An explosion is a rapid expansion of volume associated with an extreme outward release of energy. An explosion can be caused by ignition of flammable gasses, chemical reactions, rapid vapor expansion, or overpressurization events. However they occur, explosions can cause unique injuries that result in catastrophic, life-altering medical conditions. They may require long-term care, painful and invasive medical treatments, substantial loss of earnings, and permanent scarring or disfigurement. If you or a loved one was injured in an explosion, reach out to an experienced Chicago-based explosion injury lawyer to learn about your legal rights and options.
Our team of explosion injury lawyers have worked firsthand with explosion and burn injury victims and know how severe these injuries can be. If you were hurt because of someone else’s negligence, you should not have to bear the financial responsibility. Let our dedicated team help you demand maximum compensation.
Explosions are physical phenomena that result in the sudden release of energy; they may be chemical, nuclear, or mechanical. This process results in a near-instantaneous pressure rise above atmospheric pressure. The positive pressure rise (“overpressure”) compresses the surrounding medium (air or water) and results in the propagation of a blast wave, which extends outward from the explosion in a radial fashion.
As the front or leading edge of the blast wave expands, the positive phase is followed by a decrease in pressure and the development of a negative wave (“underpressure”) before subsequently returning to baseline. This idealized blast pressure waveform as illustrated by Gean can be seen below:
Generally speaking, the intensity of a blast wave declines over distance from the explosion, however variables such as the formation of a mach stem can increase intensity, as can reflection and refraction of blast waves off of hard surfaces, which can amplify a blast wave’s intensity two to 9 times. As a result, victims positioned between an explosion and a building often suffer blast wave injuries significantly worse than those similarly positioned, but in open space. In complex environments, blast waves can also contour or “wrap around” buildings, often resulting in a non-idealized complex wave that has more force than the initial blast wave.
As a matter of frequency, blast wave injuries are comparatively less common in civil explosion injuries as compared to military events, although they can and do still occur in civilian populations, often related to industrial accidents. Due to the relative rarity of significant explosions leading to blast injuries in the civilian population, few non-military healthcare providers have extensive experience with blast injuries and the majority of information developed on the impact of blast injuries and blast wave injuries has come from the military setting. Due to this disparity in knowledge and experience, blast injuries that occur in the civilian setting have an unfortunate association with under-diagnosis and delays in injuries, including blast-induced traumatic brain injuries (bTBIs)
As the development and progression of blast-wave injuries are unique and their consequences more often than not long-term, there has been rapid development over the last decade in understanding the mechanisms of blast-body interactions.Many of the lessons learned in the military setting can and should be applied to the civilian experience as well.
Explosive blast may have five distinct effects on the body: (1) primary blast effects causing injuries as sole consequences of the blast wave–body interaction; (2) secondary blast effects due to the fragments of debris propelled by the explosion and impacting the body causing penetrating or blunt trauma; (3) tertiary blast effects from acceleration-deceleration of the body or part of the body; (4) quaternary blast effects caused by the transient but intense heat of the explosion (flash burns); and (5) quinary blast effects caused by “post-detonation environmental contaminants,” such as bacteria and radiation from dirty bombs, tissue reactions to fuel and metal residues, and other factors. Often, especially in the case of moderate to severe blast injuries, multiple blast effects can interact with the body simultaneously as illustrated below by Gean:
Biological Mechanisms of Blast Exposure
During the interaction between the blast wave and a living body, a portion of the shock wave is reflected, whereas other shock-wave energy is absorbed and propagated throughout the body as a tissue-transmitted shock wave.
As the pressure wave passes through the body it causes stretch and strain in tissues, ruptures capillary blood vessels, stimulates synthesis and release of biologically active chemicals (so called “mediators or modulators”), and activates the immune system and the central nervous system.
Consequently, exposure to a significant blast can cause immediate damage to multiple organs and also initiate a broad variety of biological changes that have the capacity to lead to long-term health impairments. As a result, blast waves cause a complex pathophysiological process that leads to broad deficits, including in motor, sensorimotor, and cognitive functions.
Clinical Manifestations After Blast Exposure
Historically, victims of blast exposure commonly report being stunned, dazed and/or losing consciousness. Following the exposure, the majority (∼65%) experience headaches, tinnitus, deafness, dizziness and backache as well as confusion, amnesia, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, mood alterations, sleep disturbance, anxiety, dullness and/or apathy. Compared with patients with blunt, impact, non-blast injuries, patients with blast injuries were more often irritated by sudden loud noise and/or crowds, and more typically experienced emotional and physical exhaustion. Immediately after blast exposure, victims can also exhibit dry cough, blood tinged sputum and shortness of breath.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is known to be a significant health risk associated with blast injury. In the context of an explosion, TBI is known as blast-induced traumatic brain injury (bTBI). TBI has been characterized as a silent epidemic with serious consequences that changes the lives of the victims and their families.
