There are dangers associated with lithium-ion batteries. When purchasing these products, or any product, consumers have a right to expect that item to be safe and fit for its intended purpose. Lithium-ion batteries are one of the most popular forms of power used today. These batteries power many of the devices we keep near us, including our phones, laptops, and smartwatches. Many times, however, certain types of these batteries have proved to be extremely dangerous. In particular, 18650 batteries, which are commonly used in electronic cigarettes or other vaping devices, often malfunction, catch fire and explode.
There are multiple reasons why lithium-ion batteries fail, including:
- Separators that are too thin, improperly installed, or made from defective materials;
- Damage to the battery, which results in the separator being punctured and causes an internal short circuit; and
- Prolonged unintended contact with metallic objects that connect the two terminals of a battery, causing an external short circuit.
Any of the above can cause the lithium-ion battery to short circuit. As a result, heat rapidly accumulates within the battery, eventually hitting temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees, which causes the battery to suffer thermal runaway—an unstoppable chain reaction. During thermal runaway, the lithium-ion cell is unable to dissipate the rapid increase of heat and the energy stored within the battery is suddenly released. This discharge can result in fire and explosion.
When a lithium-ion battery catches fire or explodes, the resulting injuries to a consumer can be catastrophic. Often, these batteries catch fire or explode while in close proximity to the user’s body. For example, some users have reported fires or explosions while using e-cigarettes, resulting in severe facial and throat injuries, including breaks, fractures, third-degree burns, scarring, and permanent muscle and nerve damage. Others have reported injuries to their legs and other lower extremities as a result of a battery catching fire or exploding in their pocket. Others have suffered injuries to their hands, arms, and body when holding or using portable devices. Generally, the injuries suffered are severe and life-changing.
In Colorado, entities ranging from the manufacturer, to the distributor, to the retailer can be held accountable for the injuries caused by these products. If you are injured in a lithium-ion battery explosion or fire, you have legal options to explore.
Depending on the circumstances of the fire or explosion and the types of damages incurred, you may be able to receive compensation for current medical bills, future medical care, past and future pain, suffering, loss of enjoyment of living, inconvenience, emotional trauma, lost wages, future income, loss of consortium, disfigurement, and others. The types of things that you can claim as damages include:
- Economic losses you might have suffered. These are objectively quantifiable monetary damage that can include past and future medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost income, any lost earning potential, and any out-of-pocket costs you might have incurred.
- Non-economic losses, which are more subjective and much harder to quantify. These can include claims for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, mental and emotional distress, and inconvenience.
- Permanent impairment and disfigurement.
- Loss of consortium by an affected spouse.