If an individual was injured in an apartment fire, certain parties may be liable for damages, enabling victims to seek legal action.
Apartment fires can be life-altering for tenants, leaving them with damage to or loss of personal belongings, mild to severe injuries, or without a place to live. Fires can also have a long-term financial impact as victims may need to pay for extensive treatment of injuries, replacements for lost property, and temporary housing.
While homeowners don’t share the burden of a fire or another disaster, apartment tenants may be able to identify landlords or apartment neighbors as the responsible parties if they can prove liability. If another party’s negligence was responsible for an apartment fire and subsequent injuries and damages, victims may be able to sue for compensation.
Frequent Causes of Apartment Fires
There are many possible causes of apartment fires that cause serious damage, injuries, or death. Oftentimes, fires break out when tenants are in the middle of their daily routine, but the cause of a fire may not be apparent at first.
Some of the most common causes of apartment fires include:
- Inattentive cooking and faulty cooking supplies
- Portable heaters
- Electrical equipment
- Faulty wiring
Other causes include lighting, faulty or older appliances, and electrical indoor decor.
When Apartment Neighbors Are Liable
If a negligent neighbor is responsible for an apartment fire, he or she may be able to pay for damages to his or her apartment and others through fire insurance. Fire insurance typically covers damages from both fire and smoke, but it may not pay what tenants believe is fair, particularly if injured. If fire insurance pays lower settlements than what tenants think they deserve, or if coverage is denied entirely, a fire victim can work with a personal injury attorney to seek compensation.
When Landlords Are Liable
Landlords may be found liable for damages, including injuries, resulting from apartment fires if they practiced negligence that resulted in the fire. Landlords are not only responsible for maintaining a building, but they also have a duty to ensure that a residence is consistently livable and habitable for tenants.
If a landlord’s negligence results in a fire or other type of disaster, tenants may be able to prove that the landlord breached his or her duty. For instance, if an apartment’s heating system fails to work, the landlord is required to ensure the heating is fixed. Failure to facilitate this is considered a breach of duty that constitutes negligence. If the faulty heating system causes a fire, the landlord may be liable.
In addition to proving negligence, tenants who sustained injuries or other damages in an apartment fire must be able to prove that the landlord’s negligence led to harm, including specific monetary and non-monetary damages. Monetary damages may include medical treatments, the cost of replacing damaged belongings, and other expenses with a specific monetary value. Non-monetary damages, meanwhile, can include pain and suffering experienced as a result of the fire, including physical and psychological distress.
Ways Landlords May Be Responsible for Apartment Fires
There are many ways landlords may be responsible for causing apartment fires. Some instances of negligence that may result in apartment fires include allowing overcrowding, building code violations, a lack of fire extinguishers and other fire safety equipment, blocked fire exits, defective smoke detectors, faulty wiring that wasn’t identified or addressed, smoking, and faulty or misused heating equipment.
Steps to Take Following an Apartment Fire
If injury victims wish to sue a liable party following an apartment fire, there are steps they should take.
The first step is to seek immediate treatment for injuries if needed. The most important aspect of any case is the recovery process, which should begin as soon as possible.
After seeking and receiving treatment, individuals should retain copies of medical records and all other important documents including IDs, lease agreements, birth certificates, and other documentation. Some documents may require replacements. Additionally, people should obtain a copy of the fire inspector’s report that details the cause of the fire, as it may provide proof of negligence.
Victims should also keep an itemized list of all property damaged in the fire, along with the estimated value of each item to help calculate monetary damages for compensation.
Physical evidence is crucial, which may include photos of injuries and property damage, or pictures of the unit after the fire has been extinguished.
With sufficient evidence proving that a landlord, a neighboring tenant, or another third party caused an apartment fire and damages through negligence, victims may be able to recover full compensation in a successful lawsuit.