In some cases regarding building fires, particular cases of arson, determining liability depends solely on finding the culprit who intentionally started the fire. However, many building fires aren’t necessarily the result of malice or even any agenda whatsoever. So, determining liability can generally be a bit trickier than simply finding someone who committed a crime.
Typically, building fires can start in a number of ways, many of which are very easy to come about as accidents or lapses in judgment. Some examples include unattended ovens or candles, improperly installed electrical equipment or wiring, faulty fire management equipment such as sprinklers or fire alarms, or even weather-related events such as lightning strikes. Any of these events could have a profound impact on who might be held liable in the event that a fire breaks out as a result.
Often is the case when someone might be in the process of cooking a meal using the oven and then ends up having to leave for a brief while to tend to something else. Or a candle could be lit anywhere in the vicinity when someone takes leave of it, be it to go elsewhere in the house, become preoccupied with another activity such as a bath or falling asleep, or sometimes even leaving the residence altogether for whatever reason. While it might be just as easy to turn the oven off or blow the candle out and take safeguards against the possibility of a random occurrence, there are some who err with the intention of only being away a brief moment. That moment turns to several minutes (sometimes even longer) and, without even realizing it, the risk of a fire becomes unfortunately great. And while it may not have been your intention at all to start a house fire, the sad reality is that you would be held liable for such negligence. As home owners or renters, there are some obvious responsibilities and precautions we need to take to avoid such disasters. Keeping your fire safety devices up to date is a good one, but better yet is simply never leaving such a risk up to chance. While you may be away for just a couple of minutes, a couple of minutes may be all it takes for something to happen. It is not time to check the calendar.
In the case of electrical failures, unless you were the one to install the wiring yourself, such events would likely fall to the ones responsible for the installation and its subsequent failure. Depending on the circumstances that led to the failure, one of the several different possibilities exist for who might be the defendant in this case:
- The company that supplies power to the building
- The individual or company that installed the wiring
- The landlord or owner themselves
- The tenant who occupies the space in which the fire originated
- The entity who failed to inspect the building properly or take steps to assure fire hazards were accounted for
- The manufacturer of the faulty machinery
As well as many others, depending on the root cause of the fire. However, in the case of a natural disaster that might start a fire (a lightning strike, for example), it is difficult to hold anyone accountable – as you might imagine – for a natural disaster. Most of the time, fire damage as the result of a lightning strike, in particular, is covered by home owner’s insurance (or by renter’s insurance if that is applicable in your case).
Regardless of what you might surmise to be the root cause of a fire outbreak in your home, it is almost always in your best interest to consult the expertise of someone specialized in fire litigation in order to get the best results possible for your situation.