During the summer of 2015, Sacramento newspapers ran the following news articles, ‘Fair Oaks Apartment Fire Caused by Unattended Barbecue,”Fire Sweeps through South Sacramento Apartment Complex,’Two Alarm Apartment Fire Damages 4 Units in Downtown Sacramento’, ‘Overnight Sacramento Apartment Fire Being called Suspicious.’ These headlines occurred within just a few weeks of each other. Clearly, these local headlines demonstrate that apartment fires are a real threat that cause damage to property every year. Worse, from time to time, an apartment fire results in the wrongful death of an innocent life.
What circumstances allow for the filing of a wrongful death lawsuit after an apartment fire? When an apartment fire is known to be caused by the wrongful acts or negligent acts of the property owner. Additionally, the failure to take certain actions by a property owner may determined to be the cause of a fire and in such a circumstance, a wrongful death suit may also be filed. Besides those actions of the the property owner, a suit may also be be filed if the landlord or property management were negligent or failed to act in some way. The claim or lawsuit would be against one or more of the following parties: the property owner, landlord, a property management company and their respective insurance carriers.
Who can file a wrongful death claim due to a death in an apartment fire? The deceased’s immediate family members.
What if an apartment fire causes injuries or burns? If an apartment fires results in injuries, including burns, a civil personal injury action can be filed.
Statistics Related to Residential and Apartment Fires: According to FEMA, in the United States, from January 2015 to October 2015, approximately 1,730 home fires resulted in fatalities. 102 of these fatalities were Californians. Of the 102 Californian fatalities, 34 of them occurred in multi-family homes (which is an apartment complex or duplex.)
Records from 2004 to 2014 indicate that while the vast majority of residential and apartment fires were caused by cooking (49.4%) other common causes of residential fires are due to electrical malfunctions (6.1%) or heating issues (12.9%).
Statistically speaking, more men die (61%) and are injured (58%) in fires than women (39% and 42%) respectively. See FEMA records for more details. Elderly adults (85+) make up 49.2% of fatalities due to a fire. In regards to injury, adults between the age of 30-34 have the highest fire injury rate. (71.4%)
Why hire an apartment fire attorney to handle your wrongful death suit? It is only normal after the death of a family member, that a family may want to grieve in private and move on with their emotional recovery. Insurance companies bank on this and may make a low offer during this time. Grieving family members who may have just spent quite a bit of money on a funeral are vulnerable and may accept the low offer. Please, consult with legal counsel first. An experienced wrongful death attorney can evaluate the claim. In many cases, the award of an arbitrator or jury is going to be higher than the initial offer an insurance company makes. Additionally, while some cases do go to trial, the vast majority of these claims can be settled out of court. Hiring an attorney to negotiate and litigate your claim can result in higher settlement.
Additionally, the insurance company of the property owner or management company, will do all in their power to claim that the fire was not due to their acts. Perhaps blame will be placed on the fire department. An attorney can investigate the facts surrounding the fire, hire experts if necessary, to prove that the fire was due to negligence.
Clearly, with that in mind, it is better to hire a wrongful death attorney due to an apartment fire as soon as possible. The sooner the lawyer is involved, the sooner the attorney will have access to the investigation and the scene. The attorney will want to have his fire experts look at the evidence before the evidence becomes ‘lost.’
I’m Ed Smith. I have worked in the personal injury and wrongful death field for 30+ years. I also have experience with landlord-tenant law. If you need assistance with an injury claim or wrongful death claim resulting from an apartment fire, please feel free to call my office at (800) 404-5400 or locally at (916) 921-6400. You can email me directly at Ed@AutoAccident.com.
Image Attribution: By Blake Patterson from Alexandria, VA, USA (apartment fire – Parkfairfax, Alexandria, VA) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons