Under what Circumstances Can Someone Be Held Liable for Injuries Related to Heat Waves?
Back in early June – before summer officially began – New York experienced its first heat wave of the year. We had three days of scorching 90-degree weather and more has come our way this summer.
When it gets hot in the city, New Yorkers everywhere use it as an opportunity to cool off in the water by flocking to beaches like Coney Island and Orchard Beach, opening fire hydrants and gathering in city parks.
What happens, however, when it’s so hot you get sick or injured?
Well, depending on where you are, who you are, and how the heat affects you, if it is someone’s else’s negligence that caused the injury you might be able to hold someone else liable. Let’s first look at some common heat-related injuries and illnesses, and then explore who might be held responsible and whether the injured victim is entitled to compensation.
Heat-Related Injuries and Illnesses
Generally speaking, the longer you’re exposed to heat, the better your body acclimates to it. This is why the first few heat waves of the year always seem to feel extra hot – you’re not used to feeling such high temperatures. Since you’re not used to it, your body might not react as well to the heat.
When the temperature rises, you need to be cautious about being in the heat for a prolonged amount of time. Otherwise, you might experience these heat-related injuries and illnesses:
- Heat stroke. Heat stroke is usually the most serious of heat-related illnesses. When your body’s temperature rises too quickly, its heat-regulating system is overwhelmed and can’t function properly. Symptoms of heat stroke include weakness, dizziness, nausea, confusion and hallucinations. On average, there are about 13 heat stroke deaths every year in New York.
- Heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion occurs when your body loses too much salt and water due to being in excessive heat. Basically, you sweat and if you can’t replenish your fluids and electrolytes fast enough your body is unable to cool itself.
- Heat cramps. Heat cramps are commonly the mildest heat-related illness. They are painful muscle spasms that usually occur after intense exercise in the heat.
While the heat can definitely affect you when you’re outside in high temperatures, you also need to be wary of being inside without air conditioning or with poor ventilation.
If you begin to experience symptoms of a heat-related illness, your first step should be to go to a cool place and rest. Remove any extra clothing and place cool towels on your skin. Drink cool fluids such as water for rehydration and sports drinks for sugar and salt.
If your symptoms don’t improve or you think you’re suffering from heat stroke, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room because your condition might be life-threatening.
Is anyone else Responsible for my Heat-Related Illness or Injury?
As mentioned above, depending on the circumstances of your heat-related illness or injury, someone else might be held responsible. Below are three examples of possible liability claims regarding heat.
You are an employee in a hot working environment. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), employee have to provide their workers with a safe work environment, which also includes protecting them from extreme heat.
Employers should provide employees with water, rest and shade if they’re working outdoors or adequate fans and air conditioners if they’re working indoors. If an employer doesn’t provide these things to its employees and an employee is injured or gets sick, the employee may have a workers’ compensation claim. If the work environment is an area not owned or operated by an employer (e.g., an off-site location) the owner or operator of the site may be a potential party in a lawsuit for money damages.
Your child gets a heat sickness or injury at school. Schools have a duty to keep your child safe. If your child develops a heat illness because he or she wasn’t properly supervised or left in an unsafe, hot environment for an unreasonable amount of time , the school might be liable for heat-related injuries. If there’s a heat wave and your child is injured at recess due to scorching playground equipment, the school might also be held liable.
Your landlord doesn’t provide cold or running water during a heat wave. You may be responsible for paying your own electric bill, so you need to run your air conditioner or fans when it’s hot out. You can’t hold your landlord responsible if you get a heat illness because you didn’t want to run the AC.
However, if your landlord is supposed to maintain your air conditioner, and their failure to do so leads to you getting a heat illness, you might be able to sue. You also might be able to sue if your landlord doesn’t provide cold or running water during a heat wave.
Heat-related injuries or illnesses can occur even when it’s not summertime. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury or illness because of extreme heat, reach out to an experienced New York personal injury attorney to determine if someone might be liable for damages suffered.
About the Author
Richard Bell is a personal injury lawyer serving the community in the five boroughs, Long Island and Westchester with offices in Manhattan and Queens. His extensive knowledge of personal injury (including construction accidents, medical malpractice, auto accidents and falldowns) has resulted in great success for many of his clients during his more than 30 years of practicing law. In addition to winning his clients millions of dollars from personal injury lawsuits, he has been awarded for his pro bono work and is passionate about educating citizens about voting rights.
This website contains “Attorney Advertising.” It is designed for general information only and should not be construed to be formal legal advice. Prior results cannot and do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please contact us by telephone or email. Be advised that using any method of communication to contact us does not create an attorney – client relationship. In order for this office to represent you, we must enter into a written retainer agreement. Simply contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to this office until after a signed retainer has been entered into by you and this office.