Jun 21, 2024 Michael M. Day Law Firm

Is My Landlord Liable for Injuries in a Fire?

Fires in the home cause some of the most catastrophic and deadly injuries, and the emotional trauma can be devastating as well. If you rent an apartment or house and suffer injuries in a fire, it is important to find out whether your landlord could be held liable. The assistance you receive from your insurance company is likely to cover only a small percentage of your long-term needs, so compensation from your landlord’s insurance could provide the best opportunity to protect your future.

An experienced personal injury lawyer can evaluate the circumstances involved in your case to determine whether your landlord could be liable for injuries or wrongful death from a fire. Here are some of the factors that go into the determination.

Determining the Cause of the Fire

In general terms, individuals and companies can be held liable for injuries when they have done something (or failed to do so something) and their actions contributed to the cause of the injuries. So when a fire in an apartment or other rental property causes injuries, it is important to determine the cause of the fire to determine who is liable. This can take time and often requires the assistance of a professional.

Often a fire or other incident is caused by more than one factor. If any factors are under the control of the landlord, then the landlord could be held liable for the applicable percentage of fault. Landlords could be liable for fire injuries caused by:

  • Faulty wiring in the walls
  • Improper building design/failure to comply with building codes
  • Damage to gas lines or gas appliances
  • Malfunctioning electrical appliances
  • Allowing tenants to use the premises in an unsafe manner, such as allowing the use of fire pits or grills on a balcony
  • Failure to inspect for dangerous conditions

As owners or managers of the premises, landlords have a duty to provide a safe environment for tenants and their guests, and this includes taking reasonable steps to reduce fire risks.

The Landlord Could Be Liable for Injuries Even if Their Actions Didn’t Cause the FIre

It is important to consider not only the source of the fire but whether the landlord did something to make the fire worse or something that enabled the fire to cause injuries. For instance, a fire might start due to a lightning strike, which is out of the landlord’s control, but tenants could be injured because the fire exit door to the building did not operate properly. While landlords have a duty to take steps to prevent fires from starting, they also have other duties associated with their overall responsibility for providing safe premises. They have a duty to ensure that tenants and their guests can exit the building safely in an emergency situation. That means lights must be working, fire escapes and stairways must be safe, and doors should not be blocked. 

Landlords also have duties to install smoke detectors and alarms and ensure that they are operating properly. When the law requires, they must install sprinklers and provide working fire extinguishers. Even when a fire is caused by arson or criminal activity committed by someone other than the landlord, the landlord can be liable for actions that contributed to the injuries.

What If You Caused the Fire?

If you were injured in a fire triggered by your accidental actions, your ability to recover is much more limited but not entirely eliminated. It is necessary to consider whether your landlord’s actions were the main reason you suffered injuries or whether a third party contributed in some way so that you do not bear the majority of fault for your injuries. For example, consider what might happen if you were cooking bacon and you had to leave the room to go to the bathroom, so you asked your roommate to watch the stove. If some bacon grease caught fire, you would have some responsibility for the fire since you were cooking. But if your roommate spreads the fire by throwing water on the fire and knocking over the pan, then your roommate is also responsible. If you run into the hallway to grab the fire extinguisher but it doesn’t work because your landlord failed to keep it in operating condition, then your landlord could be partially responsible. 

If then you are unable to get down the fire exit stairs because your landlord locked the stairwell doors and you cannot get to the main stairs due to the fire and you suffer smoke inhalation and have to jump out a neighbor’s window, injuring your legs and back, then it is obvious that there are numerous factors that contributed to the cause of your injuries. Your initial act of stepping away from the stove while there was hot grease present was negligent, but your roommate’s actions were also negligent, and your landlord committed numerous acts of wrongdoing that prevented you from making a safe exit.

If your actions are found to be less than 50% of the cause of your injuries, then you can seek compensation from the others who contributed to the cause of the injuries. In this example, the landlord’s failure to provide a working fire extinguisher and the locking of the fire exit are arguably some of the most significant causes of the injuries. 

Find Out Whether You May Be Entitled to Compensation from Your Landlord or Other Parties

Injuries resulting from fires can be traced to many causes and can lead to complicated lawsuits, often involving corporate legal teams. If you have been injured in a fire on property owned by someone else, it is a good idea to consult an attorney who is prepared to stand up to insurance companies and demonstrate effectively why you are entitled to compensation. Michael M. Day Law Firm, LLC fights to hold landlords and their insurers accountable when a tenant or guest is injured in a fire or other incident that can be traced to the landlord’s negligence in building maintenance or operation. For a free consultation to find out how we could help you recover compensation for pain, suffering, time missed from work, medical needs, and more, call 404-480-4284 or contact us online today.