What Responsibility Does a Property Owner Have To Prevent Fire Injuries in California?There’s a wide range of scenarios where you could be injured by a fire in California. Whether it be in your own kitchen from a malfunctioning stove or oven to being burned by an open flame at a store or business, a number of possible outcomes could result from fire exposure. Like any other accident, both businesses and property owners throughout California have a duty to protect you and others from the dangers of a fire. In legal terms, this falls under what’s known as “premises liability”, and applies in certain scenarios within your daily life. Most notably, it includes these key responsibilities:
- Maintaining a safe environment – The overall duty that property owners have is to keep their premises in a safe condition to minimize the risk of fire hazards. This includes regular inspections to identify and address potential fire risks.
- Compliance with codes – Property owners must comply with state and local building codes and regulations related to fire safety. This may involve installing fire alarms, sprinkler systems, and proper exits in accordance with these codes.
- Proper maintenance – Property owners should keep fire safety equipment, such as fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, in good working order. Regular maintenance and testing are essential to ensure they function correctly.
- Clearing hazards – It is the responsibility of property owners to remove or reduce hazards that could lead to fires, such as faulty wiring, flammable materials, or overgrown vegetation that could fuel a wildfire.
- Warning and evacuation – In cases where properties are open to the public, property owners may need to have clear warning systems and evacuation plans in place to protect visitors and others in the event of a fire.
- Guests and visitors – Property owners owe a duty of care to anyone who enters their property, whether they are invited guests, tenants, or even trespassers in some cases. This duty includes taking reasonable steps to prevent foreseeable fire-related injuries.
- Wildfires – California has several areas prone to wildfires, so property owners may have a duty to create defensible space around structures, implement fire-resistant building materials, and follow local regulations for wildfire prevention.
What To Do After a Fire Injury in California?The answer to this question depends on the circumstances of your situation, but even when responsibility is determined, it’s crucial to take the right steps after a fire injury in California. Your ability to receive the available benefits under the law depends on the strength of your claim, typically submitted to an insurance company. So, ensure you protect your rights and well-being by following these steps after a fire injury:
- Seek immediate medical attention – The first and most crucial step is to ensure that you get medical care. Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room just to be safe. Fire injuries can range minor to severe, and may not be readily apparent.
- Notify owners and authorities – After getting medical attention, make sure to inform the owner or manager about the fire. They will likely call the fire department to help with putting out the fire.
- Document the scene – If it is safe to do so, document the scene of the fire. Take photographs or videos that capture the extent of the damage and any factors that may have contributed to the fire, such as faulty equipment or negligence.
- Contact your insurance company – If you have insurance coverage, contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report the fire. They will guide you through the claims process and provide assistance for any property damage or injuries covered by your policy.
- Gather evidence and information – Collect information about the incident, including the date, time, and location of the fire. If there are witnesses, try to obtain their contact information. This information may be valuable if legal action is necessary.
- Follow medical advice – Adhere to all medical instructions and follow-up appointments. Fire-related injuries can be complex and may require ongoing treatment, rehabilitation, or therapy.
- Keep records – Maintain records of all medical bills, receipts, and expenses related to your injury. These records and documentation will be essential if you decide to pursue a legal claim.
California Fire Accident InjuriesThe thing about California fire accidents is that they can result in a number of different injuries, each affecting you or a loved one in a different way. Generally speaking, burns are the most common injury, but a fire accident can result in any of the following:
- Burns – Burns are among the most common injuries associated with fires. They can range from minor first-degree burns to severe third-degree burns. The severity of burns depends on factors like the duration of exposure to the fire and the temperature of the flames.
- Smoke inhalation – Inhaling smoke can lead to various respiratory issues. Smoke contains harmful chemicals and particulate matter that can irritate the lungs and airways, causing coughing, shortness of breath, and in severe cases, respiratory distress.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning – Fires produce carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be deadly when inhaled in large quantities. Carbon monoxide poisoning usually results in dizziness, headache, nausea, confusion, and loss of consciousness.
- Traumatic injuries – Fires can cause structural damage to buildings and create hazardous conditions, leading to traumatic injuries such as fractures, lacerations, and contusions from falls, debris, or collapsing structures.
- Secondary injuries – In the chaos of a fire, people may sustain injuries while attempting to escape, including sprains, strains, and fractures from tripping or falling.
- Emotional and psychological trauma – Fire-related injuries aren’t limited to physical harm. Witnessing or experiencing a fire can lead to emotional and psychological trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
- Eye injuries – Exposure to smoke, heat, and debris can lead to eye injuries, ranging from minor irritation to more severe damage.
- Chemical exposures – Fires can release toxic chemicals from burning materials, which can lead to chemical burns or toxic exposures with various health effects.
- Electrical injuries – Fires can damage electrical systems, leading to electrical shocks or electrocution.
- Respiratory problems – Prolonged exposure to smoke and toxic fumes can lead to long-term respiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma.
Damages Available in a Fire Injury ClaimWhen pursuing a fire injury claim, it’s essential to understand the process. Legally, it’s similar to other injury claims in the state. Here’s a quick overview of the process:
- Filing a claim – Begin by filing a claim with the liable party’s insurance company, typically their homeowner’s or liability insurance. Provide detailed information about the incident, your injuries, and the damages incurred.
- Negotiating with the insurance company – The insurance company usually offers a settlement. Our team will help you assess it and negotiate for a fair settlement that hopefully covers all your damages.
- Filing a lawsuit – If a settlement isn’t reached, filing a lawsuit against the dog owner may become necessary to obtain support for your injuries. Our team will represent you in court.
- Medical expenses and ongoing care, including therapy or rehab.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Lost income
- Property damage related to the incident
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Punitive damages if the owner or management was particularly negligent
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, if a property owner’s negligence contributed to the fire and your injuries, you may be able to pursue a claim against them.
There’s no legal requirement that says you have to have a lawyer represent you, but it would certainly be helpful to have our team of fire injury lawyers on your side. We can help you gather evidence and navigate the claims process to make sure your claim remains viable.
When there’s an injury in a fire, an insurance company is going to get involved. Before you speak with an insurance adjuster, speak with our team for guidance.
Free Consultations for California Fire Injury Victims
A fire incident can be distressing due to injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and pain. If you or a loved one experienced this at a business or private residence, Maison Law and our team of California premises liability lawyers are here to help.
Don’t wait–contact us today to set up a free consultation and learn how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.