Space Heater Fire Lawsuits Related to Burns & Injuries
Space heaters are relatively safe when they are used correctly. But even with proper use, a defect in a space heater can lead to a raging fire in seconds.
The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help you hold the manufacturer accountable if you were injured in a fire caused by a defective space heater. Lawsuits involving faulty space heaters are typically filed under product liability law.
Call our Chicago premises liability lawyers today at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation about your case. All confidential or sensitive information you share with our legal team remains private through a client-attorney relationship.
National and Illinois Fire Statistics
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that heating equipment is the leading cause of residential fires yearly. Here are some of the following statistics offered by the NFPA:
- There were 48,530 home fires in the US every year from 2014 to 2016
- These fires caused 500 deaths, 1,350 injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damages
- Heating equipment accounted for 14% of reported home fires
- Space heating units caused 81% of home heating fire deaths
Aside from space heaters, causes of heating-related fires in 2016-2018 included chimneys, central heating equipment, and hot water tanks.
What Causes Space Heater Fires?
Despite safety features, portable space heaters cause an average of 1,700 house fires yearly, resulting in around 80 deaths and 160 injuries. The following are some of the most common causes of space heater-related fires:
- Proximity to Combustible Materials: Placing a space heater near combustible or flammable material, such as bedding or flammable liquids, can quickly spark a fire when the material makes contact with the heater’s heating coils or elements.
- Overloading: Space heaters extract a significant amount of electrical current. Heaters can short circuit or ignite when plugged into overloaded extension cords.
- Extensive Use: It is not safe to use a space heater for longer than the recommended time as per the manufacturer’s instructions. If a unit stays on for too long, its excessively hot parts can break down and catch fire.
- Defective Product: A space heater with a design defect or defective parts can malfunction and combust.
A fire can lead to burn injuries, ranging from mild to severe. The three burn levels indicate the severity of injuries:
- First-Degree Burn: A first-degree burn affects the outermost layer of the skin and causes minimal skin damage. Symptoms include redness, pain, minor inflammation, and dry, peeling skin as the injury heals. First-degree burns usually don’t require medical attention unless they affect a large skin area (more than three inches).
- Second-Degree Burn: These burns penetrate beyond the outermost layer of the skin. They are more severe and cause blisters, pain, and extreme redness. Second-degree burns are also prone to infection since they expose the second layer of the skin to bacteria. However, it is possible to treat second-degree burns at home unless they are big or in a sensitive area.
- Third-Degree Burn: Third-degree burns are the most severe and cause the most damage to the skin. They penetrate so deeply into the skin layers that the victim may no longer feel pain because of nerve damage. A third-degree burn requires immediate medical attention and may need surgery to prevent scarring and contraction.
The more severe the burn is, the higher the risk of complications. For example, third-degree burns can lead to infection, blood loss, and shock, which, in turn, can also cause death.
Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires. It occurs when you inhale combustion products, including irritant compounds and chemical asphyxiants.
Signs of smoke inhalation include:
- Shortness of breath
- Irritated eyes
- Soot in nostrils or throat
- Skin discoloration
- Confusion, fainting, seizures
Filing a Space Heater Fire Claim or Lawsuit
If a faulty space heater injured you, you have the right to seek compensation from the liable party. But first, you will have to prove that:
- The defective product caused your injuries
- The product was defective when you bought it
- The defect made the product unreasonably dangerous
Who May Be at Fault?
Depending on your space heating unit fire case, multiple parties may be liable for the incident. These parties may include:
- The Product Manufacturer: The space heater manufacturer may be held liable if the product is defective or if they failed to provide clear instructions on how to properly use the heater. A manufacturer may also be found liable if they did not warn consumers about possible hazards of improper use of the heater.
- The Parts Manufacturer: In some cases, the fault is not on the product manufacturer itself but on the manufacturer who provided the defective parts. Sometimes, both parties are held liable.
- The Seller or Distributor: Wholesalers and retailers selling defective space heaters may also be held liable for fire claims. However, juries often find sellers to have a much lower level of liability than manufacturers.
Users may also be responsible for causing space heater fires. For example, the space heater could spark because of improper handling by the user. In that case, the manufacturer or seller may not be held entirely liable for the accident, even if the product is considered defective.
Contact a lawyer for formal legal advice to determine who should be held responsible for your space heater fire.
Filing a Lawsuit Against Your Insurance Company
Fire insurance could cover your losses in the incident, such as property damage. Unfortunately, some insurance companies lowball settlement offers to protect their bottom line.
Some may even act in bad faith to force clients to accept the settlement, which calls for a separate action apart from the compensation they owe.
Damages in a Space Heater Fire
Being injured by a faulty electric space heater can cause significant losses for you and your family. A personal injury lawyer can help you recover those losses by claiming the following damages:
- Medical Expenses: You can seek just compensation for all medical expenses associated with your fire injuries, including emergency treatment, hospitalization, medication, and surgery.
- Pain and Suffering: Physical pain, mental anguish, and emotional distress are possible damages in such a traumatic event.
- Loss of Income: Burn injuries can put you out of work. You can recover your income losses. You could also file a claim for lost future income if you lose your job.
- Disfigurement and Scarring: Severe burn injuries can lead to scarring or skin contraction.
- Property Damage: You may also recover compensation losses in the fire, including personal belongings and your home.
- Wrongful Death: Families that have lost loved ones in home heating fires can file a wrongful death lawsuit for financial recovery of funeral costs, treatment, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium.
- Punitive Damages: If the defendant is held liable for the incident during the litigation process, the court may also punish them for punitive damages. These exemplary damages are included in some fire lawsuits to make manufacturers or sellers correct their behavior and prevent injury to others.
Staying Safe With Stationary & Portable Space Heaters
If you want to stay warm with a space heater during the winter months, follow these safety precautions to keep you, your home, and your family safe:
- Install smoke detectors
- Change the batteries on all your existing smoke detectors
- Do not leave your heater unattended
- Do not place your heater near a combustible material (e.g., bedding, towels, paper)
- Avoid placing your heater on carpeted floors
- Only use your heater for the recommended amount of time
- Purchase heaters that automatically shut off when they overheat
Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer to Resolve Your Space Heater Fire Case
A space heater fire can cause severe injuries or even take someone’s life. If you or a loved one were injured in a fire caused by a faulty heater, you have the legal right to hold the manufacturer of the malfunctioning product accountable.
The attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC can help you file your lawsuit against the at-fault parties. Having an experienced and aggressive lawyer by your side is the best way to recover compensation for your damages and get your life back on track.
We offer a free consultation to all our clients to help them understand their cases. Contact our attorneys at (888) 424-5757 today. All sensitive information you provide will remain confidential under an attorney-client relationship.