Can you receive workers’ compensation after a gas leak injury?
Natural gas is a commonly used source of energy, particularly in the commercial sector. However, it’s highly flammable and comes with serious risks of injury. The most serious is a gas leak, which can be detrimental to workers’ health, especially where gas monitors aren’t available.
In February 2021, a gas leak at the Gainesville Foundation Food Group killed 6 workers and injured 12 others. This was one of the worst cases of gas leaks that led to injuries and required workers to file for workers’ compensation.
If a spark comes into contact with leaked natural gas, it can cause an explosion, which results in a deadly fire. Inhaling natural gas and other gasses used for energy can also result in brain damage. Even contact with natural gas can be fatal.
If you sustain injuries from a gas leak at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation in Georgia. The injuries can leave you severely wounded physically, emotionally and financially. Workers’ compensation pays most injured workers for the losses they incur after an accident on the job.
What causes a gas leak at work?
Every workplace must meet the guidelines and standards set by the Pipeline Safety Improvement Act. The Act requires that buildings using natural gas have a safety inspection ensuring there are no leaks. However, negligence can still result in gas leaks.
Some of the factors that lead to a gas leak include:
- Damaged gas lines
- Damaged underground pipelines
- Faulty piping or equipment
Companies are required to fit their facilities with gas detectors, which sound an alarm when there is a leak. Gas companies use an additive known as mercaptans, which gives the gas a sulfur or rotten eggs smell. If you detect such a smell, you need to evacuate the building as soon as possible.
The most common types of gas used in a workplace include:
- Natural gas
- Liquified petroleum gas
- LPG autogas
- Medical gasses
If the gas lines and systems are poorly maintained, there is a risk of a gas leak. This can lead to burns, carbon monoxide poisoning and even death.
Common injuries associated with a gas leak at work
The main risk from a gas leak is an explosion. A spark, even from an electric socket, can result in a huge explosion. Even without an explosion, inhaling a large amount of natural gas or any other type of gas above can cause suffocation.
Some of the common gas leak injuries include:
- Severe burns
- Brain damage
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Facial disfigurement
- Gastrointestinal injuries
- Hearing loss
- Pulmonary contusion or a blast lung
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 400 deaths each year resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning due to an undetected gas leak.
Appliances—such as dryers, stoves, fireplaces and water heaters—can result in gas leaks. Whether the gas leak was a result of a faulty appliance or a broken gas supply line, if it causes an injury, you may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
After an injury, a worker may need to stay for extended periods in hospital, undergo rehabilitative treatment or suffer brain damage. With workers’ compensation, you get repaid for the losses so that you never suffer more than you have to.
What to do if you suspect a gas leak at work
If you suspect a gas leak:
- Call 911
- Call the gas company
- Switch off all electrical devices
- Open the doors and the windows
- Evacuate the building
If an injury occurs, you need to inform your employer and seek medical assistance. Workers’ compensation will generally take care of:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages (temporary and permanent disability)
- Survivors’ benefits
- Vocational rehabilitation
Failing to notify your employer, or failing to request medical treatment immediately, can result in a denied claim. If your claim doesn’t go through, you can file for an appeal. You should seek the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will create the best strategy to ensure your claim is not denied.
Can you file a third-party liability claim?
A gas leak can result from a defective gas line or a defective part or appliance. If that is the case, you may be able to file a claim against the designer or manufacturer of the parts. If you want to file a third-party lawsuit, you need an attorney to help you file the claim and create a strategy that ensures your claim goes through.
A lawyer can help assess damages from the injury, check the appliance or parts to determine who is liable and then file your claim. Pursuing a third-party liability claim helps you:
- Get additional compensation where workers’ compensation benefits are not enough to repay all your losses
- Access medical treatment from a doctor of your choice and not be limited to the facility you visit
- Replace all the income you lose after an injury related to a gas leak at work (workers’ compensation may not cover all the wages you lose after an injury.)
- Get non-economic benefits after an injury (workers’ comp doesn’t cover damages for pain and suffering, but you can get those when you pursue a third-party liability claim.)
Additionally, workers’ compensation doesn’t consider fault after an injury. As such, a worker isn’t paid punitive damages, but they can pursue this with a third-party liability claim. However, the worker needs to have been sober when the injury occurred and the lawyer has to show that the parts’ manufacturer is liable for the injury.
File for a claim
If you or a loved one were hurt from a gas explosion at work or inhaling toxic gasses while working, you should file for Georgia workers’ compensation. An experienced lawyer, such as our team members at Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, can help you file the claim and get the compensation you deserve.