Pennsylvania Propane Tank Explosion Attorneys
Propane tanks are a convenient and portable source of fuel for a broad array of uses and purposes. Many homeowners and others are most familiar with mid-sized propane tanks typically for use with a barbecue grill. Individuals that frequently go camping may be more familiar with smaller sized propane canisters that can be used with a portable heater, lantern, or camp stove. Still other Pennsylvanians living in more rural parts of the state may have a large propane tank attached to their home to provide heating fuel in the winter.
However, the utility of the propane tank is probably only surpassed by its potential risks and dangers. Since these tanks store large amounts of flammable gas under compression, problems with the tank, regulator, or gas lines can result in a violent explosion. If an accident occurs due to a defective tank or container, these flammable, toxic substances can cause serious internal and external injuries. These injuries are not only physically devastating, but frequently lead to psychological trauma and financial hardship as well. Trying to simultaneously cope with physical and emotional pain while dealing with complicated and costly financial procedures can feel like a nightmare — especially when the accident was caused by the negligence or recklessness of another party.
More often than not, this explosion results in a life-altering injury or death. If you or a loved one have suffered a severe injury due to a defective propane tank, delivery system, or improper installation the experienced propane tank explosion and personal injury lawyers of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for compensation for you.
Why Do Propane Tank Fires Occur?
Propane tank fires and explosions can occur for aboard array of reasons. One of the more common reasons is due to storing the tank at high temperatures or exposing the tank to violent agitation. The reason that increased temperatures and agitation present a risk is due to the inherent nature of storing a fixed amount of flammable gas in a sealed container. Propane, like other gases, expands when it is heated or agitated. If an excessive amount of heat or agitation occurs, the volume of the gas will continue to expand until the pressure is too great for the container to contain. At that point, the container will exploding violently sending fire and shrapnel in all directions. Individuals within the tank’s blast radius are unlikely to escape without sustaining a severe injury.
However, the foregoing makes-up only a single potential scenario for a propane tank explosion. In a recent incident that occurred in New Jersey, an elderly couple decided to take a local gas company up on their offer to convert from propane heat to natural gas heat. However, the company that was contracted to disconnect the propane tank from the home failed to take necessary measures. While the company did cut the gas line to the home in the basement, it failed to shut off the gas, make the gas valve inaccessible, or place a notice on the valve warning people against turning on the gas.
A neighbor who noticed that the couple’s propane had been shut off thought he was doing the couple a favor by turning on the gas. Unfortunately the turned-on gas line resulted in gas accumulating beneath the home. When the home’s hot water heater kicked on the next morning, the gas ignited and exploded with a force that could be felt for miles.
Many other scenarios and events can cause or make a gas explosion more likely. A defective tank, ruptured tank, defective regulator, and other problems can also result in a violent gas explosion.
Propane Tanks Purchases or Filled at Retailers Must Be Equipped With Safety Devices
Many jurisdictions require propane tanks to be equipped with overfill prevention devices. In fact, in 2002 Consumer product Safety Commission issued a press release alerting consumers of the necessity of over-fill protection devices and warning them against using tanks without sufficient safety measures. The over-fill prevention device is intended to prevent workers from intentionally or inadvertently overfilling a propane tank. An overfilled tank is more prone to explode due to the properties of stored compressed gas discussed in the previous section.
Aside from the standards and suggestions set forth in CPSC’s 2002 press release, the industry also adopted number of industry standards in 1995 at CPSC’s urging. These 1995 industry standards included the requirement of a regulator to control the flow of gas from the tank. The regulator can prevent gas leaks if the connection between the hose and is not secure. The 1995 standard also required an automatic shut-off mechanism that is activated if there is an overheating of the grill or other device attached to the tank.
Propane Tank Explosions and BLEVEs
It isn’t just transportation vehicles which suffer from defects — many types of machines and vessels can be affected. For example, many people have gas-powered lawnmowers and grills, and some have large propane tanks attached to their houses to provide gas for heating and cooking.
If a propane tank is subjected to heat, the pressure inside the tank will build, and a pressure-relief valve on the tank will open to release accumulating vapors. But if the pressure inside the gas tank builds too quickly for the valve to keep up, the tank can rupture in what is called a Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapor Explosion (BLEVE).
Although rare, BLEVEs can be extremely powerful, and have thrown people as far as 300 feet. Individuals near a BLEVE or gas tank explosion may be killed or sustain debilitating injuries, such as:
- Broken Bones
- Head Trauma
- Skull Fractures
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)
BLEVEs typically occur when a propane tank is located too close to a heat source, or when it is installed in a low-lying area where leaking vapors can accumulate. BLEVEs and faulty grills cause around 5,700 fires annually, resulting in hundreds of deaths and serious injuries. The U.S. Fire Administration reported that grill fires are usually caused by malfunctions or mechanical errors like gas leaks, broken or cracked pipes, and corroded parts.
Fuel fed fires, gas tank explosions, and propane explosions often result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities. The physical and emotional wounds alike can take a lifetime to heal from, and can completely alter the course of a victim’s future. When these terrible, life-altering damages are the result of another party’s negligence, recklessness, or other misconduct, survivors may have a claim to financial restitution.
Injured by a Defective or Overfilled Propane Tank?
If you or a loved one has suffered a severe injury due to a propane tank fire or a propane tank explosion, the experienced personal injury attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for compensation for you. To schedule a free, private legal consultation call our firm at (215) 709-6940 or contact us online.