Heating systems such as boilers and furnaces fueled by natural gas and other accelerants pose significant fire and carbon monoxide dangers if they malfunction. Faulty heaters cause thousands of injuries and deaths to Americans each year.
A Faulty Furnace can Kill
Defective or improperly maintained furnaces can ignite fires and leak toxic exhaust fumes into a home or building causing injury or death. House fires are often caused by faulty or unmaintained heating systems that catch fire and explode or release toxic fumes into the air. According to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), most home fires start from faulty heaters and cooking fires, and four out of five fires result in serious burn injuries and deaths. Between 2013 and 2017, the U. S. Fire Department responded to 343,400 house fires which resulted in 11,220 injuries and 2,620 deaths.
According to fire department officials, thousands of house fires each year are caused by faulty heating systems. When heating systems malfunction or don’t receive regular maintenance and repairs, they pose high risks for fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. NFPA reports show that faulty heaters account for 16% of all deaths that occur from fires and carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States.
Most furnace fires occur during winter months when people run their heaters around the clock to stay warm. They happen frequently when people are sleeping and have no fire alarms to wake them up. Furnace fires are often caused by defective parts, bad motors, faulty wiring, dirty air filters, blocked air vents, improper insulation, and lack of maintenance. Any of these conditions can cause an electric or gas furnace to overheat and catch fire.
Space heaters used for home heating pose significant fire dangers. To prevent injuries, people should follow important manufacturer’s safety guidelines such as:
- Place the space heater on a stable, level, flat surface
- Do not use a space heater with a frayed or damaged cord
- Do not use an extension cord to power a space heater
- Keep flammable objects at a safe distance from the heater
- Turn off all space heaters before leaving the house or going to sleep
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a serious problem that causes thousands of injuries and deaths every year. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs due to leaky pipes or incorrect venting which allows toxic exhaust fumes to leak into a home or building, instead of outside. CO poisoning can occur from various sources including malfunctioning heaters and boilers that are fueled by gasoline, kerosene, wood, charcoal, and oil. Often called the “silent killer” because toxic fumes are odorless and tasteless, most people exposed to carbon monoxide don’t even realize they are in danger of injury or death.
The first symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning tend to mimic many symptoms of the flu without a fever. Symptoms usually include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea or vomiting, mental confusion, shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness, if CO levels are high. Personal injury lawyers often see debilitating injuries caused by prolonged or concentrated exposure to CO gases including:
- Cognitive impairment
- Mental confusion
- Damage to internal organs
- Heart problems
- Brain injuries
Filing an Injury Claim
Many furnace fires, injuries, and deaths are caused by defective parts within the heating system. In such cases, a personal injury lawyer can file a defective product lawsuit against the manufacturer or supplier of the furnace.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) issues warnings to consumers about recalls on defective products including furnaces, boilers, and home heating equipment. Recall information states the make and model of the product and all concerns related to potential hazards and public safety.
All product recalls are monitored by the CPSC and most are done with the cooperation of the manufacturer or supplier involved in the recall. The CPSC analyzes statements from involved companies to determine if a product has been satisfactorily altered or repaired for safe use. The CPSC takes public issue with companies seeking to limit their liability and exposure to personal injury lawsuits by forcing them to make information available to the public in a timely manner.
In Illinois, personal injury claims must be filed within two years of the injury date according to the statute of limitations. Injury claims and civil lawsuits filed outside the statute of limitations will likely be dismissed by the court, but exceptions may apply. A Chicago personal injury lawyer can provide legal advice about the proper format of filing a case, necessary documents, filing guidelines, and damages for injuries.
Furnace fires can cause serious injuries, as well as extensive damage to property. In most cases that involve faulty furnaces and heating equipment, damage awards usually compensate the plaintiff for any costs spent on repairing fire damage. Liable parties may include product manufacturers and suppliers, landlords, or other parties who failed to repair the faulty heating system.