residential home on fire wrongful death

Fire and burn injuries can be devastating to victims. Even those who survive the tragedy may be forced to suffer lifelong psychological trauma and the loss of a beloved family member—and worst of all, many fatal fires are entirely preventable. This article explains the most common types of fires nationwide as well as who could be liable for your medical bills and other losses.

Biggest Causes of Fatal Fires in the United States

According to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) report, Fire Loss in the United States During 2020, 3,500 people died as a result of fatal burns or smoke inhalation. The majority of these deaths occurred in a:

  • House or apartment building. Although home fires accounted for only 25% of total incidents, these fires caused nearly 75% of all fire-related deaths. Most people spend at least eight hours at home, and fires that happen when residents are sleeping are overwhelmingly likely to be fatal.
  • Temporary residence. Hotels, motels, resorts, rooming houses, dormitories, and assisted living facilities are more regulated than home properties, but they also have a high concentration of people living in a compact space. Properties such as assembly halls, storage units, or businesses also saw an increased incidence of fires but lower overall fatality risk.
  • Vehicle. In 2020, vehicle fires were the cause of 18% of fire deaths. Cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles in transit caused the majority of vehicle deaths, many as a result of explosions or car fires after a collision.
  • Outdoor setting. Half of the reported fires in 2020 were outdoor fires that didn’t involve vehicles or structures, such as wildfires or ignition to crops, timber, outside trash, and bonfires. Despite the high incidence of outdoor fires, these only resulted in 4% of fire deaths.

Potential at-Fault Parties in a Wrongful Death Case

The law allows survivors to take action on behalf of someone killed by negligence, but it’s often difficult to tell exactly who’s to blame for starting a fire. Our Nashville wrongful death attorneys can determine whether you could collect compensation for a loved one’s medical expenses and lost future earnings, your own injuries, and damages for your pain and suffering.

Depending on the details of the incident, you may have a claim against:

  • Property owners. Structural fires often have underlying problems that ultimately result in a fire. You have the right to sue a property owner if they knew about the defects on their property (and the associated risks of the defects) but failed to make repairs before the defects resulted in fatal injuries.
  • Automakers. Auto manufacturers can be held liable for vehicle fires if the vehicle design made fires more likely or made it difficult to escape the vehicle quickly. Parts manufacturers and mechanics may also be guilty of negligence if they create or install sub-par components.
  • Municipalities or government entities. Lawsuits have been filed in response to the 2016 fires that devastated Gatlinburg, destroying over 17,000 acres and injuring over 200 people. In these wrongful death claims, survivors allege that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park officials and several National Park Service employees failed to warn local officials and residents of the fire’s imminent danger, postponing evacuation and hindering fire suppression efforts.
  • Other third parties. Relatives of employees working at the time of the blaze could be owed more than workers’ compensation death benefits. For example, a building owner may be held responsible for failing to install fire alarms or designate emergency exits. Police officers and firefighters may have third-party injury claims against negligent drivers in a car crash fire.

If a preventable fire took the life of someone you love, we can help. Contact GriffithLaw today through our online form or give us a call at (615) 807-7900 to tell us your story. We don’t charge for initial consultations, and we don’t charge any legal fees until after your case is won.