Studies have demonstrated that while some symptoms of blast-related neurological complaints had a tendency of being present more frequently and resolving with time (e.g. headache, dizziness and balance problems), other symptoms more often remained persistent (irritability and memory problems) and nearly half of the time developed or were not noted until months after the acute phase.
It is also known that blast exposure can lead to brain damage including diffuse axonal injury, widespread white matter disruptions and/or damage to cerebral vasculature. Often, there are no structural pathological changes on MRI images. However, when MRI images show changes, these are often indicative of a greater likelihood of long-term neurological deficits.
Blast exposure can also impair multiple sensory systems including the auditory and visual systems. Indeed, tinnitus, sensorial or sensorineural hearing loss and a greater incidence of vestibular and oculomotor dysfunction have been observed in people exposed to blast that continued manifesting months and even years after blast exposure.
How Can a Chicago-based Explosion Injury Lawyer Help Me with My Claim?
Fires and explosions often result in serious injuries. Victims have a lot to worry about. They may be hospitalized for a significant period. They might require skin grafts and other medical procedures. They may have many medical appointments to attend between visiting with their surgical team, pain management specialists, primary care physician, and physical therapist. They may also be suffering from mental health disorders brought on or exacerbated by the accident.
At the same time, they may be worried about the financial impact the explosion may have on their future and whether they’ll ever be able to return to work. Having a team of experienced explosion lawyers initiating a timely investigation and preserving evidence can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case. By hiring our team of explosion injury lawyers, you can tap into their knowledge and resources so you can focus on your health and recovery.
An experienced Chicago-based explosion injury lawyer can help hold negligent parties accountable by:
- Conducting a full investigation into the accident
- Identifying all parties who are responsible for the explosion
- Obtaining strong evidence to support your claim
- Ensuring that you receive the proper medical care
- Retaining medical and economic experts to accurately calculate the full extent of your losses
- Aggressively negotiating with all involved parties for fair compensation on your behalf
We provide a free consultation in which we can discuss your legal rights and options. Call us today to learn more.
Common Injuries Caused by Explosions
Explosions tend to cause fatal or otherwise catastrophic injuries. Some of the most common injuries explosion victims suffer include:
- Burns – Explosion victims often suffer serious burns. Some victims may suffer burns that they can never recover from. Treatment may include skin grafts, debridement, infection prevention, and pain management. Victims may suffer from permanent scarring or disfigurement because of these burn injuries.
- Blast-induced traumatic brain injuries (bTBI) – The force of the shockwave from an explosion can cause unique injuries throughout the body, but especially in the brain. These unique types of traumatic brain injuries can develop differently than other traumatic brain injuries and take a different course.
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) – The force of an explosion can also propel victims into hard surfaces, or flying debris can impact their vulnerable skulls. This can lead to traumatic brain injuries, which can cause cognitive disability.
- Smoke inhalation injuries – Inhaling smoke for even a short period of time can lead to serious and/or permanent lung damage and illness. Victims may need to use special equipment to help them breathe.
- Nerve damage – Explosions can also cause nerve damage and paralysis.
- Amputation – Some explosions result in amputations. In others, amputation becomes medically necessary to prevent death.
- Hearing loss – The blast from the explosion can lead to serious and permanent hearing loss.
- Vision problems – Flying debris can become shrapnel in an explosion, which can cause eye injuries and vision problems.
- Death – Tragically, many explosions result in the death of victims.
Common Causes of Explosions
Explosions can be caused by various reasons, including the following:
- Car accidents, truck accidents, boating accidents, and other motor vehicle accidents
- Defective products, including faulty electrical equipment, machinery, or appliances
- Dangerous workplaces
- Mishandling of explosive materials
- Gas leaks or chemical spills
- Misuse of flammable gasses or liquids
- Malfunctions in electrical systems or electrical shorts
- Inadequate safety standards put in place by employers or property owners
Explosion Accident Investigation: Key to Your Case
Explosions may occur for a variety of reasons and involve multiple parties. These incidents may be due to the failure to maintain safe conditions, comply with safety standards, and other forms of negligence. Because of this, it is essential to conduct a thorough accident investigation to determine the cause and factors that contributed to the incident.
Experienced investigators and expert witnesses can identify and reengineer the explosion. Our team has access to the world’s top experts who can help us uncover the evidence we need to establish liability. Combined with our in-depth knowledge of personal injury law, this evidence can prove vital to successfully pursuing maximum compensation for your claim.
Who Is Responsible for Explosions?
Before you can recover any compensation for your accident-related injuries, you must be able to establish who is responsible for the explosion. Responsibility for explosions depends on the specific factors surrounding the incident.
