Frequently Asked Questions about Fire Loss

Q: What are some common causes of fires in the home?

A: According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), lighted smoking materials, especially cigarettes, are the leading cause of fatal fires in the home, causing 700 to 900 deaths each year. The NFPA lists cooking equipment as the leading cause of home fires and the fourth leading cause of home-fire deaths. Most cooking equipment fires involve a range or cook-top and happen when people leave what they are cooking unattended. Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires and third leading cause of fire deaths in the home according to the NFPA.

Q: What are some things I can do to prevent fires at home?

A: There are several safety tips to remember in order to lessen the risk of fires at home, including: never leave cooking food unattended; keep space heaters away from any flammable materials; inspect electrical cords and wiring regularly; blow out candles when you leave a room or go to sleep; keep matches and lighters away from children; and install smoke alarms and test them regularly.

Q: A product in my home caught fire and caused injuries. What should I do?

A: If the product is defective, you may have a claim against the manufacturer, distributor and/or seller of the product based on a product liability theory. Talk to an attorney who has handled personal injury and product liability cases about your situation and options.

Q: Can my child recover for burns suffered while trespassing on someone else's property?

A: In most states, landowners have an extra obligation when it comes to protecting trespassing children from enticing and dangerous artificial conditions on property. Depending on the circumstances, a set of rules called the attractive nuisance doctrine may allow your child to recover for fire damages even if he or she did not have the legal right to be on the property.

Q: I was injured in a fire caused by faulty wiring in an office building. Can I recover damages from the municipal agency responsible for inspecting buildings for fire code compliance?

A: Depending on the laws of your state, you may be able to recover damages for a fire that was caused by a state or local government agency's negligence. If the entity charged with inspecting buildings for compliance with fire codes fails to recognize a potential hazard or fails to recommend safety precautions, it could be held liable for any injuries caused by a fire that are linked to this failure.

Q: I was injured in a fire at work. Can I obtain compensation for my injuries beyond my workers' compensation benefits?

A: It depends. If the actions of a third party, other then your employer, caused your injuries, you may be able to seek damages from that third party that are not covered by workers' compensation. For example, if a fire was started by a product that a third-party manufacturer made or the negligence of an outside service provider contributed to the severity of the injuries you suffered, you may be able to recover damages from these parties.

Q: Can I recover damages for property loss caused by a fire?

A: Yes. Just as a person can recover compensation for personal injuries caused by fire, a person can also recover damages for property lost in a fire. If a fire destroys your home, car or just some of your possessions, you can bring a lawsuit to recover damages. Depending on the facts of your specific situation, you may have a claim based on negligence or product liability and there may be one or more potentially responsible parties.

Q: What are the different kinds of burns?

A: A first-degree burn is a burn that injures only the skin's outer layer, called the epidermis. A second-degree burn is a burn that destroys the outer layer of skin and part of the second layer underneath called the dermis. Second-degree burns are more severe and very painful because nerve endings in the dermis are often damaged. A third-degree burn is a burn that completely destroys both the epidermis and the dermis. Because nerve endings are destroyed with a third-degree burn, these burns may actually be less painful than a second degree burn.

Q: What is a critical burn?

A: A critical or severe burn is defined by the American Burn Association as third-degree burns over 10 percent of the body, or burns of any degree over 20 percent of the body.

Q: What is the cause of most fire deaths?

A: Smoke inhalation, not burns, is the cause of most fire deaths. Many times, people are overcome by smoke and cannot escape burning buildings. Smoke can be composed of deadly particles, vapors and toxic gases.

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