Lithium-ion batteries are popular because they are rechargeable and last for a long time. They are used in smartphones, e-cigarettes, notebooks, and other electronic devices. Consumer demand for small devices led to a need for smaller cells. This has created problems because of the susceptibility of lithium-ion cells to violently explode. Public knowledge of the explosion risks became more widespread following Samsung’s recall of some of its Galaxy 7 smartphones in 2016 after multiple explosions were reported. In the past few years, reports of battery explosions in e-cigarettes, notebooks, headphones, and hoverboards have also occurred. Manufacturers can take steps to prevent these explosions. When they fail to take proper steps, explosions can occur and injure people. People in South Carolina who have suffered injuries from exploding devices like e-cigs may have legal rights to recover damages. A Myrtle Beach attorney at The Lovely Law Firm might help you to recover compensation to pay for your losses.
What is a lithium-ion battery?
A lithium-ion cell has lithium ions that use negative and positive electrodes to produce power. They are rechargeable and power devices for hours in between charges. Lithium is a metallic element that can be made into alloys and used in many different industries. It has a strong electrochemical potential, which is why it is used to make batteries. It can produce a lot of power from a small cell. Many portable devices were designed to use them, including e-cigarettes. Your cell phone likely is powered in this way. Manufacturers worked to use these cells to produce increasing amounts of power. However, the improvements made them more volatile and increased the likelihood of a cell phone or e-cigarette explosion.
Some devices that are powered with these types of cells have exploded and caused fires. As a result, people have suffered property damage and serious personal injuries, including severe burns, blinding, and disfigurement. In the last 10 years, there have been multiple product recalls because of the risk of explosions.
While they are safe in most products, they sometimes fail and explode. Explosions may occur when an e-cigarette or smartphone manufacturer fails to follow proper safeguards to prevent explosions. They can also occur when there are design defects in how the cell is integrated into a device.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, 80% of the explosions of e-cigs happen while the devices are being charged. In 12% of the explosion cases, the e-cigarette explodes while it is in someone’s pocket or is being used.
Many of the reports of explosions do not identify the manufacturers of e-cigarettes that have the highest explosion risk. Some factors appear to be linked to a higher risk of fires and explosions, however. The ability to disconnect the cell from the device to charge it separately may lessen the risk. By contrast, vape pens that have built-in USB ports next to the cells place the heating element directly next to the charging cell. These models carry a higher risk of exploding.
Vape mods also carry unique risks because their cells have wrappings. Weaknesses, tears, or weaknesses in the wrapping can cause explosions and serious injuries. Many people are unaware that e-cigarettes can explode in their pockets while they are transporting them. There is still a risk of explosion even when the devices are not plugged in. If a device explodes in your pocket or while you are using it, you may suffer serious injuries.
Characteristics of a vape pen explosion
Vape pen explosions have three main characteristics, including the following:
- The device emits a high-pitched whining sound.
- The device suddenly explodes with a blinding white light.
- Catastrophic injuries, including third-degree burns, may occur.
If you use e-cigarettes, get away from any device that makes a high-pitched whining sound immediately. If it is plugged into the wall, unplug it if you can. While the device may still explode and cause a fire that damages property around it when you get away from it, it is better to suffer property damage than serious injuries.
Types of injuries in e-cigarette explosions
Common injuries that can result from e-cigarette explosions include the following:
- Loss of teeth in an explosion
- Severe scarring and disfigurement
- Second- and third-degree burns
- Injuries to the face, hands, and arms
- Injuries to the tissues beneath pockets
- Property losses
In May 2018, CNN reported that a Florida man was killed in a vape pen explosion by a projectile that struck his head. The man was using a vape mod, which is a larger e-cigarette device. On Jan. 29, 2019, a second fatal e-cigarette case was reported in Texas by the Independent. In that case, a 24-year-old man was using a vape mod outside of a vape store when it exploded in his face, rupturing his carotid artery.
Liability in e-cigarette explosion cases
The manufacturers, retailers, and designers of e-cigarettes can be liable when an explosion occurs and causes serious injuries through a product liability claim. Product liability claims involving vape pen explosions will normally fall into two categories. The first category of product liability claims involving exploding vape pens is that they are defectively designed and unreasonably dangerous to people who use the devices as intended. The second category of claims is that the manufacturer failed to provide adequate warnings about the explosion risks.
Everyone involved in the chain of distribution to bring the device to the market may be liable. This means that you can sue the designer, manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer. In some cases, you may be able to sue the manufacturer of the defective cell.
To prevail in a claim, plaintiffs need to take some immediate action after they have been injured in an e-cigarette explosion. They should save the exploded e-cigarette remains and the cell. They should also save the clothing that they were wearing and anything else that they might have had in their pocket if it exploded in a pocket. People should also save the receipt showing the purchase and write down the retailer information, including the name, location, and purchase date. For smartphones and e-cigarettes that are imported from other countries, it will be important to identify the manufacturers and how the devices made their way into the U.S.
It is important to establish the chain of custody in the distribution chain as quickly as possible following an e-cigarette explosion. An experienced attorney will investigate the chain of custody to identify all of the potentially liable parties that can be named as defendants. This can help to maximize the compensation amount through the identification of multiple potential sources of recovery. This is also important because some e-cigarettes are purchased from local vape stores that may not carry liability insurance. By identifying the manufacturer, distributor, and others involved in the chain of custody, the ability to recover damages may be preserved.
Contact the personal injury attorneys at The Lovely Law Firm
Many people who use e-cigarettes are unaware of the potential explosion risks. If you have suffered injuries from an e-cigarette explosion or an explosion of another device, you may be able to recover damages from all of the parties that were involved in bringing the product to the market. Contact the legal team at The Lovely Law Firm in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to schedule a consultation by calling us at 843-839-4111.