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Manhole Explosion Season in Around the Corner

April 5 2020

It sounds too bizarre to be true—people are being injured all around New York City by exploding manhole covers. These blasts have sent people straight to the emergency room and serious injuries, and there does not seem to be a firm plan in place to deal with the problem.

If you have been injured by a manhole, contact one of our New York City pedestrian accident lawyers today. There is no reason to wait.

Why Are Manholes Exploding in New York City?

The Brooklyn Eagle took a deep dive into the issue, and what they came up with was enlightening. According to their reporting, manholes are most likely to explode in the winter, when corrosive salt is sprinkled on the roads to combat icing. This salt then seeps into the manhole, where it interacts with aging electrical wiring, which can lead to a buildup of gas. Any small spark can quickly lead to fires and explosions.

There is some question as to whether public utilities could prevent these explosions by, for example, improving their electrical wires. Companies such as Con Edison dispute this and argue that they already invest significantly in maintenance.

How Serious Is the Problem?

Exploding manholes are fairly common. Firefighters respond to about three explosions every single day during January and February. This works out to around 180 manhole explosions in those months alone.

According to a review of city records, there were 4,000 FDNY dispatches for manhole explosions between 2009 and 2018. The accidents injured at least 57 people, probably more. At least nine more people were injured in 2019 alone.

Flying manhole covers can slam into unwary pedestrians and motorists. Because they can weigh between 70 and 300 pounds, these covers are deadly missiles. Some even overturn vehicles, which then land on people who can suffer fractures, crush injuries, spinal cord damage, and other serious injuries.

Some accidents are fatal. For example, a Con Edison worker died in a Brooklyn manhole in 2008 when electrical problems caused a raging fire. It took two hours to retrieve his body from the inferno.

The City’s Response

Currently, the city is engaging in “data collection,” which sounds like a good way to avoid doing anything, like fining utilities for their exploding manhole covers. Currently, the city gets most of its information from the utilities themselves, which have an incentive to downplay the seriousness of the problem.

The state's Public Service Commission currently has the power to levy fines against utilities, including Con Edison. However, it has refused to do so for manhole incidents.

This leaves individual lawsuits. If you have been injured by an exploding manhole, then you could possibly sue a utility for compensation. You will need the right attorney who understands how to make a claim.

Contact Our New York City Pedestrian Accident Lawyers

Where the city won’t act, law firms like Lipsig, Shapey, Manus & Moverman have stepped into the breach to help injured victims win the compensation they need. For more information, or to just talk about your case, please contact us at 212-285-3300.