Now that temperatures are cooling, more and more families are starting up their furnaces or using their fireplace or a wood-burning stove to generate more heat in their homes. Some even use electric space heaters to keep an attic or basement warm during the winter months.
But what happens when one of these heating sources malfunctions or is the source of a fire? Is anyone liable for the damages caused or the injuries someone sustains in a home fire? What if someone dies in the fire? Can family members receive wrongful death compensation if that happens?
Home fires and heating equipment
Thankfully, since the 1980s, fewer and fewer people in the United States are dying in fires. Yet in 2019, 3,400 people lost their lives in a fire, with 77% of those perishing in a home fire. And in the winter months, home heating equipment does cause more fires—most often when a chimney hasn’t been properly cleaned or when someone places a space heater too close bedding, clothing, furniture or something else that will burn.
Still, equipment malfunctions or faulty wiring can cause a home fire. In those cases, those who have suffered injuries or family members who lost a loved one in the fire can file a lawsuit against the negligent party.
The negligent party
The negligent party in a home fire can vary. It can be an electrical contractor who didn’t wire a home or apartment building correctly or the manufacturer of a defective smoke detector or sprinkler system. The negligent party in an apartment building or rental home fire can be the landlord who didn’t install enough smoke detectors or fire extinguishers or who didn’t ensure the property met current fire codes.
Even if the home or apartment resident started the fire, someone else may be liable for some of the damages if other factors made the fire spread quickly or led to the flames becoming more difficult to put out.
Seeking legal help
If you or a loved one has suffered serious injuries in a home fire, or you lost a family member in a fire, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can help you determine what kind of injury settlement you may be entitled to.
No one wants a fire to damage their home or injure a family member. Having working smoke detectors is usually your best defense to limit the damage. However, fire accidents do happen. Consulting an attorney about who might be liable for injury costs might be your best option in moving forward.