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Over the past several years, the e-cigarette and vaping industry has experienced an overwhelming surge in attention. Thousands of people across the country have turned to this technology in an attempt to kick traditional tobacco products such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco.
Although the manufacturers of these products try to market them as a safe and trendy alternative to cigarettes, the truth is that these products may be doing more harm than good. Over five hundred cases of lung-related illnesses have emerged throughout the country, including some that have been reported in Colorado.
As the harms of vaping and e-cigarette use becomes more apparent, many people are starting to wonder whether any legal action can be taken. Given that this is a developing issue, more time will be needed to determine this question. Nevertheless, this article will provide helpful information regarding these products, including important health statistics and what can possibly be done.
Illness, Injury and Death from Vaping
Over the past several months, an outbreak of illnesses has emerged throughout the country. Specifically, many people have reported suffering from some form of lung disease. These illnesses are believed to be related the use of electronic cigarettes and vape pens.
Although health officials have stated that it is too soon to pinpoint a precise cause of these illnesses, it is becoming clear that e-cigarettes and vapes have a significant role. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention suspects that “chemical exposure” is a broad reason for these illnesses; however, no particular chemical, brand, or flavor has been identified as being the primary cause.
It is important to note that the outbreak in illnesses has been associated with both nicotine and THC-related products. Nicotine is a chemical contained in tobacco and is often regarded as the ingredient that can make cigarettes addicting. THC is one of the primary ingredients or components of marijuana. Thus, users of both tobacco and marijuana-related vape products have been affected by this outbreak. However, reports of sickness have been more prevalent amongst THC users than users who claimed to have exclusively used nicotine products.
All confirmed cases of vaping-related lung illness have involved patients reporting that they used vapes or e-cigarettes within 90 days of developing symptoms. Many of these patients reported using a vape or e-cigarette in the week before first experiencing symptoms.
Health officials do not believe the illnesses to be contagious. They warn that the best way to protect yourself from contracting these illnesses is to steer clear of these products or to quit using these products if you are a current user.
If you are a current user of vape pens or electronic cigarettes, it is critical to familiarize yourself with the symptoms associated with the reported lung illnesses. Symptoms of these illnesses can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Weight loss
These illnesses can manifest within days of using these products. Alternatively, it may take weeks or months for symptoms to appear, depending on the frequency of use.
An overwhelming majority of people who have experienced some or all of these symptoms have needed to be hospitalized. Official diagnoses of users have varied, with diagnoses including:
- Lipoid pneumonia (oil entering the lungs)
- Acute eosinophilic pneumonia (buildup of a particular white blood cell in the lungs)
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome
To reduce the risk of suffering a respiratory illness or injury due to vaping and e-cigarette use, public health officials urge users to refrain from:
- Purchasing vape products off the street or from third-party vendors
- Modifying or tinkering with vaping products
- Adding any foreign substances or materials to the products
- Using the products in any way other than their intended use
As previously mentioned, there have now been over five hundred confirmed or probable cases of lung or respiratory illness related to vaping and e-cigarette use. Of these confirmed cases, at least seven people have died. Of these deaths, two users resided in California. The other five resided in Kansas, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Oregon.
Health officials at the CDC and elsewhere are working hard to figure out what exactly is causing this rampant outbreak of illnesses. Although the precise causes are yet to be determined, it is becoming clear that the effects of those causes have a significant impact on the user's lungs. One 18-year old patient in Illinois, who was admitted to a hospital for a severe vaping-related respiratory illness in August, was told by his doctor that he had the lungs of a 70-year old.
There have already been numerous lawsuits filed against manufacturers of vape products. Many of these lawsuits claim that a user of the product has been injured in some way.
For instance, several lawsuits have involved users who suffered burn injuries after a vape pen or e-cigarette exploded. Similarly, lawsuits have been filed in cases where these products caught fire and harmed someone.
Other lawsuits against companies like JUUL have alleged that their products are leading to addiction amongst teenagers and young adults. A theme that exists throughout these types of lawsuits is individuals claiming that vape companies are engaging in illegal marketing practices.
Whether these manufacturers and companies can be held liable for the outbreak of respiratory illness seen throughout the country is a developing story. Legal experts and commentators throughout the country are anticipating a significant amount of litigation in the wake of this national concern.
Why Hire a Lawyer?
