According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fires are the fifth most common cause of deaths from unintentional injuries in the United States. Many years, fire kills more people in the U.S. than all other natural disasters combined.
The different types of fires are numerous, but the most common include:
- · Gas or propane explosions
- · Water heater, furnace, or space heater fires
- · Appliance fires
- · Vehicle explosions/fires due to a malfunction or collision
- · Oil rig explosions
- · Factory and construction site explosions/fires
- · Forest/bush fires that extend to buildings
- · Intentional fires/arson
Types of Injuries from Fires
Burn injuries can require many surgeries to correct, including skin grafts and cosmetic procedures to reduce scarring. Burns can also make it difficult for the injured person to move, inhibiting the ability to work or perform normal daily activities. It is not uncommon for burns to be accompanied by other types of injuries as well, such as fractures and smoke inhalation. For this reason, the cost of injuries from fire can be enormous.
Burns vary by severity and are categorized as first, second, third, or fourth degree. Smoke inhalation can also cause death and is more common in a fire than burns. Toxic substance exposure is another type of injury as a result of fire. Smoke that contains noxious fumes can cause death and severe damage to the body.
In order to recover damages in a legal action, people with burns must document the injuries right away in order to prove their existence. This involves taking photographs, seeing a physician, and keeping appropriate records.
Figuring out who is responsible for a fire can be very complicated. Officials and lawyers must frequently hire several experts to investigate the evidence in order to determine who or what organization caused the fire. These experts might include fire department personnel, biochemical engineers, biomedical engineers, mechanical engineers, accident reconstructionists, and metallurgists, to name a few.
Of course, the location of the fire must remain untouched in order for an investigation to be conclusive as to fault. This means that any products involved in the fire must not be repaired until the investigation has been completed. Obviously, the earlier the site and products involved can be evaluated, the better.
The laws involved in fire accident claims include a number of regulations on the federal, state, and local levels, as well as the recognized standards in the industry of the materials or products that caused the fire. All of these factors must be taken into account when investigating a fire personal injury case and coming to conclusions about fault.
The investigation might involve more than just physically checking the site of the fire. It could also mean questioning witnesses and filing a subpoena with the court to look at the records of a company. These records could show if the company diverted from industry standards in building, maintaining, or operating a product or structure. Examples of this are a smoke detector that did not perform properly, electrical wiring that was not installed correctly, the absence of proper fire escapes, or a defective gas tank design.
This kind of “negligence” might be the result of carelessness, or it might be considered “gross negligence,” in which case the responsible party is believed to have known that there was a fire hazard. If, for example, a company ignored industry standards, it might be accused of gross negligence. Those kinds of cases generally result in a higher monetary settlement than if the liability is believed to be a result of carelessness.
In many instances, several parties are held accountable for a fire. For example, vehicle drivers, builders, landlords, product manufacturers, product designers, construction site owners, or construction site operators could be found to be negligent in some way that resulted in the accident.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, however, alcohol use is at least partially responsible for 40% of deaths from fire in the home. So, what happens if no one is found to be at fault or if the injured party is discovered to be responsible? If someone is injured due to their own fault or no one’s fault, the injured person’s own health insurance must cover the costs of the injuries. These situations can be devastating from a financial perspective because the expenses might exceed the highest amount paid by an insurance policy.
When another party is indeed believed to be at fault, injuries from fires while not on the job result in what are called personal injury lawsuits. When a worker is injured in a fire or explosion while on the job, however, the case is called a workers or workman’s compensation claim. If the employer or other party is not found to be responsible for the injury, the workers compensation insurance pays for the damages. If a fire causes someone’s death, the surviving family members can bring a lawsuit against the responsible parties in what is called a wrongful death suit.
Do Fire Personal Injury Cases Usually Go to Trial?
Due to the complexities of fire cases, they often do go to trial. However, it is to the advantage of all parties to avoid court whenever possible because court costs are always higher than settling without a trial. For this reason, the attorneys for the various parties – including attorneys that represent the insurance companies of the parties – will negotiate and try to reach an out-of-court settlement. If more than one party is believed to be at fault, the negotiation is likely to take longer. Such cases can go on for years before a resolution is reached.
First, the attorneys conduct what is called “discovery,” in which they send papers back and forth asking questions of the other parties. This occurs while both sides hire experts to investigate the accident. There is a good chance that these experts will not agree, making the resolution more difficult.
Lawyers who specialize in fire and explosion cases have the experts available to handle the investigation, and they know the ins and outs, as well as the pitfalls, of these types of cases.
If you are in need of a personal injury lawyer please visit http://www.feldmanshepherd.com