Getting trapped in a fire is terrifying. Residential, business, and workplace fires can cause property damage, devastating personal injuries, financial instability, and, unfortunately, death. Property damage can also leave a tenant or resident homeless.
Some fires are accidental or caused by acts of nature. Other times, fire results from a property owner’s negligence or carelessness, defective construction, or manufacturing defects.
When a fire results from negligence or defective products, you deserve adequate compensation for the physical and psychological trauma, medical bills, property damage, and lost wages you and your family have suffered. Of course, financial compensation will never make up for the anguish a serious fire causes. But it can help you by offering relief from medical, emotional, and financial burdens. Working with an experienced New Jersey fire injury lawyer who knows how to build a strong case can make all the difference when you are recovering from a fire.
Fire Injury Statistics
According to the National Safety Council, in 2021, 1,353,500 fires resulted in 3,800 civilian deaths and 14,700 injuries in the United States. Home fires caused 75% of all fire deaths in 2021. Sixty-four percent of those deaths were caused by fires in one or two-family homes, and 11% by fires in apartments or other multi-family housing. Vehicle fires caused 18% of fire deaths. And while it may seem counter-intuitive, the most common cause of death from fire is smoke inhalation. Because residential fires are a leading cause of death and property loss across the country, residential fire prevention should be a top priority for landlords, homeowners, and tenants.
Top Causes of Residential Fires
Premises liability law requires property owners to ensure their property is reasonably safe for everyone legally entitled to be on that property. Some residential fires are not preventable. But in many cases, a property owner could have saved money, time, and lives by taking small, inexpensive measures to safeguard the well-being of residents. For example, installing appropriate fire alarms and sprinklers and keeping them in working order, maintaining fire escapes, keeping fire exits clear of obstacles, and properly maintaining a property’s electric system can help prevent fires or at least minimize injuries.
Many things cause preventable apartment and residential fires. The most common include:
- Heating equipment—heating equipment accounted for 13% of all reported home fires between 2016 and 2020, resulting in 480 deaths, 1,370 injuries, and more than $1 billion in direct property damage.
- Electrical Issues—electrical issues caused by old and defective wires and faulty work account for 6% of all home fires and 11% of all home fire deaths.
- Cooking—between 2015 and 2019, cooking was the foremost cause of home fires and home fire injuries and the second leading cause of home fire deaths.
- Smoking—cigarettes, pipes, and cigars started 16,500 home structure fires between 2015 and 2019, resulting in $511 million in direct property damage.
- Candles—on average, 20 home candle fires are reported each day, and three of every five home candle fires occur when some form of combustible material is left near or comes too close to a candle.
Damaged gas lines that lead to an explosion, faulty smoke detectors, defective appliances, buildings that are not up to code, and flammable liquids are all also common residential and apartment fire culprits.
Apartment Fire Prevention
Apartment fires increased 15% from 75,000 in 2019 to 86,000 in 2020. While landlords are responsible for keeping their properties in good condition and ensuring that proper fire safety features are present, they do not always satisfy this requirement. A landlord may be liable for negligence when a fire that could have been prevented by following basic safety codes and practices injures a tenant or damages property.
To make sure a premise is safe for all renters, a landlord’s responsibility commonly includes the following:
- Ensuring that the property includes properly installed and appropriately placed smoke alarms;
- Ensuring the property’s electrical wiring is safely installed and in good condition;
- Equipping the property with safe, sturdy fire escapes;
- Ensuring that escape routes are kept clear in shared building areas such as hallways;
- Providing serviced fire extinguishers on every floor; and
- Installing fireproof doors.
Local building codes and laws require that a landlord adheres to these and other regulations. When a landlord fails to do so, and someone is injured, victims have a right to hold them legally accountable for their damages.
Parties Liable for Fire Damages
Landlords, store owners, business owners, and manufacturers must take reasonable steps to keep their property and products safe for patrons, consumers, and renters. This includes taking precautions to prevent fires. However, who you can hold responsible for your fire damages will depend on various factors, including how and where the fire occurred.
Depending on the circumstances, the following parties may be responsible:
- A property owner;
- Other tenants;
- Employees or employers;
- A government agency;
- A corporation;
- A manufacturer, distributor, or retailer of the defective product; and
- An independent contractor, such as an electrician or appliance repair person who worked in or on the residence.
More than one party can be responsible for a fire. An experienced New Jersey fire accident attorney can conduct an independent investigation in order to identify all of the parties that might be responsible for your injuries and other damages.
O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, LLC, Can Help
If you need a New Jersey fire injury attorney, O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble, is here to help you get the justice you deserve. Our firm has held negligent property and business owners, builders, and product manufacturers accountable for their actions and recovered millions of dollars for clients who’ve been victims of fires. We work tirelessly to help our clients receive every penny of compensation they’re entitled to. If you’ve suffered injuries or property damage because of a fire, an experienced New Jersey fire accident lawyer at O’Connor, Parsons, Lane & Noble can review your case, answer all your questions, and help you determine your best course of action. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.