Residents evacuating during the gas leak. Image source: Jeff Ritter
At least 150 people had to be evacuated from their West Seattle homes on Friday after a car crash caused a gas leak. Police and firefighters woke residents in the middle of the night in order to get them out of the area. Metro buses were called out so that residents could stay warm while utility crews fixed the leak.
Investigators are not yet sure what caused the crash in Highland Park. According to witnesses, the car was traveling down Highland Park Way Southwest at a high rate of speed when the driver apparently lost control of the car and veered off the road. The car flipped, crashing through a fence and into a gas-containing pipe called a “district regulator,” an above-ground piece of equipment that helps set the pressure for natural gas in pipes around an urban area.
Two people were in the car that crashed into the gas regulator. One was not seriously hurt; the other one was taken to Harborview Medical Center with serious injuries, but is expected to survive.
Friday’s incident marks one of many dangerous accidents involving leaking gas lines around Washington State. In late February, a couple died and their house was levelled by a massive explosion as a result of a propane gas leak that began in or under the house’s utility room. (http://www.kiro7.com/news/cause-of-port-orchard-home-explosion-believed-gas-leak/112734385) Last year, a Motel 6 in Bremerton was damaged and multiple people were injured after a gas explosion (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/gas-explosion-levels-part-motel-6-washington-state-one-hurt-n412166)
Who is responsible for damages caused by gas explosions?
In Friday’s case, the cause of the gas leak is obvious. In many other cases, however, investigators will need time to determine the source of the leak. Gas leaks can be caused by faulty or damaged gas lines, but they may also be caused by mistakes made by homeowners, repairmen, drivers, or construction workers. When buildings explode as a result of a gas leak, the person at fault may someone who was not even on the scene at the time of the explosion.
While personal injury attorneys are not on the scene investigating the cause of a leak or the source of ignition after an explosion, they have an important role to play in investigating after a gas accident. They can help their clients figure out whether any insurance is available to pay for damages, including medical bills and property damage; they can also find information about repairmen, contractors, or city employees who may have been responsible for making sure a gas line was safe and in good repair.
If you or a loved one has been injured in a gas explosion, now may be a good time to speak with a personal injury attorney. These cases are often complex and difficult for victims without legal training to handle on their own.