New York Apartment Building Fire Lawyer

Firefighters have been sounding the alarm about fire dangers in New York for several years now.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), New York had the third-highest number of fire-related deaths between 2015 and 2019, coming in behind only Texas and California.

In March 2023, the news media reported that forty-six people had died in residential fires across the state during the first nine weeks of the year. That number was the most in the nation at the time and put New York on pace to have the most residential fire-related deaths in the country for the fourth time in six years.

In February 2024, another report indicated that the problem had not been solved. City Hall figures showed that in New York City, first responders took longer to get to fires and other emergencies, while more people died in blazes, at the start of the new fiscal year compared to the previous year. Fire deaths involving civilians also increased by 12.5 percent.

It’s bad enough when a fire destroys your home and possessions. But when that fire could have been prevented, the unfairness of it seems worse.

Property owners in New York are obligated to make sure that their apartment premises adhere to state and city building codes. They are also responsible for ensuring that the property is free of safety hazards that could cause a fire.

At Chaffin Luhana, our mission is to help victims of apartment fires in the New York area understand their rights and recover their damages. When we take on your case, we put our decades of national experience to work fighting for you.

Apartment Fires in New York

On February 14, 2024, ABC News reported that at least 12 people were injured, one critically, in a fire at an apartment building in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The fire was reported on the fourth floor of a 22-story building. At the time, the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

On January 9, 2024, ABC News reported on an apartment building fire in Harlem that killed an elderly woman and at least four other people. The deputy fire chief on the scene said the fire started on the 12th floor and spread to the 13th floor.

On December 31, 2023, CBS News reported that firefighters had battled a large fire at a Brooklyn apartment building that night. The fire spread into about 12 apartments, and seven people, including two children and two firefighters, were taken to the hospital. Eighty people were displaced that night.

Unfortunately, stories like these are all too common in the New York area. Earlier in December 2023, a five-alarm fire at an apartment building in Queens injured 14 people and impacted hundreds of residents. About 450 residents were impacted due to extensive fire and water damage.

When you move into an apartment, you expect that the property owner has taken the appropriate steps to protect you and the other residents from a fire. They have a duty to maintain the building and remove any potential threats. If they fail to live up to that duty, the consequences can be devastating, particularly in New York City, where the apartments can be several stories high and serve as home to a lot of people.

When to Hire a New York Apartment Building Fire Lawyer

When a property owner’s negligence leads to a fire that causes you to suffer from material losses or personal injuries, New York law allows you to hold that owner accountable and seek compensation.

This type of lawsuit falls under the category of “premises liability,” which deals with damages resulting from accidents on someone else’s property. When you make a premises liability claim, you are seeking compensation to cover the losses you suffered because of that property owner’s negligence.

This area of the law can be complicated. The burden is on you to prove that it was the owner’s negligence that caused you harm. That means the owner had the legal duty to keep the property safe but failed to do so, and that failure contributed directly to your injuries and losses.

You must also prove that the person or entity you’re suing owns the property, that you were lawfully on the property when the incident occurred, and that there were hazardous conditions present that caused your injuries.

This is where a New York Apartment Building Fire lawyer can help. They know the ins and outs of state law and can assist you in investigating the incident to see if you have the proof you’ll need. They can also manage the negotiations with the other party for you, increasing your odds of reaching a settlement that will help make you whole again.

Is My Landlord Liable for the Apartment Fire?

Whether you can prove that your landlord was liable for an apartment fire depends on the factors noted above. Let’s look at each one in turn.

1. Was there a dangerous condition?

Property owners are responsible for addressing potentially dangerous conditions that could cause a fire. Examples may include the following:

  • Faulty wiring, fuse, and circuit breakers
  • Building code violations
  • Fire code violations, which may include not having enough windows or having doors that open inward
  • Smoke detectors—none at all, an inadequate number, or the ones that exist are faulty
  • Fire extinguishers—none at all, an inadequate number, or they are faulty
  • Blocked fire exits
  • Gas leaks—property owners must keep gas lines and boilers in good repair and perform routine safety checks
  • Infestation
  • Overcrowding
  • Old or faulty appliances
  • Storage of combustible materials
  • Faulty fire alarms
  • Out-of-date heating equipment
  • Lack of sprinklers

Finding out what may have caused or contributed to the fire usually requires some investigation and is critical to establishing a New York fire injury case.

