Home Heater Fire and Explosions
I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.
Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.
Today’s question comes from a caller who “had a space heater catch fire, and suffered burns, and would like to know their legal options.”
Home fire incidents where the ignition source is a space heater make the local news headlines far too frequently.
These fires happen because someone uses a defective space heater or the heater is not being used as intended. Fires also can result when someone has neglected to properly maintain a space heater.
You can find online instructional videos on how to mount and install wall-mounted space heaters. There are also self-help videos on how to clean and maintain space heaters. But not everyone installs or maintains space heaters as they are meant to be installed and maintained.
Depending on how a fire starts and spreads, a person who suffers injuries or property damage may be able to file a lawsuit to hold those who were negligent accountable.
Let’s say you live in an apartment or duplex. A neighbor carelessly starts a space heater-based fire or is otherwise negligent in igniting the building. Can you sue them?
The answer is most likely yes, but the critical question is can you recover damages from them?
If they are a fellow apartment dweller, they may have no insurance to cover their liability. If they too lose everything themselves in the fire, your ability to obtain compensation from them will be limited.
But, could other parties who were not involved in starting the fire be legally liable for your damages? The answer is that yes, they very well, may be.
For example, if a home or apartment you are renting is not up to code and a code required sprinkler system was not installed, you may have a valid case. Suppose a defective smoke alarm fails to work correctly. In that case, the injured party might obtain compensation from those who negligently failed to comply with a safety code or failed to install and maintain a working smoke alarm.
Or, if a landlord promises to provide fire extinguishers but fails to fulfill that promise, the landlord may be liable for the consequences traced to that failure.
When a fire happens, it is crucial to hire an attorney immediately to help investigate the fire’s cause.
Suppose a refrigerator shorts out while a family is asleep. It may prove critical to collecting insurance or suing the manufacturer or other responsible parties to verify how and why the equipment failed.
Making arrangements to preserve the remains of the device for later inspection and referencing as an exhibit in court is critical.
Not long ago, we heard of a case where a wall-mounted space heater caught fire because metal spacers to keep it a few inches from the drywall had not been installed. The manufacturer provided them, but the installer did not use them.
Another case involved an apartment dweller who was provided a charcoal grill to use on a wood deck by the landlord. The base of the grill was rusting and permitted hot coals to fall to the wood deck. The coals were caught by a gust of wind which ignited the enter apartment building.
Whenever a person or their loved ones suffer an injury in a fire, we recommend contacting an experienced attorney right away for advice.
I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.