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Liability for Fires Caused by Household Chemicals

Improperly stored flammable materials can cause disasters. A backyard shed full of old gas cans or aerosol sprays could be a ticking time bomb, just waiting for an errant spark to set off a serious fire. When household chemicals cause a house fire, the effects can reach far beyond just the place where the fire starts. In some cases, not taking proper care of household chemicals can be grounds for liability for the damages that ensue from a fire.

A homeowner’s obligations to care for flammable materials

Outside of the context of deliberately set fires—the crime of arson—most lawsuits arising from fires are grounded in a theory of negligence. In simplified terms, a claim of negligence asserts that the defendant failed to comply with a legal duty, and as a consequence the plaintiff suffered an injury. A plaintiff must be able to show that all of the damages he or she claims were the result of the defendant’s negligent behaviors. A key question in any negligence case is what legal duty the defendant owed to the plaintiff. Everyone owes a general obligation to others to take reasonable steps to avoid creating risks of harm. This rule doesn’t mean that a homeowner can’t keep hazardous materials on hand. Keeping gasoline stored in a proper container in a garage or shed does not, in itself, create a problem. But keeping gasoline in an improper container may be a different matter. For example, someone who stores gas in an old milk jug may be allowing fumes to build up in the space that create an unreasonable risk of fire.

What liability can a fire create?

When a person’s negligence leads to a fire, the potential liability that person may bear can be quite broad. Specifically, liability may extend to every consequence of the fire. This can include:
  • Property damage caused by the fire, including damage to neighboring properties and the personal assets that are burned.
  • Personal injuries and deaths suffered by people who are caught in the fire.
  • The costs associated with fighting the fire.
These risks typically are on top of the responsible person’s private struggles in the aftermath of the fire. Someone who has flammable materials around doesn’t necessarily need to be reminded of the potential liability to others to know they need to take precautions to prevent fire. But when someone decides to ignore a private risk of fire, they often are also ignoring the risks that many others may bear.

GGRM is a Las Vegas personal injury law firm

If you have been injured by a fire caused by another person’s negligence, don’t hesitate to reach out to a personal injury attorney to begin assessing your legal options. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has served clients in the Las Vegas area in personal injury cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case, call us today at 702-388-4476 or reach us through our website.