2. Was the property owner negligent?

Once you’ve established that there was a dangerous condition, the next step is to prove that the property owner was negligent.

Even if there was a dangerous condition on the premises, that doesn’t mean you automatically have a premises liability claim. The condition must exist because the property owner was negligent in some way. Maybe they:

  • Created the dangerous condition
  • Failed to inspect the property to discover it
  • Knew about it but didn’t fix it or remove it
  • Failed to warn tenants and visitors about it

The property owner must also have a duty to make their property safe. Whether that’s the case may depend partly on who you are as well as who the property owner is.

  • Trespasser: If you are a trespasser on the property—you have no legal right to be there—then it’s unlikely the property owner can be held responsible if you are injured.
  • Licensee: If you are a licensee, that means you have the owner’s permission to be on the property.
  • Invitee: If you are an invitee, you were invited onto the property by the owner, often for business purposes. This typically applies more to professional office buildings and grocery and retail stores.

3. Did the property owner practice reasonable care?

New York law uses the reasonable care approach, which means that a property owner generally owes a duty of reasonable care toward almost all those who enter the building. That typically includes licensees and invitees, but not trespassers.

This duty requires the property owner to warn of any dangerous conditions to the property, including those that are:

  • Known to the owner
  • Would be known if the owner was reasonably careful in inspecting the property
  • Unlikely to be discovered by visitors to the property

What If Another Tenant Caused the Fire?

Sometimes, another tenant in the apartment building is responsible for the fire. If that person failed to exercise sensible fire safety and the landlord was unaware of it, the tenant could be held liable for any damages you suffered.

Here are some examples of behaviors that may make another tenant responsible for the fire:

  • Leaving a stove or cooking appliance unattended
  • Leaving a lit candle unattended
  • Leaving a space heater on unattended
  • Unsafe cooking practices
  • Plugging too many appliances or devices into one electrical outlet
  • Allowing lint buildup in the dryer
  • Careless use of flammable items
  • Leaving a burning cigarette near flammable materials
  • Forgetting to unplug an iron or curling iron
  • Failing to alert the landlord to possible hazards

Sometimes, a Third Party May Be Liable for an Apartment Fire

Many recent fires in New York City have been started by an overheating battery.

In October 2023, for instance, five people, including children, were injured in an apartment fire in Bushwick that was caused by an e-bike lithium-ion battery. The battery exploded spontaneously. Three of the victims were in the apartment where the battery was, and two others were on another floor and suffered from smoke inhalation.

According to ABC News, which reported on the above story, on average, there are at least five lithium-ion battery fires somewhere in New York City every week. These are typically sparked by cheaply made batteries that can overheat and cause a fire.

In cases like these, the manufacturers of those cheaply made batteries, or the entities that sold them, may be held liable for damages. A New York apartment building lawyer can help you determine whether filing a claim against those entities may be a wise move in your case.

Some other possible third parties that may be liable in an apartment fire lawsuit may include:

  • Electricians who improperly addressed electrical or wiring issues
  • The contractor who originally built the apartment
  • A gas company, if a gas explosion caused the fire
  • The manufacturer of a defective product, such as a lithium-ion battery, smoke alarm, fire sprinkler, cooking device, or appliance
  • An individual who intentionally set the fire

What if the Fire Was My Fault?

In some cases, you may be partly or fully responsible for the fire yourself.

New York is a pure comparative negligence state. That means you can be 90 percent at fault and still receive 10 percent of the settlement amount if you were 10 percent not at fault.

This often comes into play in other types of premises liability, such as slip and fall accidents. If you noticed the landlord’s warning about an icy sidewalk outside of your building, but you walked on it anyway and fell, you would likely share in the liability.

It can be more difficult in a premises liability case, however—such as an apartment building fire—to prove comparative negligence if you were at fault. If you left the stove on, for instance, and went to town, and that overheating stove caused a fire, you would likely be liable for the damages, unless you can prove that the stove was defective.

