Many people in the United States have been exposed to Legionnaires disease and Pontiac fever in the last decade. The most recent outbreak of Legionnaires disease occurred at the North Carolina State Fair in the Asheville, NC and Hendersonville, NC area. The current outbreak has produced at least four deaths, with many more fairgoers suffering symptoms.
What are Legionnaires Disease and Pontiac Fever?
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Legionnaires Disease is a form of pneumonia that begins showing symptoms in 2-10 days after exposure. Pontiac Fever is a less serious infection that can occur in as little as 3 hours after becoming exposed. People become infected after coming in contact with water contaminated with Legionella bacteria. The disease frequently requires hospitalization with courses of antibiotics to cure it, however 10% of victims die from the infection.
Causes of Legionnaires Disease
The bacteria which causes Legionnaires disease is found in natural environments such as lakes and streams, but it flourishes in man-made water systems. Some of the different types of environments where humans get exposed to the pathogen causing Legionnaire’s disease is:
- Shower heads and faucets in hotel or gym locker room bathrooms
- Air conditioning systems in commercial buildings
- Hot tubs that aren’t drained after each use
- Decorative fountains and water features
- Hot water tanks and heaters
- Large plumbing systems
The process of claiming negligence for outbreak-related illnesses
If there’s been a Legionnaires Disease outbreak, someone has usually behaved in a negligent manner.
Companies and commercial businesses have a duty to follow procedures for water maintenance to minimize the risk of Legionella exposure. If companies can be shown to have failed to conduct frequent water testing or maintain proper levels of disinfectant and other bacteria-killing chemicals, or maintain proper hot water temperatures to deter legionella growth can be used to show a duty was breached. Hot tubs, in particular, should be regularly drained and cleaned per manufacturer recommendations as a standard precaution since stagnant water can become a source of legionella exposure. Once bacteria grow, anyone can become infected by simple exposure to the pathogen.
In order to prove that you were exposed by a certain water source to prove your case, you must first prove the water source was contaminated by Legionella. Once you suspect the source of the Legionnaires outbreak, the water must be tested by a lab to determine the presence of the bacteria. Water samples and surface swabs are typically collected from evaporative cooling basins, shower heads, faucets/taps, and other locations where warm water collects.
Businesses are supposed to keep records of cleaning schedules and maintenance performed on water systems. Documentation may be used to show a company was deficient in failing to adhere to a maintenance schedule, or use proper procedures for cleaning systems, or testing and treating water to prevent bacteria growth.
Being able to prove the source of the bacteria is time-sensitive. If a business has the opportunity to hide the contamination before the water can be tested, it could prevent obtaining the proof necessary for your case.
Damages and the compensation you may seek
When maintenance protocols aren’t followed, people become very sick. Part of a Legionnaires Disease claim will include showing that you suffered from the contact with a legionella-contaminated water source causing you to develop an illness. Medical records documenting your illness will assist us in proving your case.
Some victims of Legionnaires Disease may have lasting effects that include fatigue, neurologic symptoms, neuromuscular symptoms, PTSD, and a diminished health-related quality of life. If you experience any of these long-term conditions, you should be compensated for the losses which have occurred in your life.
A person suffering loss from the acts of a negligent party can seek compensation for:
- Current and future medical expenses
- Current and future lost wages from missing work due to your illness
- Lost future income or earning potential if you are unable to return to work
- Pain and suffering from enduring the disease and recovery period
- Emotional distress
- Loss of enjoyment of activities of your day-to-day life
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages awards designed to punish for particularly egregious behavior (when applicable)
When you become sick due to someone else’s negligence, you have a right to seek compensation. Legionnaires Disease can leave you with long term physical and psychological health issues that you should never have to experience.
The personal injury attorneys at McGowan, Hood & Felder, LLC are ready to help you fight for your rights. To speak with a member of our legal team, schedule your free consultation today by calling 855-326-1091, or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact page.
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