Space heaters are responsible for many deaths and injuries each year. According to the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA), portable and stationary space heaters were responsible for about 18,000 home fires, resulting in 320 deaths and 1,180 injuries in 2011. Estimates are that space heaters cause $559 million in direct property damage.
According to insurance company Nationwide, 80% of home heating fire deaths involve space heaters, and 32% of home heating fires are caused by space heaters. Over a five year period, Nationwide reported paying more than $48 million in space heater claims. Space heater fires can be the result of improper use (which may or may not be due to inappropriate instructions or warnings from manufacturers), or from defective equipment, such as faulty wiring or the lack of thermal protection to automatically shut off space heaters if they overheat.
Who Can I Sue for a Fire Caused by a Space Heater?
Depending upon the facts and circumstances of your case, there are a number of potentially liable parties, including:
- The manufacturer of the space heater. The manufacturer of the space heater may be liable if the space heater itself was defective, such as if the heating coils or other aspects were either designed or built improperly. The company may also be liable if it did not provide clear instructions concerning how to use the space heater, or clear warnings concerning what precautions to take in order to not start a fire (for example, space heaters should be placed in an area where they cannot be touched by children or pets, and the heater should be at least three feet away from anything combustible).
- The manufacture of defective parts included in the space heater. If the manufacturer has built the space heater using defective parts obtained from another supplier or manufacturer, such other company may also bear liability.
- Wholesalers, Retailers, and Others in the Chain of Distribution. Parties other than manufacturers may also be liable for the sale of a defective product, although a jury may determine that in the case of a defective product, stores and others may have a much lower level of liability than those manufacturing a defective product. Nonetheless, because they sold or participated in the sale of the product, they are often to be found to have at least some level of liability.
- Your insurance company. If you have fire insurance, your insurance company is required to compensate you for all covered losses as set forth in your policy. While we are led by commercials to believe that our insurance company will be there for us if we experience a fire, often insurance companies act in their own self-interest and try to avoid paying legitimate claims. In some instances, their wrongful conduct can even rise to a claim of insurance bad faith, which is a separate action (called a tort) beyond the recovery of what they otherwise owe.
Identifying the Parties Liable for Your Space Heater Fire
At the Dysart Law firm, our principal attorney (and former federal prosecutor) Chris Dysart has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of injury victims. He is experienced in identifying all those believed to be liable for causing injury and death, and, through the litigation process and using experts and accident reconstructionists, seeking to hold such parties fully accountable for the injuries and damages they cause.