On the other hand, if you were only partially responsible for the fire, as long as you can prove that, you may still be able to recover a percentage of your damages. For example, maybe you are living in an apartment and you are aware of faulty wiring somewhere. You know that it’s potentially dangerous, but you don’t report it.

If a fire then occurs because of that wiring, your knowledge of the problem could weaken your case but still allow you to recover some damages.

Having an experienced New York apartment building fire attorney on your side can help you build a case that is most advantageous to you.

How to Choose the Right New York Apartment Building Fire Lawyer

There are a lot of New York apartment building fire attorneys. It can feel overwhelming to try to choose the one that will be best suited to deal with your particular type of case. Follow these steps when making your selection.

Do Your Research

Begin by asking friends and family for recommendations, but then do your research. Start with an online search for a New York City or New York state premises liability or apartment fire attorney. Look for those attorneys who specialize in representing plaintiffs in these types of cases. Premises liability law can be complex, so look for one with a lot of experience and a track record of good results.

Check the firm’s online reviews and look to see if the lawyers are members of respected organizations such as the American Bar Association. Finally, make sure the lawyers have trial experience. Hopefully, your case won’t go to trial, but you want someone who has experience in court if such a step becomes necessary.

Schedule an Initial Consultation

In your search, narrow down your list to the top five or so New York lawyers or law firms. Then call each one and schedule an initial consultation. Most law firms (including Chaffin Luhana) will provide a free initial meeting where you can ask questions and determine whether a) you have a case and b) you want to move forward with that firm.

During that initial meeting, ask the attorney about their general experience, their history with cases like yours, how they handle fees, and who would be working on your case. Get to know the lawyer and their staff. Find out if the firm has additional resources to help secure expert witnesses and appropriately investigate your case.

Trust Your Gut

After meeting with the New York attorneys on your list, decide which one inspires the most confidence when it comes to resolving your case.

Why Choose Our New York Apartment Building Fire Lawyers

At Chaffin Luhana, we focus only on plaintiffs like you who have been injured and need help obtaining fair compensation. We have the experience and the resources you need and pride ourselves on providing regular and helpful communication.

Our hard-working team includes former federal and state prosecutors, former state and federal judicial law clerks, former large defense firm attorneys, court-appointed leaders in the national Plaintiffs’ bar, and social workers—a team with unique and in-depth experience to guide you through your case.

As national leaders in the plaintiffs’ bar, we have extensive experience that is nationally recognized. To date, partners Eric Chaffin and Roopal Luhana have been involved in recovering over $1 billion for their clients so far. The firm itself has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for individually injured plaintiffs.

Finally, we believe in giving back to our communities. With a mission of “Doing Good by Doing Right™,” we have donated a substantial portion of the firm’s revenues—hundreds of thousands of dollars to date—to charitable causes and issues that impact our clients and local communities. The Chaffin Luhana Foundation has also funded scientific research, donated to dozens of charities, and given away numerous college scholarships.

What Our Clients Have to Say About Chaffin Luhana

Below is a small sampling of the testimonials we have received from our clients:

Over $4 Million Recovery

“I was very pleased with the representation that I received for my case. I had a positive experience with this firm and I would recommend your firm to my family and friends.”

– Judy R., Product Liability Injury Client

Nearly $3 Million Recovery

“I would tell prospective client[s of your firm] to be patient—trust your lawyers, trust that they know what they are doing, even though it is hard for people not in the business to understand all the legal wording and details.”

– Duane B, Product Liability Injury Client

Automobile Accident Victim

“They treat you like family. I was even sent a sympathy card when my mother passed, which was totally unexpected.”

– Debra S., Personal Injury Client

Automobile Accident Victim

“[Chaffin Luhana] definitely delivered. The previous firm told me they couldn’t help me. My mom saw the commercial, and she said try someone else. I called you and within four months, you had it all resolved.”

– Carley H., Personal Injury Client

Find more testimonials here.

What to Do During an Apartment Fire

If you’re unlucky enough to be in your apartment building when a fire occurs, the following steps may increase your odds of getting out safely.

