Christmas, Cold Weather and the Threat of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: Attorney Patrick Bailey Warns of the Odorless and Colorless Dangers Carbon Monoxide Presents

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Cold weather has blanketed nearly the entire country. Attorney Patrick Bailey warns that the threats of carbon monoxide poisoning must be taken into account during cold weather and especially during the Christmas-holiday season.

winter-time CO poisoning is particularly common. The public needs to be made aware and, if anyone suffers a CO injury, we are prepared to represent them

Though Bailey & Partners is located in Los Angeles, Patrick Bailey has represented injury victims throughout the nation. One area of focus for the attorney is carbon monoxide injuries which can occur anywhere and at any time of year. "Here, in Southern California, there are dozens of carbon monoxide injury cases throughout the year but that number increases in the winter. Even in Los Angeles, the weather gets cold and heaters go on. Whether in apartments, hotels, schools, retail establishments or single-family homes, the risks for carbon monoxide poisoning are widespread throughout California and throughout the nation. Though such tragedies occur during warm months as well, winter-time CO poisoning is particularly common. The public needs to be made aware and, if anyone suffers a CO injury, we are prepared to represent them," he says.

Bailey says that his firm receives numerous calls each winter regarding CO poisoning. Some of these cases are related to faulty construction, defective appliances and other causes that may lead to personal injury litigation.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning often results when an internal combustion engine or appliance such as a gas heater, stove, portable power generator or other device that burns fossil fuels malfunctions or is operated in a poorly ventilated environment. Since CO is colorless and odorless, the victims of CO poisoning often do not notice the symptoms until the damage has been done. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission's fact sheet on carbon monoxide, exposure to the gas can lead to catastrophic injury and even premature death.

Bailey, whose firm has represented many victims of CO poisoning over the last several years, warns that " even in Los Angeles, the threat is real, especially in cold-weather months."

In places where snow is common over the winter, exhausts for furnaces can become blocked by snow when vents are not positioned correctly during construction. This may lead to legal action against the construction company or contractors. Poorly designed exhausts can lead to a buildup of CO inside the building. Other times, appliances may not be properly installed or maintained. "Very often," Bailey says, "victims may be asleep and inhale the toxic gas throughout the night. Even if they do awaken, they may feel weak and nauseated. Unfortunately, many victims never do wake up."

One tragic example he mentions involves the death of a family of four several years ago in Aspen. They were staying at luxurious vacation home that was equipped with a gas powered snow melting system for the roof. An exhaust vent malfunctioned and the home filled with CO. The entire family, including two young children, all perished as a result of CO poisoning. The Denver Post and many other media sources covered the story in the winter of 2008 ("Deputies: Carbon Monoxide Killed Family").

"That was a very high profile case but most incidents that involve dangerous levels of carbon monoxide poisoning do not get massive media coverage. They happen all the time though. Thankfully not all end in such tragedy as the Aspen example," Bailey explains. "But even when a victim survives exposure, catastrophic consequences can result. Property managers, landlords, business owners, municipal governments...anyone responsible for the maintenance of appliances must take that responsibility seriously. If they do not, they should be held liable for the injuries suffered."

The attorney recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors throughout your own home. Eventually he would like to see such detectors installed in all schools and all buildings where carbon monoxide is present. "Though many winter-time carbon monoxide poisonings do lead to tragic death after victims inhale massive amounts of the gas, death is not the only possible consequence" he says. "Serious injuries can occur through prolonged exposure to the gas. If you run your heater every day for months at a time during the winter and the heater is not working properly, you may be inhaling harmful gas each and every day."

Bailey advises that everyone "insist that landlords safety-check all appliances in their buildings. This is particularly important during the holiday season when extended families and out-of-town guests may all share the same space and sleep in the same home. No one wants their holiday gathering to be marred by tragedy. Minor safety precautions by landlords, hotel owners and maintenance crews can make a major difference."    

Finally, Bailey asserts "if you suspect you or a loved one has been exposed to dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, insist on the appropriate test at a hospital to determine if toxic levels of the gas have been inhaled. Especially during the winter, people may believe they are simply ill with the flu or a cold because the symptoms are similar. Carbon monoxide poisoning, however, can be much more serious and much more easily prevented." Bailey is prepared to represent victims of CO poisoning but hopes that preventative measures are taken by responsible parties before tragedy strikes.

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Betsy Passarelli
since: 09/2009
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