Smoke inhalation is the number one cause of fatal injuries in fires. These types of injuries occur when the victim breathes in toxic substances such as smoke, chemicals, particulate matter and gases from a fire. Extreme heat can also cause serious smoke inhalation injuries. When you inhale harmful smoke, your lungs and airways can become inflamed and prevent oxygen from entering and being absorbed. This may lead to breathing problems or even respiratory failure.
We see smoke inhalation injuries occur commonly in structural fires in New York City where people get trapped in an area such as a kitchen, bedroom or even stairwells. Many fires that occur inside homes and apartment buildings are started by malfunctioning equipment such as space heaters or other household electrical appliances.
Bronx Fire and Smoke Inhalation Injuries
According to a CNN news report, all 17 victims from the Jan. 9 Bronx fire died of smoke inhalation. In what officials have called one of the most horrific fires in New York City’s history, the blaze was sparked by a malfunctioning space heater in a duplex unit. That fire flooded the 19-story apartment with smoke because the doors to the apartment were left open, officials said.
The apartments where the fire occurred was constructed in 1972 and did not have a building-wide sprinkler system. However, it was the smoke in an internal stairwell, and not flames, that overcame residents as they tried to flee the building. Officials said as the fire burned, the smoke was drawn through the broken door on the third floor toward an open stairwell door high above on the 15th floor.
FDNY officials said that when a door on the upper floors is open, it gives a “flue effect” like a chimney. Officials had initially said 19 people died, but updated that number to 17 dead, which includes eight children. Fifteen people remain in critical condition. Officials also said it was the smoke and not the fire itself that caused the deaths and critical injuries in this fire.
They stated that any maintenance issues related to the self-closing door remaining wide open would be part of the investigation into the fire. In addition, residents had pointed out that the smoke detectors in the building were malfunctioning on a daily basis and raising false alarms.
Premises Liability Issues
The FDNY states that nearly two-thirds of fatal fires in the city involve smoke alarms that don’t work. Smoke detectors and fire alarms are critical when it comes to protection from fires and smoke inhalation injuries. New York City’s Housing Maintenance Code require property owners and/or property managers to provide, install and maintain smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in each unit. The devices should also be maintained and remain in good working order.
When a fire is caused by negligence (carelessness) or a lack of property maintenance, the property owners and/or property managers may be held liable for the injuries and loss of life that occurs. Injured victims or families of deceased victims can file a premises liability claim against the responsible parties including, but not limited to, the property owner, property manager, maintenance/repair company, etc.
Injured victims in such cases can seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost income and benefits, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc. Families that have lost loved ones can file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking compensation as well.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured in a fire or explosion, the experienced New York personal injury attorneys with the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. For 50 years, our skilled attorneys have established a proven track record of assisting injured victims. One of our clients — a hot water burn victim — secured $750,000 in damages from the property owner and manager.
Our firm also obtained a $985,000 settlement out of a $1 million policy for two people who suffered smoke inhalation injuries because the homeowner did not have smoke detectors installed and the $15,000 that was left on the insurance policy was for a person that we did not represent. Another client recovered $2,500,000 due to a faulty space heater. Also, one of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and/or medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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