Between the years of 1999 and 2010, there were 5,149 unintended deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning, or an average of 430 deaths annually. The death rate from carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States is three times higher for men than for women, with the highest death rate being among males, over the age of 65.
Carbon monoxide is an odorless, colorless gas which can be deadly, causing death or serious injury to those who are unaware they are inhaling it. Carbon monoxide is emitted from the fumes of stoves, wood stoves, gas heating systems, lanterns, gas ranges, and charcoal-burning stoves. Known as the “silent killer,” carbon monoxide can permeate an entire home or apartment without the knowledge of tenants or landlords.
Landlords should be concerned about carbon monoxide for the safety of their tenants, and must comply with state and federal laws regarding the installation of carbon monoxide detectors or face criminal and/or civil liability. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sleepiness. If left undetected, or when levels of carbon monoxide poisoning are extremely high, permanent brain damage or death is possible.
Carbon Monoxide Safety Through Your Lease
The best way to ensure your apartment, condo or other rented or leased home is safe, is to include an addendum to your lease agreement which outlines your landlord’s responsibilities regarding carbon monoxide. This addendum will verify working carbon monoxide detectors are installed in compliance with state laws, and will probably state that you are responsible for changing out the batteries every six months and making sure the device is not tampered with or damaged. Some examples include:
- In the state of Oregon, landlords are prohibited from renting a property without a functioning carbon monoxide detector installed;
- California requires that an approved carbon monoxide detector must be installed in all single-family dwellings, and
- In the state of Virginia, you are prohibited from tampering with or removing a carbon monoxide detector from a place you are renting, but if there is no carbon monoxide detector, you are allowed to install your own.
Is the Landlord Responsible?
Prior to the twentieth century, once a property was rented out, landlords were held liable for practically none of the potentially hazardous conditions which existed on the property. Although this lack of responsibility on the part of landlords has changed considerably over the past few decades, the degree of responsibility does vary from state to state. If your exposure to carbon monoxide was caused by your landlord’s failure to repair or maintain a furnace or other device in the basement, or other area where the landlord has control, then his liability to the tenant is fairly clear.
Perhaps your landlord agreed, either through your lease, in person, or in a separate agreement, to repair a stove or other device in your rental, but either failed to make those agreed-upon repairs, or made the repairs in a negligent manner, exposing you and your loved ones to deadly carbon monoxide. If this is the case, your landlord is probably liable for your injuries or a death from carbon monoxide explore.
If the carbon monoxide exposure was the result of a malfunction of a device on the property, and that device was not considered defective when you signed your lease agreement (and you have not told the landlord the device is defective or dangerous) then the liability of the landlord is less clear. In other words, if your landlord violated no regulations or laws, and was unaware of the defective device, then the landlord is probably not liable for any resulting injuries or deaths related to carbon monoxide.
If the carbon monoxide exposure was the result of a device’s defective design, or the result of a construction defect the landlord was unaware of, the manufacturer of the device could be liable to the tenant, but not to the landlord. While most regulations fail to specifically state a landlord is liable for carbon monoxide injuries or deaths when the landlord failed to ensure the safety of potentially hazardous devices, courts generally find landlords owe tenants a duty to install a carbon monoxide detector.
How a Washington D.C. Attorney Can Help if You or a Loved One Suffered Carbon Monoxide Injury or Death
Exposure to carbon monoxide can result in serious side effects, sometimes permanent or fatal. An experienced Washington D.C. carbon monoxide attorney will ensure any responsible party is held liable for your injuries by filing a lawsuit on your behalf. Your attorney will launch a full-blown investigation to determine how you were exposed to the carbon monoxide, identifying whether the property owner, maintenance company or product manufacturer is the negligent party.
You may be able to recover past and future medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and loss of quality of life. If you lost a loved one to carbon monoxide poisoning, you may be entitled to funeral expenses, loss of companionship and loss of income. Your landlord is responsible for the proper functioning of all the devices in your home which could potentially cause carbon monoxide poisoning, so call a knowledgeable attorney today at Patrick Malone Law today.
The injury attorneys at Patrick Malone & Associates have successfully represented injured individuals in Washington, DC, Arlington, Alexandria, Annapolis, Rockville, Baltimore, Richmond, Fairfax, Maryland, and throughout Virginia.