Rebecca Hawk, 23, was killed in Tampa, Florida from carbon monoxide poisoning earlier this month. According to news reports, the carbon monoxide poisoning occurred when another resident in her apartment building left his car running for an extended period of time. It appears as though the fumes built up and silently killed her.
Aside from Rebecca Hawk, the carbon monoxide poisoned two other people, causing serious injuries to one and light headedness to the other.
As an injury attorney, my perspective is one of a legal nature. My job is to identify the people who are responsible for this terrible accident and hold them accountable.
To build a successful case against those responsible, an injury lawyer must bring together three main elements in every case. First, the injury attorney must be able to prove that a person or other entity has acted negligently. This can be done by proving they did something wrong or failed to do something right.
Second, an injury lawyer has to prove that the victim party sustained a quantifiable injury. Clearly, instances of death or serious bodily injury are the most quantifiable. Such injuries can include monetary losses for medical bills, lost wages, future earnings and lost financial support for dependents. A victim or his/her heirs may also collect for pain and suffering as well as punitive damges (in some cases).
Now, even if an injury lawyer can clearly prove that someone acted with negligence causing another to sustain quantifiable injury, the case will be worthless unless the offending party is collectible.
This leads me to the third element: collectibility.
In order to tie the whole case together, injury attorneys will look for insurance policies as well as assets.
When it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning in an apartment building, odds are there is liability insurance maintained by the building management or condo association. However, before such policies can be attacked, an injury lawyer must prove that the policy holder has liability for a negligent action or a negligent failure to act.
In this case, the condo association or property manager most likely failed to install carbon monoxide detectors. I am sure they also failed to adequately ventilate the area. Its angering to know that someone’s death could have been prevented by installing a carbon monoxide detector for $20.
Aside from the condo association or property manager, the person who left their car running is almost certainly liable as well. If that person has any appreciable assets or insurance policies, injury lawyers may be able to collect from him/her.
Given the huge losses sustained by Rebecca Hawk, her family should hire an injury attorney who understands carbon monoxide poisoning and more importantly, how to build a case against parties that are collectible. Understanding the applicable Florida Statutes regarding liability and procedure will be necessary for success in the courtroom.
While no amount of money will ever make this right, Rebecca Hawk’s family is entitled to compensation for their loss.
My condolences go out to her family. I hope they will one day be able to recover from this horrific loss.