Fires are a leading cause of property damage, injury, and death. In fact, the National Fire Protection Association estimates that in 2015, over half a million structure fires caused 13,000 injuries, 2,685 deaths and more than $10 billion in damages. With such extensive damage and an overwhelming potential for causing serious injuries, including catastrophic burns and smoke inhalation, fires result in numerous property damage and personal injury claims. If you or someone you love has been harmed in a preventable building fire, knowing how to navigate the legal pathways toward compensation becomes critical to recovering your losses.
At Biren Law Group, our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers focus exclusively on protecting the rights of victims and families who have suffered losses as a result of incidents that could and should have been prevented. This includes building fires involving negligence and other preventable incidents, including:
- Unsafe property conditions – Under premises liability laws, property owners have a legal obligation to address hazards that could potentially harm visitors and guests. This means businesses, HOAs, property management companies, and other premises owners have a legal duty to adhere to fire code regulations and fix potential fire risks, including faulty or exposed wiring, unsafe outlets, natural gas leaks, unsafe cooking practices, and more. When a premises owner does nothing to address potential hazards they knew or should have known about, they can be held liable for resulting damages, including both property damage and any injuries or deaths.
- Inadequate Fire Safety Equipment – In a similar vein to premises liability and unsafe conditions, property owners also have obligations to comply with safety regulations. When they fail to provide proper fire safety equipment, including fire alarms, escapes, or fire extinguishers, fires can quickly grow and cause more damage and / or injuries that could have otherwise been prevented.
- Unreasonable delays – While property owners can certainly be held liable for fires that result from or become worse due to unsafe premises, there may also be other at-fault parties that cause or contribute to injuries or deaths. For example, there have been successful personal injury cases filed against private alarm companies that failed to act in a timely manner when fires occurred. This type of failure can lead to unreasonable delays in emergency response.
- Defective Products – Defective products, electrical equipment, appliances, machinery and other devices may pose fire risks when they fail to function properly and become unsafe for their intended use. In a previous blog, we discussed how hoverboards (self-balancing electric scooters) have been linked to fires caused by lithium ion batteries that can explode or create sparks, and how a defective hoverboard caused a house fire in Pennsylvania that claimed the lives of two children. Under product liability laws, manufacturers or retailers that make unsafe products available to the public can be held liable for injuries or damages consumers suffer.
- Explosions – Explosions can cause damages in and of themselves, as well as fires that cause greater property damage and injury. Typically, explosions result from dangers associated with natural gas or oil, chemical plants, and refineries, and other incidents in commercial or residential settings. When these explosions can be traced to negligence or misconduct, such as failures to address known leaks, faulty machinery, or safety violations, injured victims may have the right to pursue a financial recovery of their damages.
Building fires are unique cases in that they require meticulous investigations into the underlying cause. For example, officials investigating the fatal Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people in December were unable to determine a definitive cause for the blaze due to extensive fire damage. Still, victims in that case may be able to pursue compensation against certain parties and the building owner for allowing an unpermitted dance party and for the many safety violations and unsafe conditions that made the warehouse unreasonably dangerous.
Even when a fire can be traced back to negligence, victims also face difficulties in determining who can be held at fault (premises owner, utility company, product manufacturer, etc.) and ensuring that they can negotiate or litigate a fair recovery against corporations or insurance companies intent on paying them as little as possible. By working with our proven attorneys at Biren Law Group, you can gain the support of advocates who passionately explore the facts and circumstances surrounding fires, work to build clear and convincing evidence regarding fault and liability, and fight aggressively to level the playing field between big businesses and innocent victims.
Over the years, our legal team has successfully handled many cases involving fires, burn injuries, explosions, and other similar accidents. This includes a substantial settlement in a natural gas explosion case and a $1 million recovery on behalf of a woman who suffered serious burns when she became trapped in her burning apartment. She was unable to escape the fire due to building code violations, including an illegal double-keyed deadbolt lock and non-release barred windows.
If you have questions about your legal rights following a building fire, do not hesitate to speak with attorneys backed by decades of collective experience and a passion for making the difference in clients’ lives. Call Biren Law Group today for a free consultation.