Who is Responsible for an Apartment Fire?

If you have been injured in an apartment fire, you may be overwhelmed as you deal with the aftermath. The costs can be financially devastating.  You could have costs associated with replacing fire- or water-damaged items and finding a new place to live, as well as extensive medical bills for injuries you sustained in the fire and lost wages for missing work as you heal from those injuries. 

Once you have taken care of your and your family’s immediate needs, you may be wondering who is at fault or “liable” for paying for the damages from the fire and how you can request compensation for your injuries and other damages.

The Indianapolis injury lawyers at Wagner Reese can help you if you think your injuries resulted from the landlord’s or another party’s negligence.

Landlords Can Be Held Liable for Injuries Sustained in an Apartment Fire

Landlords are required to maintain their properties to ensure tenant safety. Many of these safety measures are outlined in your lease agreement or are required by law, such as providing access to a fire extinguisher, performing fire alarm inspections, and keeping a building up to code.

A landlord is also responsible for proper maintenance of the apartment building and basic safety measures. Safety issues that could either cause a fire or cause people to become injured or killed in a fire include:

  • Faulty wiring, damaged gas lines, or other hazards
  • Insufficient or faulty fire alarms
  • Lack of fire safety measures (no fire extinguishers or sprinklers)
  • Lack of or blocked emergency exits
  • Insufficient building maintenance

Landlords can be held accountable for the fire and potentially responsible for the injuries you sustained. To establish liability on the landlord, you must have evidence proving the landlord was negligent, which means they did not behave in a way the average person would be expected to when the goal is to prevent or reduce harm. Essentially, if the landlord could have prevented the fire through maintenance or knew of the fire risk and did not do anything to correct it, they could be liable, even if the landlord did not intend to cause injury. The following factors need also to be considered in determining whether the landlord is at fault:

  • Did the landlord have control over the situation?
  • Did the landlord have knowledge of a potentially dangerous situation?
  • Could a reasonable person have foreseen the fire occurring?
  • Was the cost and feasibility of the needed repair reasonable?
  • Did the landlord fail to take reasonable steps to prevent the fire?

If the answer to one or more of these questions is “yes,” you may have a case against the landlord and be entitled to compensation.

Common Injuries Resulting from Apartment Fires

Fires cause various injuries including burns, respiratory injuries, and even death.

Burn Injuries

  • First Degree Burns: These are relatively minor burns, similar to a sunburn with slight discomfort and redness.
  • Second Degree Burns: These more serious burns reach the lower layers of skin, causing blisters and moisture buildup at the burn site, which is often quite painful. Infection and cellulitis are a concern for these burns, and healing can take up to a month.
  • Third Degree Burns: All the layers of skin are damaged in this type of burn, but because of nerve damage, pain is somewhat limited. Surgery to excise the burn area and place skin grafts is necessary (and often fails, requiring multiple painful surgeries). There’s a high risk of infection and a lengthy recovery period.
  • Fourth Degree Burns: The burn penetrates beyond the skin to the muscle and bone, meaning amputation and plastic surgery are often required to prevent gangrene and other infections, which are highly likely.

Burns alone are costly to treat and can often involve complications during the lengthy healing process. The average moderate burn without complications costs $206,853 in hospital bills, while severe burns without complications can cost well over a million dollars. 

Respiratory Injuries

  • Oxygen Deprivation: Fire consumes the oxygen in a space, leaving behind gases like carbon dioxide, which are toxic to humans. Lack of oxygen and inhalation of these gases can cause confusion, drowsiness, and death.
  • Burns to the Nasal Passages, Airways, and Lungs: Inhaling hot gases at the fire scene will burn the airways, which will swell, causing restricted oxygen intake. Eventually, the burns will scar, which can cause permanent breathing troubles.
  • Damage from Toxic Substances: When things burn, toxic particles, gases, chemicals, and ash enter the lungs, where they can cause life-threatening and permanent breathing issues.

Fatal Injuries

According to the National Safety Council, someone is killed in a civilian-related fire roughly every 2.4 hours. In 2019 alone, there were 3,704 fire-related deaths nationwide. 79% of these deaths occurred in residential buildings. Annually, about 500 children under 14 are killed in fires.

What Are You Owed After a Fire that Wasn’t Your Fault?

In general, if a landlord is proven to be responsible for the fire at your apartment complex, they may be responsible for compensating you for the following:

  • Medical bills related to injuries you or your family suffered in the fire, including bills for treatment associated with the injuries and bills for any future medical procedures
  • Loss of wages due to the fire because of injury or time spent dealing with the aftermath
  • Loss of quality of life due to permanent injury caused by the fire
  • Damage to your property

Additionally, if your loved one was killed in a fire that you believe was caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim to get compensation for their loss, as well as for their medical and funeral expenses.

Wagner Reese Injury Lawyers Are Here to Help

If you are considering filing a claim due to an apartment fire, the Indianapolis fire injury and death lawyers at Wagner Reese Injury Lawyers can help guide you through the process. Whether it involves negotiating with an insurance company or litigation, our skilled lawyers will fight for your rights to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Get in touch today to get your free case evaluation.