Fire Accidents & Burn Injuries
As a fire accident attorney in Los Angeles who has represented victims of fires in both residential and commercial structures, I can tell you that these cases are heartbreaking. Large scale infernos or even small house fires can cause major injuries and, too often than not, death to the inhabitants or occupants due to burns and burn related injuries, smoke inhalation, structural collapse and many other mechanisms causing bodily harm or mortality. Trying to conduct an investigation into the cause of the ignition and whether the fire source was the result of negligence or deliberate wrongdoing (such as arson), is arduous work which requires both legal and technical expertise.Main Causes of Fires in Urban and Suburban Areas Like Greater Los Angeles
In large urban areas with a heavy concentration of residential (homes, apartments and condos), commercial (offices) and industrial buildings, fires can be started any number of ways. However, the main sources of ignitions or combustion tend to be the following:
- Appliances or Equipment: Conflagrations that can be traced back to equipment or appliances account for a large portion of fires every year. Causes range from faulty design or manufacturing of the electrical components, poor maintenance or other factors. The types of equipment ranges from kitchen cooking appliances such as stoves or ovens, heating apparatus like space heaters or central heating and air conditioning like HVAC, computer or other electronic devices, torches, burners, soldering or welding gear, clothes washers or dryers, or any other device which has an electrical power source or creates a heat source.
- Chemicals: Chemicals capable of combustion are all around us in urban environments. They range from industrial manufacturing chemicals to everyday cleaning supplies.
- Electrical: Electrical failures or malfunctions account for a huge amount of structural fires every year. In fact, in 2011 (the latest data available from the U.S. Fire Administration), almost 50,000 household fires could be traced to some type of electrical problem and electrical sources of ignition were seen as a cause or partial cause of almost 18,000 non-residential fires in the U.S.
- Smoking Materials: Cigarettes, cigars, and other forms of smoking materials are sources of many residential fires including those in multi-unit buildings such as apartment and condominium complexes.
- Arson: Unfortunately, arson (including youth fire setting) still accounts for a portion of fires every year.
Fire accident scenes are, in a word, chaotic. Fire suppression activities can disturb or sometimes even destroy critical evidence. This makes it sometimes very difficult to trace the source of ignition. However, there is a science to this type of investigative work. Attorneys employ experts like forensic engineers to review evidence recovered from the scene, photographs of the scene, and an inspection of the fire scene itself to determine causation. Standards such as the the National Fire Prevention Association Codes and Standards are used to determine both the cause of the fire and whether the blaze was the result of civil and/or criminal negligence. For example, standards exist for the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment, placement of fire extinguishers/sprinklers/smoke alarms and other safety equipment, use of fire retardant materials in certain products and construction materials, standards for the handling and use of combustible materials and many other codes which set forth ways in which fires or fire related injury or death can and should be prevented. Tying the cause of a blaze to a violation of one of these types of codes or standards can help to prove legal liability.Necessity of Retaining A Personal Injury Law Firm Familiar with Fire Negligence Claims
Due to the complexity of the needed inspection, review and analysis of fire accident data, it is crucial to consult and retain a law office who can employ the proper resources to get the bottom of what happened. Time is of the essence in these types of legal claims. Legal theories of liability can range from negligence in the construction or maintenance of the property, product defect claims for appliances or equipment, or other conduct which falls below a reasonable standard in the operation of a business or the care and upkeep of a commercial, industrial or residential structure. Steven M. Sweat, APC has over three decades of combined experience representing fire injury victims and the families of persons killed in infernos in and around Los Angeles and throughout California. For a free consultation or advice, contact our toll free injury helpline at 866-966-5240 or in the L.A. area call 310-592-0445.Sources and Additional Resources:
- National Fire Protection Association, Consensus Codes and Standards
- Requests for Fire Investigation Reports From Los Angeles Fire Department
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths from burn injuries or smoke inhalation in residential fires are the third leading cause of death in homes in the United States. California residents are injured or killed by chemicals, fires, or electrical devices every year. The injuries from burns are usually extremely painful and may cause serious physical, as well as emotional and psychological scarring. All too often, a fire related accident is a result of carelessness or negligence which may give rise to tort claims for bodily harm or wrongful death.
Flammable and explosive materials which cause scalding or death are not limited to residences either, commercial facilities also contain many objects and substances capable of ignition. Gas lines, electrical supply and components, hot pipes, heaters, and many other devices can cause flare-ups or conflagrations. There are many recent examples in California including the San Bruno gas pipeline blast that killed and maimed numerous people .Common Causes of Burns to Skin
There are various types of components which cause first, second and even third degree burns to the skin including:
- Fire or Explosions
- Heat of any source which can cause incineration.
Fires in both residential and commercial structures are caused by a variety of factors including:
- Defective Products such as heaters, electrical appliances or gas grills
- Faulty electrical wiring
- Negligent maintenance of commercial and residential properties including apartments and condominiums
- Defective fire and gas detectors such as smoke detectors or carbon monoxide detectors.
Other types of burn injuries occur in and around industrial or workplace conditions. According to data presented by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 41,000 heat related burns occur every year, and there are nearly 16,000 chemical burns a year. In a report given by the National Burn Repository, the statistics report that there were 10,639 burn injuries reported at industrial sites, and 17% of the total injuries were work related.Medical Levels of Burns and Complications That Can Result
Typically, burns are classified by the following categories:
- First Degree Burns: These are chemical, heat or friction burns to the first layer of skin. Oftentimes these burns can be treated without emergency medical help but, examination should always be sought from a competent physician as to any significant signs including red or raw portions of the epidermis.
- Second Degree Scalds: These go deeper into the second layer of skin. They are usually categorized in seriousness between superficial partial thickness layer scalds on the one hand or deeper skin layer damage. These not always but often require trauma care.
- Third Degree Burning: These are also known as “full thickness” burns and result in damage all the way through all epidermal layers. They are very serious and almost always require immediate emergency medical treatment.
- Fourth Degree: This is one step more severe and involved damage to the tendons or ligaments.
The seriousness of burns usually depends upon both the level as well as the extend of body area that has been affected. The area of the body is also crucial. For example, ingestion of chemicals causing damage to the esophagus may obstruct respiratory function and be life threatening. Sometimes cleaning, rinsing and bandaging the area affected is enough but, from the second level on down, these injuries can require serious medical intervention including skin grafts and long term burn care. The greatest risk of complication for serious scalding is that of infection. Major infections can set in and require long term hospitalization and are the main cause of death in burn patients.Why is it Important To Consult and Retain a Personal Injury Lawyer Promptly Following a Fire Incident or Other Event Resulting in a Burn Injury or Wrongful Death?
If you are injured as a result of a chemical, electrical, heat, fire or explosion, that was a result of careless or negligence, you need a legal representative that is familiar with these types of claims. Fire and explosion incidents usually require immediate investigation and often require analysis by arson investigators or other experts able to determine the cause of the blast or blaze in order to make a legal determination of whether one or more parties including homeowners, commercial property owners, product manufacturers or distributors or other persons or entities may be legally responsible for payment to the victim or their family.
If you or a loved one have been injured, maimed or killed as the result of this type of incident, call our attorneys toll free statewide in California for a free consultation: 866-966-5240.Additional Resources