If you are interested in filing a claim against a vape or e-cigarette manufacturer, it may be a wise decision first to consider consulting with an attorney. This is because an attorney may be able to offer valuable resources and advice regarding the strength and viability of your claim. Listed below are several ways an attorney may be able to help.
Providing Legal Advice
A lawyer's job is to take all facts and relevant laws into consideration and advise his or her clients accordingly. In the context of vaping illnesses, a lawyer may be able to listen to the facts of your case, including what symptoms you are experiencing, how long you have been sick, and when you first started vaping. Based on these facts, a lawyer may be able to inform you of what your options are moving forward. Given that this area is a developing issue in the legal community seeking the advice of an attorney may be helpful.
Gathering Information and Collecting Evidence
An attorney may also be able to utilize resources that are not otherwise available to the general public. This means that an attorney may be able to review important documents such as medical records, company policies, advertising materials, and more. Similarly, an attorney may be able to collect critical evidence which may, in turn, be used to build your case.
Settlement and Negotiation
If a claim can be and ultimately is filed, it is possible that the manufacturer or the manufacturer’s insurance carrier tries to settle the claim. In other words, a settlement offer may be proposed in order to keep the case from going to court. An attorney may be able to strategically negotiate with these parties, thereby ensuring that they do not take advantage of an inexperienced claimant. During the negotiations, the attorney’s job is to represent the best interest of the client.
Finally, the case may reach the litigation phase. If this should occur, an attorney may represent the client in court, advocating for the client's best interests. The attorney's goal is to explain to a judge or jury why the manufacturer should be held responsible.
How To File a Claim for a Vape Related Injury
If it is determined that manufacturers of vape products and electronic cigarettes are subject to liability for injuries caused by their negligence, it may be in your best interest to learn about the claim filing process. Listed below are the steps that comprise the claim filing process for vape-related injuries.
1. Determine whether you should file a claim
In order to file a claim, it is necessary that a party suffered some form of harm or injury. Not everybody who has used a vape product is eligible for filing a claim. The party must have been injured in some way — for instance, by suffering some form of lung or respiratory illness. Thus, the first step in the claim filing process is to ask yourself whether you have suffered some similar form of harm or injury.
2. Contact an attorney
If you have sustained some illness or injury, the next step in the process is to contact an attorney. An attorney may discuss the facts and circumstances of your case with you. After doing so, the attorney may then proceed to provide legal advice based on the circumstances of your case. An attorney may also begin the formal process of filing a complaint that will initiate your lawsuit.
The investigation phase of the claim filing process involves the attorney collecting important evidence. The goal of this process is to establish that the vape or e-cigarette manufacturer has acted negligently and thus should be held responsible for your injuries. The process may involve accounting for each of your damages, such as medical bills and lost wages. This step may also involve interviewing witnesses, reviewing medical records, and company documents.
4. Settlement and lawsuit
There is a possibility that your claim may need to be litigated in court. Before litigation, it is also possible that you may receive a settlement offer from the at-fault party or the party's insurance company. If it is not in your best interest to accept the settlement offer, your case may go to court.
Vape Lawsuit Compensation
If vape and e-cigarette manufacturers can be held legally liable for the injuries that their products are allegedly causing, then it is possible that these companies may have to compensate the victims in the form of monetary damages. The damages that may be awarded to a victim of an injury lawsuit may be separated into two broad categories: Economic damages and Non-economic damages.
Economic damages are damages that can be accounted for, added up, and calculated. Some of the primary forms of economic damages that may be involved in a vape-related lawsuit may include:
- Medical bills
- Lost income (present and future)
- Loss of earning capacity
Damages for medical bills may cover losses incurred by the victim for hospital stays, doctors’ appointments, pharmacy costs, and physical therapy. Lost income includes the time the victim missed from work due to the injury. If the injury prevents or impairs the victim’s ability to work in the future, lost income may also include the victim’s loss in earning capacity.
Non-economic damages refer to intangible losses that cannot be calculated. Rather, these types of damages are subjectively evaluated by a jury in a lawsuit. Types of non-economic damages in a traditional personal injury lawsuit may include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
OUR EXPERIENCED ATTORNEYS MAY HELP!
If you suspect you have received a vape related injury, you are not alone. There have been increasing incidences of safety risks and injuries from the use of these products in recent years.
An in-depth legal investigation may be able to uncover the cause and liable party for your injuries. Whether your injuries have come in the form of illness or physical injuries, the attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help!
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