Inhalation Injuries and Respiratory Failure

Inhalation injuries are difficult to fully diagnose and very challenging for medical professionals to provide future prognoses for. When bringing a legal claim involving an inhalation injury, it’s important that the victim has access to experts who can prove their damages and future medical treatment requirements which are associated with the injury suffered.

If you believe that you are suffering from an inhalation injury, the legal team at Hogan Injury can help. We know what to look for in order to find the cause of your injury or illness so that we can determine who should be held accountable for your suffering.

You may be entitled to compensation to cover your medical expenses and other injury-related damages if you were exposed to toxins or chemicals due to negligence, lack of proper warning or a lack of safety protection.

Many people are injured in fires wherein they sustain burns. A burn is a very obvious type of injury that can range from non-serious to life-threatening. However, an inhalation injury is a far less apparent type of injury that can lead to very serious medical problems including respiratory failure and even death.

In addition to smoke inhalation, there are other types of acute inhalation injuries that can result from frequent and widespread exposure to common, everyday household cleaning products and industrial gases such as chlorine and ammonia. Depending upon the type and amount of irritating-gas inhaled, a victim can experience symptoms ranging from minor discomfort when breathing to acute airway and lung injury and even death.

The most common types of acute inhalation injuries are:

Smoke Inhalation — A smoke inhalation injury is caused by a fire. The most common cause of death in burn centers the world over is respiratory failure due to smoke inhalation. When a victim suffers from smoke inhalation, he/she has an injury to the lungs and airways caused by the deposit of fine particles of soot and by the gaseous compounds of smoke which includes carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and phosgene.

Chlorine Inhalation — Chlorine is a gas that is commonly used in industrial settings. It is often used as a part of the sanitation process for industrial waste and sewage. Chlorine is also a bleaching agent used in the production of cloth and paper. A wide variety of common everyday cleaning products including bleach contain chlorine. Because this gas is in widespread use, chlorine inhalation injuries are common. While the smell of chlorine alerts people to its dangers, severe chlorine exposure can result in acute lung injury which may not be present until several hours after exposure.

Ammonia Inhalation — In addition to being found in many common household cleaning products, ammonia is in widespread use in industrial and commercial settings. When a person is exposed to high concentrations of ammonia, he or she can suffer from bronchiolar and alveolar edema and destruction of the airways to result in respiratory distress or failure.

Phosgene Inhalation — Phosgene is a gas that is used in the production of pharmaceuticals and other organic compounds. This gas smells like freshly cut hay or grass in low concentrations. When someone is consistently exposed to phosgene gas, it can damage and kill cells in the alveoli and bronchioles wherein pulmonary edema can develop to result in respiratory failure.

What is Respiratory Failure

Respiratory failure is defined as the inability of the lungs to perform their basic task of gas exchange – the transfer of oxygen from inhaled air into the blood and the transfer of carbon dioxide from the blood into exhaled air. The signs and symptoms of respiratory failure depends on its underlying cause and on the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

When a victim has a low oxygen level in the blood, he or she can have shortness of breath and feel as though he/she cannot breathe in enough air. If the oxygen level is very low, there will be a bluish color on the skin, lips and fingernails. A high carbon monoxide level can cause rapid breathing and mental confusion. Many people with respiratory failure become very drowsy or lose consciousness and some develop irregular heartbeats.


Acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS is a very serious medical condition that results in severe shortness of breath and even the inability to breathe at all. ARDS victims often need a ventilator in order to breathe and many require long-term drug treatment. Many ARDS victims never completely recover and are forced to live with reduced lung capacity.

Breathing in smoke or poisonous chemicals can lead to ARDS which is considered a medical emergency because the severe loss of oxygen can rapidly lead to death without prompt treatment.

The attorneys at Hogan Injury help victims who are suffering from inhalation injuries. We also assist families who’ve lost loved ones to these tragic injuries recover damages in wrongful death lawsuits. If you or someone you care for suffers from an inhalation injury, give us a call today so we can review your case and offer you advice regarding your legal options.

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