Every day, we come into contact with chemicals intentionally or unintentionally. This may be in our line of work or even in our own homes. Nonetheless, these chemicals that we are exposed to can be toxic and extremely harmful to our health. Chemical exposure can cause conditions such as organ damage, reproductive issues, burn injuries, and much more depending on the type of chemical that you were exposed to.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in a study including nine states in the United States, 57,975 chemical accidents were reported over 10 years, which resulted in 354 deaths. This is an astounding number and each victim deserved justice and compensation for what they went through. This is where we can help you.
At Mike Agruss Law, we have helped thousands of clients to seek justice and compensation for personal injuries, and you won’t owe us a penny for our services unless we win your case. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a chemical accident, contact our personal injury law office today for a free consultation.
Common Settings of Chemical Accidents
Chemical accidents could practically happen anywhere depending on the circumstances, however, they occur most frequently when people are working certain types of jobs where they may be handling chemicals. The CDC found that the top five industries in which chemical accidents occur are chemical manufacturing, educational services, food manufacturing, truck transportation, and utilities. A careless coworker or other people may cause the accident and it may injure or impair you and your functioning in one or more ways. But, they also can even happen in your own home, too. Some common settings where these accidents occur include the following:
- At home – Many older homes have asbestos in their homes as insulation. Asbestos is a carcinogen which is breathed in through the lungs and can cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, or other complications. It is commonly known for being in homes, but they can be in any (typically, older) building that has failed to eliminate asbestos.
- In a lab – Labs that conduct scientific research involving various chemicals and fumes may lack the necessary guards and protections from the substances. A worker may be exposed to any number of relevant chemicals directly to the skin, eyes, or breathed in like a toxic fume.
- In transportation – Employees that work for a transportation company may be transporting large amounts of chemicals in a truck. A chemical spill could result in dangerous exposure to those around the truck as well as the driver.
- As a general contractor – Workers such as plumbers, painters, carpenters, electricians, and other “handyman” types of jobs where you visit people’s homes may be working with various chemicals or chemical fumes that can remain in the home or spill. Or, these workers may not be properly trained by their employer on how to safely and properly handle and store such chemicals, thus leading to an accident.
- In countless workplaces – Chemicals are used in many occupations as preservers, essential components, or in any industrial job. There are countless ways that they can be spilled, handled improperly, or exposed to workers.
- In pharmaceutical drugs – Pharmaceutical companies work with chemicals to make their products. When they create a product that has a dangerous combination of chemicals and caused your injury or illness in some way, you may be able to pursue a legal claim for damages.
How Do Chemical Accidents Occur?
Chemical accidents can transpire in a number of ways that are mainly dependent on the setting and circumstances. Despite many efforts to prevent their occurrence, there are still ways in which accidents can happen. People may assume that a chemical accident is an instantaneous accident that occurs due to action directly and immediately causing the injury or harm. However, chemical accidents can also be from long-term exposure that has built up to result in the injury or harm from which you are suffering. This may be days, weeks, or even years.
According to the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSB), there are a few primary reasons why these accidents occur. These are commonly cited reasons that we, as attorneys, see as well in cases that we have handled:
- Deficiencies in safety management systems – This may include violations of state and/or federal laws and guidelines in handling chemicals, improper training of employees on how to safely use, clean up, and store chemicals, and more.
- Equipment failures – Equipment may be used to store or use chemicals, and it must be inspected and maintained to ensure its safety. Failure to do so can result in malfunctions of this defective equipment that can ultimately cause disaster.
- Human errors – Generally, it is people who are handling these chemicals in some way. A person can trip and spill the chemical, incorrectly operate equipment that is handling the chemical, or use it improperly to cause an accident.
Who Is Liable?
These types of cases are judged on the basis of negligence and often classified under the term, “toxic torts.” This is a type of personal injury legal claim for injuries or damages that resulted from some kind of chemical exposure. The statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Illinois is two years. This means that you must file your injury claim within two years of the date of the accident in order for it to be accepted and considered valid. Depending on your accident, there are many possible at-fault parties to take action against.
Negligence involves proving its four elements. First, you must prove that the defendant owed you a duty of care. Then, you must prove that that duty of care was breached, which can be shown by the accident itself being caused by the person. Then, you must prove that their actions or inactions were the direct and actual cause of the accident that caused your injury. Lastly, you must be able to prove that you did suffer actual damages and injuries which can be proven through medical records and bills, witness testimony, and more. Generally, you should be able to provide evidence that it was, in fact, this accident that caused your damages. This can be difficult at times in these types of cases. But, with our consultation of scientific and chemical experts, we will work to prove that the chemical that injured you was indeed the cause of your damages.
Your employer could be found liable if they failed to keep up with their responsibility of inspections and maintenance of the equipment that proved to be the cause of the accident, or if they did not properly train you (or failed to train you at all) on safety procedures, equipment, or gear. Your employer could also be found liable if they improperly stored the chemicals contradictory to state or federal laws and guidelines.
The property owner of the property on which you were exposed to harmful chemicals could be liable if they failed to inspect or maintain the property which would have prevented such an accident from ever occurring. This is classified as a premises liability case.
Your coworker could be found liable if they directly caused the accident due to their missteps, such as spilling a chemical, intentionally mishandling it, or some other action or inaction which resulted in your injuries.
The manufacturer, distributor, or any other actor in the chain of distribution of the equipment that malfunctioned and caused your accident could be found liable if they did not safely construct it for its proper and intended function. This may be if its mechanisms were defective or if it did not properly protect you from the chemical. This is classified as a product liability case.
Damages That Can Be Recovered
Chemical accidents can be traumatizing and devastating to deal with. It can result in countless medical conditions such as chemical burns, infertility, lung cancer, and even death. The medical costs to take care of yourself can be enormous, but that is why we are here to help you. One of our experienced attorneys will work tirelessly with you to protect your rights and get these medical expenses out of the way through a successful claim or lawsuit. Some damages that you can recover after a chemical accident include the following:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Future loss of earnings
- Emotional distress
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
If you or a loved one has been injured due to a chemical accident, contact our office today for a free consultation.