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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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Proving Negligence in Apartment Fire Injury Cases

The National Fire Protection Association reports that six percent of the fires that occurred in 2021 were apartment fires, and these fires caused 11% of civilian deaths and 21% of reported injuries. While renters’ insurance likely will cover the loss of personal belongings damaged in the fire, certain items like jewelry, art, and other “big ticket” items may not be covered, and the insurance doesn’t cover the loss of the unit itself or your physical injuries.

If your apartment building caught fire and you suffered injuries and damages, you may be wondering if you can pursue legal action. Below, we will discuss liability in apartment fires.

Who Is Liable in an Apartment Fire Accident?

In our previous blog, “What Are the Most Common Causes of Apartment Fires?” we discussed the various ways fires are often caused in apartment buildings. In reviewing the list, you may realize that multiple parties may be liable for the fire, including:

  • A contractor. If wiring or appliances were the cause, a contractor who recently completed repairs or an installation can be held liable for the fire.
  • A product manufacturer. If an appliance or gadget caused the fire, those injured may have a product liability case if the product was faulty or poorly made.
  • A tenant. As a part of their lease, tenants are tasked with taking reasonable precautions and protecting themselves and others in the care of their unit; a tenant can be sued if they violated their lease agreement and acted recklessly or negligently—causing a fire.
  • An arsonist. Arsonists can not only face criminal charges and penalties but also civil lawsuits from fire victims/survivors.
  • A landlord/building manager. Landlords can be liable for the fire if they do not address building issues that they know pose a threat or allow tenants to store dangerous materials or engage in dangerous activities. They may also be held liable if they violated a law that led to the fire and injury of others. It is also important to note that even if issues within the building did not start the fire, your landlord and/or building manager can be held partially responsible for your injuries and damages if they did not have adequate safety measures in place. For instance, if the smoke alarms were broken, there were no fire extinguishers or working sprinklers.

Establishing Liability | Fire/Burn Injury Claims

After fires occur, there is an investigation by the fire department investigators to determine the case of the fire. While the final report is an important piece of evidence, those injured will need to prove the four elements of negligence to pursue a claim. The four elements include:

  • Duty of care. To recover compensation, you will need to prove that the liable party had a duty to protect their tenants (and you/the plaintiff) from a hazard.
  • Breach. You will then need to prove that they breached this duty of care. For instance, if the fire investigation report shows that faulty wiring caused the fire, you must prove that the landlord had knowledge of the fire hazard and failed in their duty to provide safety features and maintenance for tenants.
  • Causation. You will also need to prove that the breach in the duty of care directly or proximately caused your injuries.
  • Damages. Finally, you need to prove that you suffered emotional and financial damages, which can be substantiated by showing your medical bills, medical records, photos of the property damage and your injuries, and income records (that show a loss of income/work).

What to Do If You Are Injured in an Apartment Fire

If you suffered injuries in an apartment fire, you may be wondering what your next should be. In addition to prioritizing your recovery, you should also take the following four steps.

  1. Seek immediate medical attention. Even if you feel fine and do not have external injuries, you should still seek medical attention after an apartment fire. You may have internal damage because of smoke inhalation.
  2. Take photos. Pictures of your injuries, damaged property, and your apartment (before and after) are important pieces of evidence. However, please wait to get photos of your apartment or any items damaged inside your unit until the scene is safe and authorities allow you to enter the premises.
  3. Ask for copies of related reports. You should ask for copies of your medical records, police reports, fire report, etc. Your attorney can also help you obtain these documents.
  4. Replace important documents. If your passport, ID, birth certificate, and/or other important documents were damaged or destroyed in the fire, you should gather and replace them as soon as possible.
  5. Contact our firm. At Michael Doyle, Attorney at Law, our attorney handles a wide variety of personal injury cases, including but not limited to catastrophic injuries (i.e. severe burns, amputations, etc.), premises liability, and wrongful death suits. If you or a loved one suffered injuries in an apartment fire, we can help you understand your legal rights and options, calculate your economic and noneconomic damages, and maximize your compensation. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you only pay us if we win your case.

To schedule a case consultation, call (505) 219-2176 today.