Defendants who are typically named in legal claims regarding injuries sustained in explosions include:
- Property owners
- Business owners
- Maintenance companies
- Site managers
- Product manufacturers
- Demolition companies
- Chemical companies
- Utility companies
- Service providers
- Government agencies
The responsible party is the person or entity that failed to comply with safety standards or otherwise acted in a negligent manner. An experienced Chicago-based explosion injury lawyer can conduct a thorough investigation to determine all potentially liable parties.
Potential Long-Term Effects of Explosion Injuries
Explosions can have a significant impact on victims and their families. Victims may suffer permanently disabling injuries. Victims may have to undergo multiple surgeries and other invasive medical treatments. After that, the ordeal is not over. They may have to continue lifelong treatments, undergo reconstructive surgery, and learn to use special medical treatment because of their severe injuries. These injuries can permanently alter victims’ lives, as well as those of their loved ones who may provide lifelong care.
Additionally, victims may deal with ongoing pain and suffering. They may be unable to return to work. They might have to depend on others to complete basic life activities. These factors can place a tremendous amount of physical, emotional, and financial duress on victims and their families.
Any compensation you recover for an explosion claim should reflect these significant hardships. We will fight for the compensation you deserve.
Potential Compensation You Can Recover
Our dedicated Chicago-based explosion injury lawyers can fight for all types of compensation to which you may be entitled, including:
Every state has similar, but unique damages that can be recovered. For example, in Illinois, you can recover compensation for all of your economic losses in a personal injury case. In catastrophic explosion cases, economic damages often have to be determined by a skilled team of experts, sometimes including economists, vocational rehabilitation experts or life care planners. Economic damages may provide compensation for:
- Medical bills incurred due to the incident, including emergency treatment, emergency transportation, hospital stays, and surgery costs
- Occupational and physical therapy
- Psychological therapy costs
- Medical devices and equipment
- Lost wages and fringe benefits
- Vocational rehabilitation expenses
- Lost or reduced earning capacity
- Household services you cannot perform due to your injuries
- Transportation to medical appointments
- Disability accommodations
- Out-of-pocket expenses
If you lost a loved one in an explosion, you may be able to recover wrongful death damages, such as funeral and burial expenses, loss of inheritance, and loss of financial support.
Non-economic damages refer to losses you suffer that cannot easily be quantified. Nonetheless, the law recognizes your right to recover them. Common types of non-economic damages include:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
- Permanent disability
- Scarring and permanent disfigurement
- Loss of consortium
The purpose of punitive damages is to penalize someone for particularly dangerous conduct. In cases of explosions, it may be appropriate to award punitive damages because the defendant’s actions may be particularly egregious if they led to an explosion. While these damages are not intended to compensate the victim, they may provide additional financial support the victim and their family can use to try to put the pieces of their lives back together after a serious explosion injury.
Explosion Injury Claim FAQs
Can I Sue My Employer for an Explosion?
In most situations, you cannot sue your employer for injuries you sustained in the workplace, but oftentimes there are many causes of an explosion and parties other than your employer may share fault. In many states, including Illinois, the law recognizes this concept and permits injured workers to seek recovery from all responsible parties.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Chicago-based Explosion Injury Lawyer?
Nothing. The Chicago-based explosion injury lawyers at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. work on a contingency fee basis. This means you will pay no upfront costs to retain our services. We can get started on your claim right away, and you only pay us when we recover compensation for you. If we are unable to secure compensation on your behalf, you do not pay for our attorney fees. This structure allows you to focus on your health and recovery without worrying about the financial costs of a legal claim.
When Should I Talk to a Chicago-based Explosion Injury Lawyer?
As soon as possible. While you generally want to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after an accident, this is especially true in explosion injury cases. A fire or explosion investigation is a key component of these types of cases. Experts may need immediate access to the scene to try to preserve or identify essential evidence, such as the source of ignition. If you wait to consult a lawyer, evidence could be lost or destroyed. The sooner you contact our Chicago-based explosion injury lawyers, the sooner we can take steps to preserve critical evidence in your case.
How Long Do I Have to File an Explosion Injury Lawsuit?
Each state has its own unique laws that apply to time limits. Under Illinois law, you generally have a time limit of two years to file a personal injury case. This means that you usually have two years from the date of the explosion to file a lawsuit against the negligent party. However, there are times when this deadline may be shorter, such as if a governmental entity was responsible for the explosion, or longer, such as if the injury victim is a minor. To learn about the deadline that applies to your case, contact our Chicago-based explosion injury lawyers.
Contact Us for Help with Your Explosion Injury Case
If you or a loved one was injured because of an explosion, contact the Chicago explosion injury lawyers from Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. for help. We can seek justice and financial accountability for the harm you’ve suffered from all responsible parties. Contact us today to take advantage of your free case review.