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New York Explosion Accident Lawyers

While any accident that causes injury is traumatic, explosion accidents have a particularly remarkable power to throw victims and their loved ones off-balance, in part because they are so rarely discussed. People involved in explosion accidents are often surprised to discover just how common such accidents are, particularly in New York City, which relies heavily on aging infrastructure.

Leaks in aging pipes, faulty wiring and connections, the deleterious effects of weather, road salt, and rats on electrical lines, and vibrations caused by the rumbling of heavy traffic are just a few of the risk factors that make explosion accidents possible.  Nor are these natural and structural hazards the only difficulty—premise owners and other contractors may bear responsibility for interfering with gas and electrical lines for their own purposes.

If you or a loved one has experienced an explosion accident in what you had every reason to believe was a safe place, you likely feel let down—even if you don’t know who was responsible for keeping you safe. Liability in an explosion accident is fraught with complexity, often involving multiple parties that share a portion of the fault. A good attorney will sort through the facts of your case to determine who may be at fault and why.

Need to Know

  • Different companies supply gas and electricity to different areas.
  • Most explosion accidents are multiparty cases – that is, cases where it is practical to sue more than one party.
  • Additionally, multiple investigations—not just your attorney’s—are likely to follow an explosion incident.

In This Article

How to Document an Explosion Accident

As with any other personal injury case, it is helpful to create records of the incident as early as possible so that you’ll be better able to verify your claim later. We recognize that in an incident as sudden as an explosion accident—particularly in New York City, where many remain troubled by memories of 9/11—such a task may appear overwhelming. Remain calm while bearing the following priorities in mind:

  • Alerting your health insurance company to the incident is a good way to start. If you have dealt with your insurance company before, you may be dreading what has, in the past, been a lengthy process. It may encourage you to know that many insurance companies expedite their processes in a traumatic and unusual incident, ensuring that you will be able to receive any medical evaluation or treatment you may need as soon as possible.
  • After you have alerted your insurance company, make sure that you receive a medical evaluation as soon as possible, being clear with your provider about why you are seeking the treatment as well as the date and circumstances of the incident.
  • The best way to generate an incident report is through the utility company responsible for servicing the area. A number of different companies, or utilities, provide gas and electrical services in New York State, and what utility you encountered will depend upon the location of your accident. New York City’s gas and electrical power, for example, is primarily supplied by Con Edison or National Grid, depending on the area.

If you are in doubt as to what utility you encountered, you may find it useful to consult the utility service territories maps available on New York State’s Open Data site (data.ny.gov).

Who is Legally Responsible in an Explosion Accident?

Determining liability in cases that involve utility companies—municipal or otherwise—is not as simple as knowing the supplier. Depending on the details of the incident, liability may reside with one or more other parties, including:

  • the utility company that owns or maintains an insecure vault or manhole cover (regardless of whether it is the same utility as the supplier)
  • the person that owns the premises where the accident occurred (in private cases)
  • the local government that owns the premises where the accident occurred (in municipal cases)
  • third-party contractors or inspectors charged with repairs and maintenance.

For this reason, it is critical to retain an experienced attorney early in the process. An explosion accident case is likely to be a multiparty case—that is, a case in which the plaintiff files a lawsuit against more than one defendant. Even if only one of the parties involved is found to be negligent, filing against multiple defendants, and doing so as soon as possible, allows for a detailed investigation during the discovery phase of the case, helping to ensure that no possible causation is overlooked.

This will become especially important if the City of New York is one of the parties involved. While a typical personal injury suit in New York has a three-year statute of limitations, suing the City of New York requires you to file a notice of claim within 90 days of your accident, and a lawsuit within 15 months of your accident.

Investigating an Explosion Accident

Before taking your case, a good attorney will take stock of the situation through a thorough investigation of the circumstances, not only gathering details that will help to determine liability, but taking steps to ensure that all evidence remains in place for expert examination and analysis.

Particularly in a municipal incident, it’s unlikely that your attorney will be the only one conducting an investigation. Law enforcement, the Fire Department of New York, and the utilities themselves will want to know what factors lead to the explosion, rule out criminal activity, and—in the case of the energy companies—prepare a defense.

This is another good reason to retain an attorney early. If you are contacted by a representative of Con Edison or National Grid, it is important for you to have an experienced attorney on hand to help you navigate the discussion, should you choose to have it.

If you have an experienced lawyer on your side, however, a parallel investigation should not intimidate you. In fact, it could prove helpful to your case. Once investigations by public entities such as the FDNY have concluded, your attorney will be able to access the relevant reports and assign his or her own experts to examine the evidence involved.

While there are necessarily limits to how much information you can gain from a parallel investigation while it is still going on, a skilled lawyer will understand how to approach the parties involved and what information can be reasonably gained through legal channels, such as Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests when municipal or government entities are concerned.

Even when there is no collaboration between investigations, the existence of a parallel investigation can prove to be an advantage. In one case settled by Block O’Toole & Murphy for $6,250,000, our client was injured by an explosion that erupted through a city vault belonging to Con Edison. Immediately following the accident, a fire marshal told our client that the explosion had been caused by a Con Edison transformer which was accessed through the vault.

Upon learning about this from our client, our handling attorneys immediately sent Con Edison a preservation letter—that is, a formal request to leave the evidence, in this case the vault, unaltered and untouched. This rapid action gave us time to retain experts who could give the vault and the transformer a proper examination.

Block O’Toole & Murphy: Attentive Advocates on Your Case

As the case mentioned above hopefully makes clear, Block O’Toole & Murphy lawyers closely engage with our clients during every step of the process, which has led us to act quickly in preserving significant evidence which later proved critical in securing the necessary result. We appreciated the fact that our client was observant and knew what was going on. In return, we were able to follow up on our client’s knowledge using our own authority to preserve the evidence.

While Block O’Toole & Murphy operates with over three decades of experience in the personal injury space, our attorneys pride themselves on never making assumptions about any incident or fact pattern that comes our way. Rather, we investigate every case that reaches us as thoroughly as if it were the only case of its kind. Reach out to the experienced attorneys at Block O’Toole & Murphy and receive a free legal consultation by calling 212-736-5300, or by filling out our online contact form.

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