Apartment fires make up just 25% of the total fires in the United States. However, they’re responsible for 75% of the deaths and 76% of the injuries. They’re also responsible for tens of billions of dollars in damage every year.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, the problem is getting worse. Between 2020 and 2021, civilian deaths rose 8.5% even with a severe decrease in fires due to the COVID pandemic.
US Census data shows the residential population of the United States grew 46% from 1980 until 2021. This means that there are more homes, more apartments, that can catch fire. In fact, a structure fire occurs every 89 seconds in the United States, and the cost of the property damage has gone way up over the years.
In 1980, the average cost of a house fire repair was $12,214. In 2020, it was $23,562. In 2020 alone, residential fires (such as apartment fires) caused $8.4 billion in property damage, which was again in a year where most people static for more than half the year.
There are a variety of causes for these types of fires, some might be surprising.
|Cause of Fire
|Average number of structure fires
|Average annual property loss
|Faulty heating equipment||45,800||$1 billion|
Whenever there is an apartment fire lawsuit, there are at least two sides. There are lawyers representing apartment owners or renters, attorneys representing the owner of the building, and often insurance lawyers. Each attorney has their own agenda, with the ultimate goal of trying to obtain or save their client as much as possible.
While insurance commercials portray companies as caring and compassionate, when it litigation the insurance lawyers become cold and calculating. An apartment dweller may think they have fire insurance, but most insurance policies have certain standards that have to be kept in order for the policy to actually take effect.
For example, if a smoke detector is found to be malfunctioning in any way, an insurance company could argue that nullifies the policy. Even if it was no fault of the person or persons living in the apartment, they will still be held liable for damages. Also, if the apartment is not properly cleaned, if there are chemicals considered “dangerous” in the home, if the apartment exits are blocked in any way – these could all lead to the denial of insurance benefits.
Normally, the insurance company for the apartment owner will provide attorneys for any defense of civil litigation claims. However, an apartment complex may have private attorneys not paid for by the insurance company. In this instance, there could be multiple agendas negotiating the claims.
Defense attorneys will likely point the finger at residents in a fire, possibly blaming them for any damage, injury or even death.
Apartment renters or owners who experienced a fire may contact an attorney to help them in the claims process. These claims do not always lead to lawsuits, sometimes insurance companies are willing to settle claims in the pre-litigation process.
However, should things escalate, the attorney will often fight for a consumer’s rights.
Fire claims can be made against the apartment owner, the insurance company, a company that made a product, or even a utility or municipality. The ultimate claim will be made based upon the way in which the fire began.
For example, if an appliance malfunctions and starts a fire in an apartment’s kitchen, the renter may have a case against the manufacturer or distributor. Or, if a fire starts due to faulty wiring, there could be a lawsuit against the developer, the electrician or even the company that hired the electrician.
Lawsuits against the insurance company happen when an insurance company refuses to pay out a claim in full, or decides that it won’t honor the claim at all.
Apartment fires are deadly, cause serious property damage and even force people out of their homes for extended periods of time. People with apartment fire insurance may think they’re covered in an emergency, but this isn’t always the case. Any renter’s insurance policy should be reviewed by an attorney to examine the specific language to make sure the person or person’s renting the property are properly covered should a disaster occur.