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Can I Seek Compensation for a Defective Smoke Detector?

Posted on June 20, 2018

Fires create many hazards to those trapped in, or exposed to, one. Burns are an obvious injury, but fires also put people at risk for inhaling toxins through smoke and a lack of essential oxygen. When it comes to home fires, many causes can be at fault: electric wiring can cause shortages, unattended candles and kitchen appliances may overheat nearby flammables, and clogged chimneys can back up.

Because many potential causes are possible in a home fire, it’s important to have a working fire alarm system. With an estimated three out of five home fires that lead to injury and death occurring at night, a functioning fire alarm is even more critical. But what should you do if a defective smoke detector prevents you or a loved one from escaping the fire, causing death or injury? Can you seek compensation for a defective smoke detector?

What Can Cause Smoke Detector Failure?

Different smoke detectors work through different methods. Some will sense smoke particles, others will use beams of light and notice when smoke interferes with the light. Some detectors use a combination of methods to indicate smoke’s presence.

No matter the type of smoke detector, it will need some type of power to function. Most smoke alarms will work off the home’s power grid and have batteries for backup, so that it can function with or without external power. A lack of a power source is one of the first things that will prevent a smoke alarm from detecting smoke and sounding its life-saving alarm.

Other than power issues, failure can arise from manufacturing or installation errors. If a detector has malfunctioning parts or the installation workers set it up incorrectly, then it will not be able to function as it should.

Smoke detectors in larger homes can also operate on an interconnected system. This way, if one detector recognizes smoke in one room, the rest of the detectors across the house will be able to sound the alarm so that everyone in the home can escape safely. However, these systems can also fail to activate through manufacturer and installation errors.

What Situations Allow Me to Seek Compensation?

Regardless of the type of smoke detector, if a detector failure results in an injury or death, then you may be able to seek compensation. In these cases, you must be able to assert that a landlord, builder, manufacturer, or contractor had the duty to provide you with a working detector. Some situations that may be eligible for compensation can include:

  • Manufacturer errors
  • Installation mistakes that lead to non-working detectors
  • Improper maintenance by a landlord

With apartments, it may be a shared responsibility between you and your landlord to ensure functioning smoke detectors exist. The landlord may be responsible for repairs, but it is often your responsibility is to check that your smoke detector works and has batteries. If you notice that your smoke detector is malfunctioning and the landlord has not made a move to fix it, resulting in injury due to a fire, you may be eligible to seek compensation.

Regardless of your home or rental situation, set up a system to regularly check your smoke detector system. If you notice it is not functioning, go through with the necessary repairs so you can avoid any potential damage or loss due to an undetected fire.

Determining accountability in the wake of a fire requires a thorough investigation. If you or a loved one has been hurt or lost to a fire, an attorney can help conduct the necessary investigations, understand the cause of the smoke detector failure, and determine, then pursue your rightful compensation against the responsible party.