Getting a Lawsuit Recovery from a Fire Loss; Zero Smoke Detectors Equal Seven Deaths; Candles, Smoke Alarms, and Lawsuits

After Saturday’s catastrophic fire which claimed a family of five in Chelsea, there was another fatal fire on Sunday in Brooklyn which took two lives.  See New York Daily News story.  A man and his nephew of 12 years of age died.

In both fires the victims had non-working smoke detectors in their homes. 

We indicated in yesterday’s post that a smoke alarm is often a family’s sole defense against fire.  A non-working smoke detector is useless.

Many people allow their smoke detectors to go dead because they have failed to change the batteries.  Other people take-out the batteries when the smoke detector has gone-off once too often while cooking.  These are recipes for disaster.

Here are two recommendations from FDNY on keeping your detector working:

  • test your alarm monthy; and
  • change the battery twice a year regularly, such as when you change your clocks.

In a larger home, you should have two smoke detectors.  One should be near the kitchen.  The second should be near the bedrooms.  Multi-level homes should smoke detectors on separate levels.

It also appears that yesterday’s blaze in Brooklyn was caused by a candle in the next apartment.  Unwatched and unprotected candles are very dangerous. 

  Great care should be used with candles, such as

  • be sure that there is nothing flammable near the candle, such as drapes or curtains which can be blown to the flame;
  • make sure that there is nothing flammable on the table where the candle is placed and that the candle is placed on a non-flammable surface or tray
  • if you use decorative candles, use the ones which are enclosed in a glass; and
  • train your children that candles are dangerous.

We do not recommend the use of candles except for religious purposes. 

We had a case where a client was using a candle in his bedroom on his night table.  A cloth covering the table caught fire, and the client was burned while trying to extinguish the fire.

If you have been injured in a fire, please feel free to call to me at 800-244-9313 for a free consultation.

Mark E. Seitelman, 10/13/08,


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