Article By Pedro Echarte, The Haggard Law Firm
When handling personal injury/wrongful death cases resulting from fires, the importance of quickly notifying the property owner of the potential claim and gaining immediate access to the property to the perform a site inspection is imperative. While in other types of cases (e.g., drowning, automobile, aviation, medical malpractice, negligent security) the evidence required to prove your case is generally preserved, that is generally not the case when it comes to litigation stemming from fires because landowners (whether residential or commercial) generally want to promptly repair their premises after a fire in order to avoid a significant loss of income. Once the property is altered or repaired, it will be difficult to determine not only the cause of fire, but also what fire safety measures that property had at the time of the fire and whether they operated as intended.
In fire cases that we have handled, we have accomplished early notification to the potential defendant and coordination of a site inspection in one of two ways. Generally, we first attempt to reach the property owner directly, informing them of the potential claim and requesting access to the property. If we are unable to contact the property owner or if the property owner refuses to give us access to the property, we file the lawsuit along with an emergency motion seeking to enjoin the property owner from repairing the property and requesting access to the property for a site inspection.