A fire in your home could be a living nightmare. A functioning smoke or fire detector should give you enough time to safely get out of your home and call for help. If that detector isn’t working properly, especially if a fire occurs at night when you’re asleep, the results can be catastrophic. We rely on these devices to keep us safe without giving them much thought.
If a smoke detector isn’t working properly and serious property damage, injuries or deaths occur because of a fire, can someone be held legally responsible? Depending on the facts of the case, there may be a basis for a lawsuit against another party seeking compensation for property loss and injuries.
If you own your home, you should have enough smoke detectors installed, and their batteries need to be replaced regularly.
- You should have a smoke detector in each bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of the home, including the basement. If you have a two-story, three-bedroom house, you should have a minimum of five smoke alarms.
- If they’re not powered through your home’s electrical system, their batteries should be replaced at least annually.
- The detectors generally have an eight- to ten-year life span, so they should also be changed when the time comes.
If you don’t pay any attention to your smoke detectors, never replaced the batteries and don’t have enough of them in your home, you may have a difficult time with a successful lawsuit if a fire occurs and injuries result. If the detector didn’t help save your home or your health because of a long-dead battery, a lawsuit may not be a viable option.
However, if you follow the rules, act reasonably and replace batteries like you’re supposed to and the detectors failed anyway, you may have a legal claim. If the unit is advertised and sold as a device to detect fires to allow you to escape safely but it failed to do so and you were harmed as a result, the manufacturer of the detector, its distributor and the retail outlet where you purchased it potentially could be defendants in a lawsuit.
If you live in a rented house or apartment, landlords have a legal obligation under building codes to have a certain number of smoke detectors, and they may also need to be hard-wired into the building’s electrical system. Landlords are also under a duty to provide their tenants with a safe property. If they don’t live up to their obligations by failing to provide enough detectors, not hard-wiring them as required, or installing defective detectors, and if injuries result from their failure, a property owner could be the defendant in a personal injury lawsuit.
These types of cases can be complex. An investigation needs to be done as to the cause of the fire and whether the detectors worked properly and, if not, why not. There could also be multiple insurance companies involved with their own sets of lawyers and experts. This is not the type of case you want to handle by yourself, because there are potentially many parties involved and many moving parts. If you settle the case by yourself, you may end up recovering far less than you deserve.
If you’ve been injured in a structure fire in New Jersey, schedule a free consultation with our office by calling us at (973) 358-6134 or by using our online quick connect form so we can discuss your injuries, how they happened, how the law may apply and what you could do to seek compensation for those injuries.