House fires have the potential to cause serious threats to our personal safety and welfare. The National Fire Protection Association estimates home fires kill 2,500 annually (accounting for 93 percent of all civilian structure fire deaths), which breaks down to an average of seven daily. They also injure some 12,300 people each year and cause more than $6.7 billion in direct damage.
The question of who is legally responsible for a fire can be a complex one, even when there is no evidence someone intentionally set the fire (in which case criminal arson charges may be applicable). More often than not, the cause is accidental, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t preventable or that someone shouldn’t be held liable. The NFPA reports cooking equipment is the No. 1 cause of home structure fires and injuries, followed by smoking and heating equipment.
But for those who live in rental properties, it’s important to consider the actions or omissions of the landlord. While such actions may not have caused the fire, they may have created circumstances that made the structure vulnerable to fire or exacerbated the risk of injury or death. Examples might include absent or broken smoke detectors, blocked fire exits, missing safety equipment and maintenance failures. Continue reading →