Interview: Electric Blanket Burns and Fires

Several consumers have filed complaints alleging that various types of electric blankets have malfunctioned and caused severe burn injuries and in some cases, large fires.

In this interview, George McLaughlin explains what's happening with the claims regarding electric blanket burns and fires. He also explains what you should do if you've been injured by a defective product.

Contact him directly at 888-366-0579, or fill out the contact form on the side of the page to learn more.



What's happening with electric blankets?

There are two central problems with the electric blankets. In some circumstances, the blanket can catch on fire. Other reports suggests that people are going to sleep with the electric blanket on and wake up with 1st or 2nd degree burn injuries.

How are electric blankets creating fires?

The fires occur because the heating element is overheating. This can happen in two different ways depending on the type of blanket.

In certain older models, a series of thermostats are supposed to turn the blanket off if the temperature gets too hot. However, if it is bunched up in a certain way, the thermometers malfunction and the temperature continues to rise.

The newer models use a heating method called a Positive Temperature Coefficient, or PCT. If the wires of this PCT fracture from use or age, it creates an electrical arc inside the heating element, which can ignite the flammable heating element material. From there it lights up like a firecracker.

Another problem involves the electric blanket control component itself catching fire. Attorney McLaughlin handled one case where a woman's security camera recorded the control catching on fire while she was out of the house.

Are newer electric blanket models any safer?

Older electric blankets certainly have a risk of becoming too hot. If you have an older thermostat style blanket that's more than 10 years old, it should be replaced.

One particular newer model of electric blanket from Sunbeam has been linked to burn and fire problems. It had a safety circuit intended to detect any broken wires that could lead to fires. However, the safety circuit does not work as well as intended.

Sunbeam introduced a new version of the safety circuit in 2001 that greatly reduced the risk of a fire, but they still occasionally occur. If you have one with an outdated safety circuit, that should be replaced as well.

Is it possible for an electric blanket to cause burn injuries in your sleep?

McLaughlin says that in recent years he's seen an increase of people who fall asleep and wake up with electric blanket burn injuries. He says that in these cases its very clear to see a line mark left by the heating element on their skin.

Why are there so many burn injuries all of a sudden?

This could be due to changes in manufacturing. Sunbeam used to use American manufacturing plants, and in recent years, they've been manufacturing blankets in China. This chance could be the reason for an increase in electric blanket fires.

What's the right thing to do after an electric blanket causes a fire or burn?

If you've been hurt by an electric blanket, the first thing you should do is stop using it. Also, hold on to it so it can be used as evidence. Seek treatment, and follow your doctor's advice. Take photos of your injury, and preserve any video evidence you might have as well. Finally, talk to a lawyer who has experience handling defective product claims.

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