Few forces are more destructive and dangerous than fires and explosions. If they don’t take your life, they can leave you disfigured and disabled for years and years to come. As children, we’re taught certain ways to avoid burns in general, but adults have much more to worry about — accidentally creating the fire itself. From interacting with potentially-explosive appliances or substances to just forgetting to replace your smoke alarm batteries, there’s a reason why almost all fire safety advice is geared at the potential victims and what they can do to avoid a flame. This is all important and necessary information, but sometimes the victims have nothing to do with the fire at all. When that happens, they deserve to seek financial compensation and justice from the party who actually is responsible.
No one likes to consider traumatic events on such a level as a residential fire or explosion, but they do happen — even here in Alabama. Just last week, a woman lost her life in a residential fire and her husband was severely injured. Fires are serious events that carry serious financial ramifications; victims should not have to worry about affording to rebuild their home and recover after someone else’s negligence caused the blaze. Whether you are a loved one seeking justice on behalf of a deceased loved one or you are the victim yourself, you have legal options worth exploring.
How do residential fires happen?
Unfortunately, there are a large number of fire hazards in the average residence, be it a house or an apartment or anything in between. Anyone with (or without) the right amount of information is a risk, and even then, sometimes accidents can happen. Seemingly innocuous, everyday objects and appliances can pose more of a threat than you expect with improper usage, maintenance, or inspection. The most common causes of house fires are:
- Candles, most commonly from flames being left unattended and knocked over.
- Holiday decorations, in a similar vein. Even a dry Christmas tree can pose a fire hazard, especially when around hot lights and electrical equipment.
- Anything that uses electricity, including power strips and even the wiring behind your walls. This means any sort of renovation or redecorating can potentially cause a deadly fire.
- Smoking, usually for the same reasons as candles (though fallen ashes and embers are a unique danger).
- Chemicals and gasses, which can also cause explosions depending on what they are and where they happen.
- Lightning from a storm or other natural disasters.
- Certain home appliances, like stoves, ovens, space heaters, toasters, and even microwaves.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it gives you an idea of just how many opportunities there are for something to go horribly wrong. Those appliances mostly live in the kitchen, which means about half of residential fires are cooking mishaps. Children compound this risk by either distracting busy parents or innocently exploring without supervision, and even fully capable adults can accidentally cause a kitchen fire by just being new to cooking. Since that’s how anyone learns, it’s easy to see why this is such a common cause.
How dangerous can a burn injury really be?
Luckily, residential fires do not happen nearly as often as other common accidents, like motor vehicle collisions or falls. But the danger of them is not the commonality; it’s the severity of each event. In 2020, 62% of residential fires across Alabama resulted in fatalities, and 88% caused serious burn injuries. When you truly understand how devastating a fire or explosion can be, you understand why it’s taken so seriously.
Like any injury, the severity of a burn depends on a variety of factors like length of exposure, type of fire, and location of the damage on your body. You have probably heard of the terms first, second, and third degree when referring to burns, meant to categorize your injuries based on that metric. First-degree burns are surface-level and usually not too severe, whereas third-degree burns can lead to permanent disfiguration if you are able to survive. Aside from the actual burns themselves, they can also lead to serious complications that can stay with a victim forever. As previously mentioned, disfigurement is a common result of serious burns, and this likely includes significant or total loss of function in the burned area. Victims also face infections, hypothermic shock, and tetanus from a burn injury, and even more serious health hazards from any smoke inhalation.
Ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from a residential fire in Huntsville
It is true that victims cannot always protect themselves from a residential fire or its consequences, but sometimes, there are ways you can mitigate the risks and set your family up for success in case of emergency:
- Install, test, and maintain high-quality smoke alarms (when applicable). Proper maintenance and care ensures they never fail when you need them most.
- Keep up-to-date fire extinguishers in high-risk areas of your residence, like in the kitchen and garage. There is no such thing as too many.
- Plan a fire escape route with your family before an accident happens. Planning ahead of time helps prevent panic from taking over and ensures you all know exactly what to do and where to go. Remember to evacuate before calling for help.
Seeking legal justice after a burn injury in Huntsville
Burn injuries as themselves are not a specific area of law, but that does not mean there are no options for victims; it just means it can be complicated, which is why hiring an experienced personal injury attorney is so important. Going after the responsible parties can get you compensation for every damage you suffer — hundreds of thousands of potential dollars.
Depending on the details of your specific case, it may fall under personal injury itself, premises liability, or even product liability. It all comes down to how the fire happened and how someone’s negligence caused your or your loved one’s injuries.
- For example, if you live in an apartment complex that neglects fire alarm tests or maintenance, and because of that, you suffer serious injuries from a fire you don’t know about until it’s too late, this could count as premises liability case. Even if you “caused” the fire, your landlord has a responsibility to ensure you have proper detection systems and an easy escape route in case of emergency.
- Meanwhile, if a defective product like a broken stove or faulty space heater causes the fire, responsibility would fall on the manufacturers of that product. Proving this can be especially difficult without the right legal representation gathering the facts.
- And finally, if a contractor performs shoddy work at your house which ultimately causes a fire to start, you may have a regular negligence or wantonness personal injury claim against the contractor and his/her employer. In these type cases, small details matter more than you may think, and our attorneys can explain more.
Residential fires are serious, and the Huntsville personal injury attorneys at Martin & Helms are dedicated to helping victims no matter their circumstances. We give frank, honest advice and tenacious representation to every family we work with. If you are a local victim of a residential fire, do not hesitate to reach out. We have offices in Huntsville and Decatur, and serve Madison, Athens, and all of North Alabama, and are always here via phone or our contact form. You deserve rest — as much as you deserve justice.