Negligent Landlords and Fire Injuries
Victims of fires and other burn injuries are often left with physical and psychological scars. To make matters worse, they are also often left with overwhelming medical bills, lost wages, and life-changing pain and suffering. When someone else caused the burn injury due to negligence, the victim may be able to seek compensation for these and other losses.
Fire and burn injuries often occur in the home, with tenants of apartments, including public housing. Landlords are required to follow specific city, state, and even federal regulations designed to keep their tenants safe from harm.
Landlord’s Responsibilities Regarding Fire Safety
- Making sure smoke alarms are on the property and properly located
- Having a safe, sturdy fire escape
- Keeping the fire escape clear
- Ensuring the property’s electrical wiring is in good condition and safely installed
- Installing fireproof doors
- Having regularly serviced fire extinguishers on the property
Neglecting these duties and other fire safety obligations is dangerous and can directly lead to injury in the event of a fire. Unfortunately, careless landlords who shirk their duties towards their tenants are more common than you would think.
Is Your Landlord Following the Law?
Landlords generally must adhere to local and state laws designed to protect tenants from a variety of hazards, including those related to fires. There are also federal laws for landlords whose properties include apartment units categorized as Section 8 housing. These laws govern the use and placement of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, sprinklers and other preventative measure. Unfortunately, not all landlords take these laws seriously.
If a fire breaks out and a tenant is injured as a result, the property owner could be held responsible for not keeping their property safe for tenants or guests.
Here are two major safety features apartments generally should have:
According to the California Health and Safety Code § 13113.8, a smoke detector must be installed just outside of each bedroom in a private or rental property. Properties built before 1992 are required to have battery-operated detectors in place. Structures built after 1992 must have hardwired smoke detectors with a battery backup. These newer properties must also have a smoke detector inside each bedroom. All smoke detectors must be approved and listed by the state fire marshal.
The type of smoke detector can also make a difference. Many apartment fires are slow smoldering, and an ionization smoke alarm, which is cheaper and more commonly installed, might not detect an abundance of smoke. A photoelectric smoke alarm detects smoke much more effectively. The NFPA recommends using both kinds, though most homes are only outfitted with the first one.
Various laws determine if your landlord is required to provide units with portable fire extinguishers, but you should know where one is located. Fire extinguishers may not be in your unit, but regulations might require one to be present on your floor or in an easily accessible area.
The absence of a fire extinguisher can cause a fire to spread and result in severe burns and astronomical medical bills. That is lasting financial, physical, and emotional damage done to a tenant, all due to simple negligence by a careless landlord.
Degrees of Burns
Pain resulting from burn injuries can be challenging to treat because burns differ in their types and severity. There are three types of burns:
A first-degree burn is also called a superficial burn or wound. It’s an injury that affects the first layer of your skin. First-degree burns are one of the mildest forms of skin injuries, and they usually don’t require medical treatment. However, some superficial burns can be quite large or painful and may require a trip to your doctor.
Second-degree burns, or partial thickness burns, are more severe than first-degree burns. They affect the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, and part of the second layer of skin, called the dermis. Second-degree burns can be very painful and often take several weeks to heal. Burns that affect large areas of skin can cause serious complications and may be prone to infection.
Sometimes called a “full thickness burn,” this type of injury destroys two full layers of your skin. Instead of turning red, it may appear black, brown, white or yellow. It won’t hurt because this type of burn damages nerve endings.
Types of Burns
Type of burn resulting from making contact with heated objects, such as boiling water, steam, hot cooking oil, fire, and hot objects. Scalds are the most common type of thermal burn suffered by children, but for adults thermal burns are most commonly caused by fire.
A chemical burn occurs when your skin or eyes come into contact with an irritant, such as an acid or a base. Chemical burns are also known as caustic burns. They may cause a reaction on your skin or within your body. These burns can affect your internal organs if chemicals are swallowed.
A flash burn is caused by an explosion of natural gas, propane, gasoline, or other flammable liquid. Any unprotected part of your skin that is exposed to the explosion can get burned.
Occur when a person breathes in fumes coming from smoke or chemicals. This is usually sustained when they are in an enclosed area. An inhalation burn may cause swelling in the upper airway, difficulty breathing, or even carbon monoxide poisoning.
Symptoms of Burns
- Red skin
- Peeling skin
- Pain — The degree of pain is not related to the severity of the burn as the most serious burns can be painless
- Shock — Symptoms of shock include pale and clammy skin, weakness, bluish lips and fingernails, and a drop in alertness
- White or charred skin
- Heart rhythm disturbances (following electrical injury)
Can I File a Negligence Lawsuit against My Landlord?
Receiving a burn injury can range from a Band-Aid to multiple surgeries depending on the severity. When you have been a victim of an injury, it is important to be prepared. Burns are an emotionally trying and painful injury. They are also, unfortunately, all too common. A burn can come from heat, exposure to chemicals, electrocution, and even time spent in the sun. If you have recently suffered a burn injury, it is important that you get the assistance of a burn injury lawyer as soon as possible to help you fight for maximum monetary compensation.
You may be able to file a lawsuit against your landlord, if fire safety precautions were not adequate or are non-existent. However, there are instances when landlords use the language of a lease to convince or pressure tenants to not proceed with a lawsuit. Therefore, it’s important to understand your rights as a tenant to prevent your landlord from taking advantage of you.
Landlords and apartment buildings have a legal duty to keep their tenants and visitors safe. They breach that legal duty if they know about a dangerous condition on the property, or should know about it, and fail to:
- Repair the hazard
- Protect people from harm from it
- Give people adequate warning about the dangers of the hazard.
Contact a Southern California Burn Injury Lawyer
Because landlords do have these core duties to their tenants, it may seem like a simple matter to show that they were negligent. However, in practice, it can take a lot to prove negligence in court. When determining if you have a case, your attorney will need to thoroughly investigate the specific circumstances that led to your injuries and gather appropriate evidence.
At the Law Offices of Brent A. Duque, we maintain a staff of a highly professional, knowledgeable, aggressive and successful Premises Liability Attorneys who represent injured people through our offices all across Southern California. Contact us today at 1-877-241-9554 to learn more about your legal options. A free consultation is just a phone call away.