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Carbon monoxide poisoning is never just accidental. It is usually the result of equipment that is obsolete or faulty or has been incorrectly installed and poorly serviced or maintained. Without adequate ventilation and fresh air, fuels such as gas, oil, coal or wood are unable to burn fully and release the toxic gas.
Carbon Monoxide has been called 'the silent killer'. The gas has no smell or taste and 200 people are left seriously ill while more than 50 people die from avoidable carbon monoxide poisoning in the UK every year. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning in fixed locations like the home or the workplace does not arise spontaneously.
Blocked flues and chimneys can aggravate the problem by allowing carbon monoxide to build up to dangerous levels, but some individual, organisation or company – usually your employer - is always responsible for the installation, maintenance and servicing of what could be potentially lethal appliances.
If that's the case, they could be held liable in a civil action to claim a pay-out if you suffer the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
At work, your employer has a duty to protect your health and safety and there are many regulations setting out the steps they should be taking. If they have failed in that duty to protect you in the workplace by exposing you to the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning you are perfectly entitled to bring a claim for remuneration against them. All employers should have insurances in place in any event to cover just such a situation.
Your eligibility for benefits will depend entirely on the nature and severity of the injuries you suffered as a result of exposure to the deadly gas.
If you are a tenant, your landlord has been legally required to install working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in the property as from 01 October 2015. A carbon monoxide alarm must be located in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance or any other identified 'high risk' locations.
If you were exposed to carbon monoxide by a negligent employer or landlord, it’s likely that a personal injury claim will have been successful. If that is the case it is wise to set up a personal injury trust that will protect your pay-out award while maintaining your entitlement to means-tested state benefits.
That support will either be based on current income and savings, or on your National Insurance contributions and an assessment of the level of your disability.
Benefits could include income-related employment and support allowance, housing benefit, council tax relief, personal independence payment and industrial injuries disablement benefit as well as help to buy or hire any specialist equipment you may need.
If you suspect that you have been a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, see your GP immediately and then get legal advice from a solicitor specialising in industrial disease and injury claims.
If the exposure took place at home, get your appliance checked by a qualified engineer. It may be possible to make a claim against the original installer, particularly if the engineer used was not Gas Safe registered.
If the exposure took place at work, gather evidence about any risk assessment and monitoring your employer undertook to eliminate the risk completely or reduce it to the lowest possible level.
An employer is legally required to do all that is reasonably practicable to eliminate and reduce problems at source, ensuring that defects in safety, ventilation and exhaust equipment is repaired immediately.
If you can prove, on the balance of probabilities, that you've suffered injury or illness as a result of the negligence of somebody else, you could have a claim for remuneration against them.
Claims may also be made against a number of organisations and individuals such as local councils, landlords, housing associations, hotel owners, caravan park proprietors and public house landlords.
Providing your injury or illness was caused by your exposure to carbon monoxide and the person or company who allowed you to come into contact with the gas was negligent, then your claim should succeed.
Whether you have a case depends on where and how the carbon monoxide poisoning occurred: at home or at work.
Building regulations in England and Wales insist that carbon monoxide detectors are fitted in rooms with solid fuel appliances and in Scotland it’s a legal requirement for carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted when a new or replacement appliance using any type of fuel is installed.
If you are a tenant, your landlord is now legally obliged to fit a carbon monoxide alarm in any room containing a solid fuel burning appliance or any other identified 'high risk' location.
At work, employers have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure that their staff are protected from any risks in the workplace. Since carbon monoxide poisoning can only result from poor maintenance and inspection standards or inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) your illness is therefore likely to be due to employer negligence.
If this can be proven, you can make a claim for carbon monoxide poisoning. The law protects those who come forward to make a claim, so you should not be put off doing so for fear of losing your job. If your employer has breached their duty of care and you have suffered as a result, you are entitled to a pay-out.
If you think you've been affected you should contact your GP immediately. Only then should you contact a specialist industrial injury solicitor to discuss if you have a good case.
Before determining what you need to make a successful claim, you should first confirm with your GP that you are indeed suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning.
This is important, since the signs of carbon monoxide poisoning are often confused with other ailments such as food poisoning or flu, but without running a temperature or fever.
Common signs of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, nausea or vomiting, dizziness, stomach pains, difficulty breathing and a feeling or tiredness or confusion.
The higher the levels of carbon monoxide, the more severe the symptoms. These may include acting as if intoxicated, the feeling that the room is spinning, a loss of physical co-ordination, tachycardia (a heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute), seizures and muscle spasms.
The longer you are exposed to carbon monoxide at any level the worse any symptoms will be. You may lose balance, vision and memory. Eventually, you may lose consciousness. In cases where there are very high levels of carbon monoxide, death may occur within minutes. Certain people are affected by carbon monoxide poisoning more quickly than others. At particular risk are babies and young children, pregnant women and those with pre-existing heart or breathing problems. Pets may also be the first to show signs of carbon monoxide poisoning. In fact, the smaller an animal or a person is, the faster carbon monoxide fumes will affect them.
Workplace claims for exposure to carbon monoxide risk
Access Legal acted for a number of claimants following an incident at their place of work.
The fire brigade was called to the claimants' workplace as fumes had been seen coming out from the premises. Numerous issues with the boiler resulted in carbon monoxide being omitted.To find out more about how Access Legal helped claimants, please follow this link.
Ongoing investigation into carbon monoxide poisoning at work
We are acting for our client, Mrs Warren in connection with a carbon monoxide claim against her employers. She worked in a busy laundry and had felt unwell for several months. She was often sick at work, had terrible headaches and was constantly tired. Mrs Warren then realised that she may have been exposed to carbon monoxide.
Read Mrs Warren's full carbon monoxide poisoning claim case study here.
"I would not hesitate to recommend Access Legal. They are approachable and professional. If I have any queries, I know I can call at any time and they will answer my query in a simple, straightforward fashion. I'm not worried about my case as I know it is in safe hands."
Our current client, Mrs Warren.
We have approachable and experienced lawyers dedicated to helping those affected by carbon monoxide poisoning. We understand the importance of dealing with claims sympathetically but effectively.