Structure Fire

Structure Fire

Each year, the United States sees over one million fires and explosions throughout the country, resulting in wrongful death, burn injuries, smoke inhalation injuries and property damage amounting to billions of dollars in losses.

If your life has been altered by a structure fire, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney about your claim. The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has experience representing families who have lost loved ones in building fires, as well as those who have sustained fire injuries.

Our firm has been retained by families affected by the 2016 Oakland Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 people, as well as a subsequent 2017 fire in West Oakland that killed four people and left over 100 people homeless. In our first fire disaster case, we represented many of the guests who were injured or killed in the 1986 Dupont Plaza Hotel fire in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Several disgruntled hotel maintenance workers started the fire in protest during a labor dispute. In all, 97 people died and 140 were injured. The hotel owners were cited for safety violations, including lack of emergency exits.

What is Involved in a Structure Fire Lawsuit?

Fire victims who have sustained serious personal injuries generally seek compensation for the following:

  • Past and Present Medical Expenses
  • Past and Future Lost Income
  • Past and Future Pain and Suffering
  • Disability and/or Disfigurement
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Emotional Distress

If a person loses a loved one, such as a family member or a spouse, the surviving family member(s) can file a wrongful death lawsuit for damages against the person and/or corporation responsible for the structure fire or explosion.

In a wrongful death lawsuit, depending on the state where the fire occurred, the claimant can sue for some or all of the following damages:

  • Burial Expenses
  • Medical Costs
  • Loss of Past and Potential Earnings
  • Loss of Comfort and Companionship
  • Conscious Pre-death Pain and Suffering
  • Punitive Damages (monetary penalty deemed necessary to punish and deter a defendant from committing the same or similar conduct)

By retaining us to handle your fire accident case, our firm will conduct a thorough, independent investigation of the circumstances which led to the disaster. During this process, our team will ensure you receive all necessary treatment, gather and preserve evidence to build your case, hire experts, determine liability, demand compensation, file a lawsuit, if the “demand” is not met, and finally, settle your case with your approval or go to trial.

Types of Fire Injuries

The severity of burn injuries is expressed through degrees. Each degree classifies the level of tissue damage in a given area—the higher the degree, the worse the burn.

Most people believe there are three burn degrees, which is a misconception. In fact, there are six burn degrees; we just don’t often hear about fourth degree burns because they carry only a slight chance of survival. Fifth and sixth degree burns are always fatal.

First Degree Burn

First degree burns cause the least skin damage and are recognizable by redness of skin, pain, minor inflammation, swelling, or dry, peeling skin. They are often referred to as “superficial burns” because they only affect the skin’s outermost layer. First degree burns are most commonly sustained due to prolonged sun exposure or contact with hot water.

Second Degree Burn

Second degree burns are more severe as they affect a deeper layer of the skin. They are recognizable by blisters and redness on the burnt skin, and hurt significantly more than first degree burns. Most second degree burns happen as a result of limited contact with flames, boiling liquids, or chemicals. Second degree burns are prone to infection and affected areas can leave severe scarring.

Third Degree Burn

Third degree burns are the most severe in the sub-lethal category, as they destroy all three layers of the skin and require hospitalization. They can also involve muscle, tendon and ligament tissue. Third degree burns are recognized by charring and catastrophic damage to the skin and subcutaneous tissue. In cases where subcutaneous tissue is completely burned, the burn injury victim can develop compartment syndrome, a life-threatening condition caused by pressure buildup from internal bleeding or swelling of tissues.

Typical causes of third degree burns include fire breakout, contact with aggressive chemicals, or suffering an electric shock.

Fourth Degree Burn

These burns cause damage that reaches beyond the skin and can affect internal organs. Most fourth degree burns are caused by a fire breakout or severe electric shock. The fatality rate among victims with fourth degree burns is high. Those who survive always lose skin and other tissue and require a skin grafting procedure.

Fifth Degree Burn

Fifth degree burns affect all soft tissue and all organs in the affected region. They can also damage the bone to some extent. The chances of surviving fifth degree burns is virtually zero. Those who have survived have required amputation.

