery, rehabilitation, prescription medications, prosthetics, and any other related medical expenses.
Economic damages also include lost wages and earning potential you lost because of your injury and recovery.
Non-economic damages can be awarded to compensate you for pain and suffering and considerable emotional trauma. Still, they will depend on the level of injuries and the extent of negligence by the gas company.
Contact Our Injury Lawyers to Learn How We Can Help You
Natural gas is a significant player in powering our everyday lives, but it also has the potential to destroy those very lives due to its explosive nature.
Gas explosions can occur because of a gas line leak inside the structure, a malfunctioning appliance, or an issue with an underground pipeline.
Whether they result in burns, traumatic brain injuries, lacerations, broken bones, or PTSD, these explosions can have devastating and long-lasting consequences.
A personal injury attorney understands the difficulties involved in recovering from a gas explosion and can lead the charge in the fight for compensation, to help make you and your family whole again.
Injury Justice Law Firm is located in Los Angeles County and serves clients throughout Southern California.
For a free case consultation to review the facts of your case and legal options, contact us at (818) 781-1570 or fill out our contact form.