Carbon Monoxide Exposure for Children & Related Legal Claims
Sometimes known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide poses high risks to babies and children, as well as pregnant women. This gas is colorless, tasteless, and odorless, but breathing carbon monoxide interferes with the ability of the blood to carry oxygen. In turn, this can lead to cell death, which may affect the operation of vital organs. Carbon monoxide poisoning thus may be an emergency that requires prompt medical intervention.
Carbon monoxide poisoning in the home often arises from faulty furnaces or heaters, especially those in areas with poor ventilation. Common signs that a person may be suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning may include rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, problems with hearing or vision, chest pain, dizziness, and nausea. Extreme symptoms may include loss of consciousness, cardiac arrest, and respiratory failure. Hundreds of people die from carbon monoxide poisoning each year.
Responding to Symptoms
If you notice that your child has symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, take the following steps:
Turn off the source of carbon monoxide, if possible and safe
Leave the space so that the child can get fresh air
Call 911 or an emergency medical service
Perform CPR if the child is not breathing
A child who has been exposed to carbon monoxide may need to undergo blood tests and X-rays. A doctor also may want to check the functioning of their heart and neurological system. Some children may need oxygen therapy.
Legal Claims Based on Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Parents may have claims against various defendants if their child has been harmed by carbon monoxide exposure. If they are renting their home from a landlord, they may have a claim against the landlord if they failed to properly maintain the premises. This would require proving that the landlord was negligent, which means that they did not use the appropriate care. For example, perhaps they failed to fix a furnace problem of which they knew or should have known. Violations of carbon monoxide detector laws or health and safety codes also might expose a landlord to liability.
In other cases, a family may have a claim against a manufacturer if their defective product caused carbon monoxide poisoning to a child. These claims generally involve a theory of strict liability, which requires only that a product contained a defect and that the defect caused the victim’s injury or illness. A defect may take the form of a manufacturing defect or a design defect. While a manufacturing defect consists of an error in making a particular item, a design defect consists of a problem that affects all the items in a product line.
Keep the Defective Product
If they are considering pursuing a claim against a manufacturer, a victim should not discard the faulty product. They should stop using the product and place it where it cannot cause further harm. While getting rid of the product may seem logical, this can make it much harder to prove a claim against the manufacturer.
Regardless of whether a landlord, a manufacturer, or another party is held liable, compensation for carbon monoxide poisoning may cover both economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are financial, relatively objective costs, such as the medical bills required to treat a child’s symptoms. Non-economic damages are intangible and may be more subjective. These include the pain and suffering and emotional distress caused to a child.
In the tragic event that a child dies from carbon monoxide poisoning, parents may have a wrongful death claim against anyone at fault. The elements of this claim are similar to those of a claim for a victim who survived, but damages may be different. For example, parents may be able to recover damages based on the loss of their relationship with the child.