Sixth Degree Burn

Sixth degree burns are not survivable. Damage from a sixth degree burn are often so extensive that bones can be badly damaged or even charred.

Smoke Inhalation

Contrary to popular belief, smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires. Inhaling smoke can result in thermal injury to the upper airway, irritation or chemical injury to the airways, asphyxiation, and/or carbon monoxide toxicity.

Smoke inhalation can also result in burns to the lungs, windpipe and throat. It can also cause respiratory failure and oxygen deprivation, which can lead to brain damage and/or cardiac issues, which is why inhaling smoke while trying to escape a structure fire can be fatal.

Common Causes and Types of Structure Fires

  • Gas lines poorly installed, maintained or repaired
  • Gas line leak
  • Furnace or water heater poorly installed, maintained or repaired
  • Kitchen fire
  • Faulty electrical wiring or maintenance
  • Flammable materials in building
  • Faulty fire safety equipment (smoke detectors, fire sprinklers, fire alarms, fire extinguishers, fire escapes, etc.)
  • Fire safety equipment not provided

Apartment Building Fire

An apartment building consists of three or more apartments, and is typically overseen by a landlord, property manager, superintendent, or the property owner. The property owner is responsible for providing apartment building tenants with a safe building, which means they must comply with fire safety regulations.

Property builders, owners and anyone charged with overseeing an apartment building must comply with applicable fire safety codes. In the event that fire safety regulations are overlooked or outright ignored, tenants or building guests who are killed or injured in a structure fire can file a lawsuit for negligence.

House Fire

If you are a homeowner, homeowner’s insurance covers a house fire. However, if you are a renter and you do not have renters’ insurance, your landlord or the property owner may be liable in the event of a house fire. Alternatively, if a house fire was started by a person hired by the homeowner or landlord to perform maintenance or work on the property, you may have a claim against the person or the business.


Gas lines run prominently through residential communities, industrial centers and places of business. In the U.S., we assume that natural gas lines are properly designed, installed and maintained. But sometimes, a gas line becomes corroded over time and isn’t properly replaced, or a gas line ruptures due to faulty repair work. When this happens, the consequence can be a deadly explosion.

Gas line explosions can happen in an instant, leaving certain disaster in its wake. Often, those in the affected area are defenseless against them with little to no time to react.

These explosions are most often caused by gas leaks. Such a gas leak is at the center of  the litigation against SoCalGas in the wake of the Porter Ranch gas leak, the largest methane gas leak in U.S. history, which forced thousands of residents to leave their homes.

Fire Safety Facts

  • More than 3,800 people in the U.S. die every year in fire related deaths and approximately 18,300 are injured.
  • More people die from smoke inhalation than flames. When a fire breaks out in a building, all of the oxygen can be sucked from a room and replaced with poisonous smoke and gases before flames can even be seen. People often die from lack of oxygen before flames reach their room.
  • Fire needs heat, oxygen and fuel to exist. Without one of these components, a fire cannot ignite. Water can be used as a source for cooling a fire, taking away its heat source. A blanket or dirt can cover a fire, removing its oxygen source. Fuel can be eliminated by removing any combustible material from a fire.
  • Residential fires are most likely to be started in the kitchen.
  • Smoke inhalation is the number one cause of death by fire in the U.S., followed by heating equipment.

Fire Accident Lawyer

The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has experience handling structure fire lawsuits. Our firm understands the devastation wrought by these tragedies and will fight to ensure the maximum available compensation for our clients.

Before she joined Baum Hedlund, lead structural fire attorney Diane Marger Moore spent years working as the Chief Deputy Arson Prosecutor for Marion County, Indiana. During this time, Diane gained invaluable experience investigating structure fires and collecting evidence for cases. Her extensive experience handling insurance litigation in multiple states, with an emphasis on causation, fraud and arson matters, makes Diane uniquely suited to handle complex structure fire claims.

If you would like to speak with a personal injury or wrongful death attorney about your claim, give us a call at 800-827-0087.