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Am I Eligible for Workers’ Compensation If a Gas Leak Caused My Injuries?  

Workers' Compensation Lawyers at McCann &Wall help injured workers file claims for compensation

When it is safely used and stored, natural gas does not pose a risk to people; however, a gas leak is a serious threat. Natural gas is highly flammable; the smallest spark or flame that comes in contact with it can cause an explosion or fire. Besides fire, exposure to toxic natural gas fumes can result in permanent brain damage. For some men and women, contact with natural gas can be fatal.

When business owners and equipment manufacturers fail to take proper safety precautions to contain natural gas, workers get hurt. Burns and other injuries caused by a natural gas explosion can be physically, emotionally, and financially devastating. An injured employee may consider filing a Workers’ Compensation claim for benefits to repay these losses.

What is Natural Gas Used for?

Natural gas is an invaluable resource used in a multitude of industrial applications, including:

  • Raw material for manufacturing chemicals and products
  • Food cooking and processing
  • Fueling commercial boilers
  • Heating and cooling air and water
  • Waste incineration and treatment

Natural gas can also be converted to methanol which is used to produce acetic acid, formaldehyde, and other substances that each have their own unique applications. It does not matter if one works in an office or a factory, chances are natural gas can be found in their workplace.

What Causes Gas Leaks?

When safely contained and used in accordance with strict safety protocols, natural gas is incredibly beneficial. However, inadequate worker training and lax safety procedures and policies lead to leaks, exposing employees to this dangerous gas mixture. In 2016, Scientific American described the federal government’s efforts to reduce the financial and environmental costs of natural gas leaks by taking a close look at how and why they happen. Researchers on the task found the most common problems are caused by faulty equipment, defective storage tanks, and poorly maintained gas wells.

In addition to these structural and equipment failures, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found institutional inertia. While it would seem these gas leak risks would be immediate priorities for most companies, many did not have the resources or expertise to rectify them. That should be concerning for any individual working in proximity to natural gas.

What Injuries are Caused by a Natural Gas Leak Explosion?

Explosions and fires caused by undetected gas leaks can cause serious injuries and property damage. Workers close to these explosions can suffer:

  • Burns: Tissue damage caused by heat is classified by degree, depending on symptoms and severity.
  • Breathing Problems: Inhalation of fumes and smoke can cause irreparable lung damage.
  • Blast Wave Injuries: The high-pressure of an explosion can cause eye damage, ear damage, concussions, and blast lung.
  • Flying Debris Injuries: Objects propelled by the force of a blast can puncture the skin and cause bone breaks, as well as other head, neck, and spine injuries.
  • Impact Injuries: When the force is enough to propel a person against another object, it can cause bone fractures, tissue damage, and limb amputations among other serious injuries.

Scarring and Disfigurement

Since gas leak explosions involve fire, victims are likely to be permanently scarred and disfigured. If these scars are visible to the public, the victim might be ashamed or embarrassed. In some cases, an employee hurt in a gas explosion can include psychological distress in a claim for compensation after a workplace injury.

Physical Impairment

Debilitating injuries often prevent a person from doing all the activities they once enjoyed before their workplace accident. When a once active person can no longer walk or exercise, the losses can take an emotional toll. A Workers’ Compensation lawyer can assess whether physical impairment should be considered in their client’s claim.

Emotional Distress

For some accident victims, the emotional distress they feel persists well after they have physically healed from a work injury. Post-traumatic stress order (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and sleepless nights, can be pervasive side effects of witnessing or experiencing traumatic events. Workers who take their claims to court may choose to pursue compensation for the emotional toll of a serious explosion.

How Do I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Generally, there are two paths employees can take to recover financial compensation for their losses. One is a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits through their employer. The Workers’ Compensation system provides financial benefits for workers who get hurt or contract illnesses while working. Delaware Workers’ Compensation benefits cover:

  • Medical care
  • Temporary disability payments
  • Compensation for permanent impairment
  • Survivors’ benefits

Most employers with at least one employee are required by state law to carry Workers’ Compensation insurance at no cost to their staff. At this time, independent contractors working for employers are not covered by Workers’ Compensation. To initiate the Workers’ Compensation claim process, an injured employee should take the following steps:

  • Notify the employer of the injury or occupational illness and request medical treatment. Failing to do either may cause the worker to lose any claim for compensation.
  • If the claim is denied, the worker can file an appeal. A hearing will be scheduled to appeal the denial.

While Workers’ Compensation claims are filed through the injured worker’s employer, it is a good idea to consult with a lawyer. They can ensure the initial claim is accurate and advocate for the worker.

Reasons to Consider a Third-Party Liability Claim

If a gas leak at work was caused by a defective part, the injured worker can consider a lawsuit against the designer or manufacturer responsible for the equipment. An employee pursuing a third-party lawsuit should consult a lawyer to review the evidence, assess who is liable, and calculate damages. There are many reasons why it is worthwhile to consider a third-party liability claim, such as:

Additional Compensation: Litigation can sometimes recover additional compensations when Workers’ Compensation benefits are not enough to repay all of the costs incurred after a work injury.

Health Care Providers: With a third-party lawsuit, the injured worker can choose their own medical team, unlike with Workers’ Compensation, which selects the doctor for them.

Lost Income: Workers’ Compensation only provides a portion of the injured employee’s wages and is subject to state maximum caps. A settlement or damage award can potentially replace all of their income, regardless of how much they made.

Non-Economic Damages: Physical and emotional trauma impacts a person’s quality of life in countless ways. The law does allow damages for pain and suffering while Workers’ Compensation does not.

Punitive Damages: Unless the employee was impaired by drugs or alcohol, or acted recklessly, fault is not usually a factor in Workers’ Compensation claims. However, third-party claims allow punitive damages for reckless actions that endanger others. For example, a company who built the defective gas storage tank that leaked may have to pay punitive damages.

Only an experienced lawyer can determine the best course of action for workers hurt in a gas leak explosion. After reporting a work injury, a consultation with a recommended local attorney is the next step toward physical and emotional healing.

Wilmington Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC Pursue Compensation for Injured Employees

An explosion caused by a gas leak can leave a worker with catastrophic injuries. If you were hurt at work and want to explore your legal options, our Wilmington Workers’ Compensation lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC can help. For a free consultation, call us at 302-888-1221 or contact us online. Located in Wilmington, Delaware, we serve clients throughout the state, including Dover, Newark, and Middletown.