Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Carbon monoxide poisonings account for nearly 200 deaths each year in the U.S. – which is about 4 people each week. Carbon monoxide poisonings, if not fatal, can cause brain injuries with long-lasting or permanent symptoms. Each year, in addition to the number of deaths, thousands of people are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for carbon monoxide poisonings. In the last few years, there have been several high profile cases of carbon monoxide deaths. While these types of situations may seem like freak accidents, the unfortunate reality is that carbon monoxide poisoning injuries and deaths are 100% preventable. The lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell are actively investigating lawsuits on behalf of individuals who have been injured as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Exposure to carbon monoxide can result in serious side effects, and for some, these injuries may be permanent. When carbon monoxide poisoning is caused by the negligence of another individual or entity — such as an employer, building owner, or product manufacturer — our team of lawyers may be able to hold these parties legally responsible for medical bills and other damages resulting from the exposure.

About Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas that is a by-product of combustion. It claims the lives of hundreds of people every year and makes thousands more ill. CO is found in fumes produced from burning fuel in cars, trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges, or furnaces. CO can build up indoors and poison people and animals who breathe it.


CO poisoning can often be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu. The most common symptoms include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, upset stomach and confusion. A sleeping or intoxicated person may not experience symptoms before they lose consciousness or die. Often, other people in the place of business or household will exhibit similar symptoms.

In addition to death, carbon monoxide can cause severe learning disability, memory loss, and personality changes. Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide and may show symptoms sooner than a healthy adult. Because of their smaller bodies, children process CO differently than adults and may be more severely affected.

Acute Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Acute carbon monoxide poisoning occurs when a person is quickly exposed to a large amount of carbon monoxide. It’s extremely dangerous because people often do not recognize that it’s happening. This is because many causes of acute carbon monoxide poisoning happen as a result of gas leaks and maybe odorless. While people may begin to feel some symptoms like nausea of fatigue, if they don’t smell the gas or don’t have the background knowledge of the dangers posed by carbon monoxide, then they may attribute the symptoms to some other, less dangerous cause and not take action to get away from the gas.

The unfortunate reality is that many victims will not realize the danger they are in until they have inhaled a dangerous amount of gas, the effects of which limit their ability to remove themselves and their families from danger. In other cases, victims may lose consciousness while sleeping and die without knowing that they were in danger to begin with. That’s why having alarm systems installed to alert you of heightened carbon monoxide levels is so important. Without the help of technology, it can be very difficult to detect the danger that you’re in and impossible if you’re asleep.

Long-term Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

While acute carbon monoxide poisoning is especially dangerous, prolonged exposure to lower levels of carbon monoxide poses serious health risks as well. These symptoms are usually associated with carbon monoxide levels that aren’t as lethal but are still more than one would normally encounter in day-to-day life. Symptoms include memory problems, numbness, brain damage, and problems with eyesight.

Studies have also found that carbon monoxide may damage the body in ways other than depriving blood of oxygen. They suggest that carbon monoxide may be neurotoxic as well, meaning that the build-up of chemicals causes the structures of the nervous system like the brain and nerve bundles to be damaged. This is because the presence of elevated carbon monoxide in the body causes a chain of biochemical reactions that cause oxidative injuries to structures like blood vessels, nerve endings, and neurons. The effect of this kind of carbon monoxide injury is still being studied, but in general, nervous system injuries are long-lasting and difficult to treat, often being associated with mental impairment and the loss of bodily function.

Despite being very present in our everyday lives and having many potential leak sources, carbon monoxide normally isn’t a massive danger because it dissipates quickly when there is enough ventilation. Unless there is a large scale leak from a major source of carbon monoxide, like a leak in a gas oven, normal ventilation in a home or workspace is generally all it takes to keep the everyday release of carbon monoxide at safe levels. 

Large leaks pose the biggest carbon monoxide threat because they mean that a large amount of the gas is being released all at once and can concentrate in the air faster than ventilation can remove it. These kinds of leaks often occur when some kind of infrastructure fails. Whether this failure occurs in a gas main or broken appliance, the underlying issue is often a problem with improper maintenance. When the maintenance of carbon monoxide sources is neglected, the results can be deadly. That’s what is so frustrating about carbon monoxide injuries; they’re largely preventable 

Carbon Monoxide in Businesses

Furnaces, heaters, and generators are the most common sources of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning happens in hotels, rental units, and businesses every day. Improper venting is a major cause of carbon monoxide poisonings. Leaks in vents and exhaust pipes can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, improper design can lead to issues in venting.

Prevention is Key

To prevent residential carbon monoxide poisonings, homeowners should install carbon monoxide detectors, which should be operated and tested according to the manufacturer’s instructions. To prevent commercial carbon monoxide poisonings at places like hotels and restaurants, property owners and businesses should be sure to have at least annual checks of all fuel-burning equipment. In addition, businesses should install carbon monoxide detectors.

Legal Rights of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Victims & Families

Victims of carbon monoxide poisonings and surviving family members of those who died due to carbon monoxide poisonings have legal rights to receive compensation. This area of law is known as premises liability (the liability of a person or business entity for an injury or accident on the premises). Unlike more complex areas of personal injury law, injured plaintiffs only need to prove ordinary negligence. As a general rule, ordinary negligence is usually defined as the failure to do something that should have been done or doing something that another reasonable person would not do. Under the laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, injured individuals can receive financial compensation for the following:

  • medical bills
  • lost pay
  • pain and suffering

Spouses of injured parties may recover under a loss of consortium claim. These claims are reserved for cases where an injured party’s spouse suffers as well, due to the injury/accident.

Contact Us

Individuals who are victims of carbon monoxide poisonings and surviving family members of those who died due to carbon monoxide poisonings have legal rights to receive compensation. Contact our team of lawyers at McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt today if you or a loved one have suffered from CO poisoning from someone else’s negligence.