After Notre-Dame: Fire Safety and Liability

Earlier this week, people in Paris and around the world watched with horror and heartbreak as Notre-Dame cathedral, a beloved French and Catholic landmark, suffered extensive damage during a sudden fire. The cathedral, which has towered over Paris since the 12th century, lost most of its roof during the blaze, as well as its iconic spire. Luckily, hardworking firefighters were able to stop the spread of the fire before the entire structure collapsed, and the cathedral’s artifacts were safely moved. Other classic parts of Notre-Dame, including its organ, stained glass windows, and bell towers, also survived.

For Parisians, Catholics, and people around the world who were in awe of Notre-Dame, the fire was devastating and unexpected. For some, it might have also raised fears about a fire in their own favorite space or even their own home. As the world continues to show support for Notre-Dame, here is what you need to know about fire safety and liability on your own turf.

What Causes Fires?

According to the National Fire Protection Association, fires are a major cause of destruction in the United States. In 2017, firefighters responded to 1,319,500 fires—that’s one every 24 seconds—and 3,400 people died as a result of fires. Many of these fires occurred in homes, and the most frequent causes included:

  • Cooking
  • Heating
  • Carelessness
  • Electrical malfunction

Even a simple issue or a small mistake, can lead to a devastating fire. Fires are dangerous because they can spread very quickly, causing massive damages within minutes. They can also cause serious, even fatal injuries, including burns and smoke inhalation.

Fire Safety At Home

To keep yourself, your family, and your home safe, fire prevention is very important. To decrease the risk of a fire in your home, you should:

  • Install smoke detectors on every floor of your home and in all bedrooms
  • Test your smoke alarms every few months and changes the batteries as needed
  • Have a fire escape plan for your family, and don’t forget about any pets!

In the event that a fire does start in your home, swift action is key. You should get away from the fire as quickly as possible. Focus on saving yourself and your family rather than any household items. If you need to move through smoke to escape, try to stay low to the ground. Never go through doors or exits that feel warm to the touch, as the fire could be on the other side. In the event that you’re trapped, keep the door closed. If available, place a wet towel underneath the door.

After a fire, there might be injuries, extensive damage, and grief over the loss of household valuable. There might also be questions about liability. In many cases, building fires are the result of accidents. However, they can also be caused by negligence, defective products, or even outright malicious behavior. In these cases, people who suffer personal harm or damage might have some legal rights.

Building Liability

For example, if a landlord failed to replace a broken smoke alarm in a tenant’s apartment, despite frequent requests to do so, they could potentially be held liable for injuries sustained during a fire in that apartment. This is because they knew the danger but failed to fix it. Cases of fires caused by negligence often concern apartments, rented offices, or other buildings where someone other than the tenant is mainly responsible for fire safety.

Defective Product Liability

For fires that are caused by a defective product, liability may fall on the manufacturer. If a product is being safely and properly used yet still causes a fire due to an issue, the defect may be responsible for the fire, and the manufacturer could be liable. Some products that frequently lead to fire hazards include:

  • Water heaters
  • Vape pens
  • Lawn and garden equipment
  • Medical devices
  • Clothing, which can be made with flammable material
  • Electronics

Products can also lead to fire hazards by failing to disclose how to safely use the product. For example, if a space heater is prone to overheating, the manufacturer should disclose this. If they do not, the consumer might not know to take the right safety precautions.

Finally, fires can also be caused by reckless behavior, from outright arson to smoking in non-smoking areas. Liability for these kinds of fires might seem obvious, but there are still certain complexities. It can be difficult to determine if a fire was caused by accident or through negligence, and many factors might still be involved.

A fire, whether it takes places in an office, home, church, or store, is a scary event. With Notre-Dame’s damage and hopeful recovery in the news, now is the perfect time to make sure you’re taking the right step to prevent a fire in your favorite space.

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The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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