Explosions: By the Numbers

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Explosions occur when a substance ignites or is otherwise supercharged and expands rapidly with an immense release of energy. They can occur naturally but are much more common among man-made devices, particularly gas lines. These conduits are everywhere: There are well over 2.5 million miles of natural gas and flammable-liquid pipelines in the United States, according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). That’s more than five round trips to the moon and back. With that much flammable material around us, accidents are bound to happen, and explosions occur with shocking regularity.

How Often Do Gas Explosions Occur?

Over the 20-year period through 2018, there were 646 gas distribution line accidents in the U.S., according to PHMSA figures. Distribution lines are the small pipes that feed homes and businesses. Those accidents injured 967 people during that time period. There were 221 fatalities. Broken down on an average yearly basis, that’s approximately 25 annual incidents, 50 injuries, and 10 deaths. 

Those numbers, however, are likely lower than the actual statistics of explosions. On Sept. 13, 2018, one man was killed and over 20 others were injured during a series of explosions in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover in Massachusetts. While up to 80 homes and businesses were affected, the PHMSA listed this as one event. The nonprofit Fractracker Alliance analyzed PHMSA data from 2010 to 2018 and found that there were 1.7 pipeline accidents per day at a cost of $1.3 million in property damage. That included a pipeline fire every four days and an explosion every 11, with an injury every five days and a fatality every 26. That translates to roughly 33 annual explosions, 73 injuries, and 14 deaths, suggesting that even if these numbers are conservative, they’re on the rise.

What Kind of Injuries Do Explosions Cause?

Explosions are extremely violent events and pose great danger to anyone in the vicinity. Related injuries fall under four general categories:

  • Primary: These injuries occur when an explosion’s shock wave moves through the body, harming primarily the air-filled organs. The most commonly affected are the lungs, stomach, eyes, ears, and brain. 
  • Secondary: This type of trauma involves debris displaced by the blast and accounts for the majority of injuries in explosions. Flying objects can travel great distances and move many times faster than a speeding bullet.
  • Tertiary: Tertiary wounds result from a person being thrown by a blast or if a structure collapses on them. Blunt force or penetrating trauma may result in either case.
  • Quaternary: These category encompasses all injuries not cited above. It includes burns, lung complications due to smoke or dust, toxic or biological illness, exposure, and even psychological trauma.

How an Explosion Personal Injury Attorney Can Help

Injuries from explosions can be severe or fatal, and the costs associated with medical care, lost wages, and funerals can be astronomical. Insurance companies often attempt to blame individuals for causing blasts even when a business or gas distributor is likely the negligent party. If you’ve been affected by an explosion, do not fight this battle alone. Having a Morgan & Morgan personal injury lawyer in your corner can make all the difference in securing the compensation you deserve. If we move forward with your case, we’ll handle every step of the process. There is no upfront cost, and it’s free unless we win. Fill out a case evaluation today.

By Lief Nielsen

Copy Editor