Why Are E-Cigarettes Causing Catastrophic Injuries?

Posted By Regan Zambri Long, PLLC || 13-Jun-2017

Lithium-ion batteries used in electronic cigarettes have gained notoriety for causing catastrophic injuries to people. These batteries can explode when they undergo uncontrollable overheating, a process known as a thermal runaway effect. However, due to the design of e-cigarette batteries, thermal runaway effects are more likely to cause injuries when they occur. Many batteries in e-cigarettes are cylindrical, meaning flames can shoot out from both ends. In addition, people may be using the devices when they undergo uncontrollable heating.

The University of Washington Regional Burn Center (UW Burn Center) treated 15 people for injuries caused by e-cigarette explosions. They compiled these cases into a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). Although the number of victims mentioned in the paper is small, it does describe the types of injuries caused by exploding e-cigarette batteries. Victims of e-cigarette explosions have suffered injuries that include:

  • Burn injuries caused by flames: The UW Burn Center claims 80 percent of e-cigarette injuries are caused by exposure to flames. Some of these victims suffered disfiguring third-degree burns that required skin grafts.
  • Chemical burns: According to a report released by the UW Burn Center, 33 percent of victims suffered chemical burns. Hydrofluoric acid used in these batteries can spread on the skin and continue causing damage even after the flames have been extinguished.
  • Blast injuries: E-cigarettes may explode while they are being used. Some victims have suffered blast injuries to the face. In one case reported by the UW Burn Center, a young man had his teeth blown out when an e-cigarette exploded in his mouth. These types of injuries are not uncommon. In another case not mentioned by the NEJM paper, an exploding e-cigarette battery blew a hole in the victim’s tongue.

Can I File an E-Cigarette Lawsuit?

These are not minor injuries, and some people injured by exploding batteries have suffered permanent disfigurement and other complications. Product liability lawsuits have been filed against e-cigarette retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. Most e-cigarettes are produced overseas in China, but some are made domestically. In addition, many retailers and wholesalers are based in the United States. Depending on the circumstances, people who were injured by exploding e-cigarettes may be able to file lawsuits against these parties. Damages from an e-cigarette lawsuit can help pay for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one were harmed by a defective product, the Washington DC product liability attorneys at Regan Zambri Long, PLLC can help you discover available legal options.

Categories: Product Liability
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