Plan Ahead of Time

Make sure that you and your family are aware of all the fire exits, and know where the fire extinguishers are. Have a plan that you all agree on so everyone knows what to do in case of a fire.

Act Immediately

If you hear a fire alarm, take it seriously. Though often alarms can go off for other reasons—someone burned food while cooking, for instance—it’s safest to treat every alarm as though there is a real emergency. It could save you precious time.

Check Doorknobs

During a fire, always check doorknobs for heat before opening them. If the doorknob is hot to the touch, there are likely flames on the other side of the door. Find an alternate escape route or wait for help.

Always Use the Stairs

Never use an elevator in an emergency. Always evacuate via the stairs.

Stay Low

Smoke inhalation is a serious risk in a fire, and can result in serious harm. Stay low to the ground where it’s easier to breathe.

Call 911

Once you’ve reached a safe place or determined you can’t leave, call 911. Never assume that someone else has already made the call.

Call Your New York Apartment Building Fire Attorney

Once the dust has settled and everyone is okay, contact your New York apartment building fire attorney to discuss your options for recovering damages.

Types of Serious Injuries Sustained in a New York Apartment Building Fire

Serious injuries that may result from an apartment fire include the following:

  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Severe burns and disfigurement
  • Lung damage from smoke inhalation
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Loss of limbs and amputations
  • Broken bones and fractures from falling from burning apartments
  • Eye injuries, including loss of sight and blindness
  • Wrongful death

An apartment fire can also cause severe mental and emotional trauma, including anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Frequently Asked Questions

When should you get a lawyer for an apartment building fire injury in New York?

If you have evidence that your landlord or another tenant was negligent in the fire, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Check with your lawyer for advice.

What is the average settlement in a New York apartment building fire case?

How much you can recover in your apartment building fire case depends on several things:

  • How much damage you suffered.
  • How severe your injuries are.
  • Whether you shared in the liability for the incident.
  • Whether any third parties share in liability.
  • How egregious the other party’s negligence may have been.

If you hire a New York personal injury attorney, he or she can help make sure you recover all your damages.

How long does it take for an apartment building fire lawsuit to settle in New York?

Every case is different, so there is no standard timeline for settling these types of cases. The process typically takes a few weeks to a few months for less complicated ones. If there were multiple parties involved or if you have to gather more evidence to support your case, it may take up to a year or more.

What is the statute of limitations for a personal injury in New York?

In New York, the statute of limitations for nearly all premises liability is three years. The date begins on the date of the accident.

There are some exceptions to this rule:

  • The property owner is a government entity: Examples may include a city or state. In these cases, you often have a shorter window of action—less than two years. In most cases, you must alert the city, town, or state department within 90 days of the incident.
  • The incident resulted in a death: Family members have only two years to recover damages through a personal representative.

Keep in mind that it’s always best to act as soon as you can. Cases “grow cold” with time, and it can become more difficult to investigate the situation or to gather evidence if you wait too long.

What types of damages will an apartment building fire settlement cover?

In general, there are three major types of damages:

  • Compensatory: These are the most common and the most easily identifiable damages. They are paid to “compensate” you for losses like medical expenses, lost wages, and property replacement.
  • General: These cannot be readily tied to a dollar amount. They include pain and suffering, a shortened life expectancy, and mental anguish.
  • Punitive: These are awarded for the sole purpose of punishing the defendant for their conduct.

Settlements consist of economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages include:

  • Medical expenses: You can expect to be compensated for any medical expenses for which you have proof. If you have to have more surgeries, treatments, therapies, and prescriptions in the future, you may be able to recover these as well.
  • Lost wages: If you missed work because of your injuries, you may be compensated for lost wages. If you can’t return to your job in the future, your future lost wages may also be recoverable.
  • Potential earnings: Similar to lost wages, this is a figure representing what you would have earned had not the injury taken place.
  • Property damage: These damages would help pay to restore or replace your lost or damaged property.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses relating to the accident: If you have to travel to your medical appointments, you may be able to be reimbursed for mileage, parking fees, rental car fees, and the like. Childcare, cleaning help, personal assistance, and other household services may also be recoverable if you can prove that you were unable to perform these activities while recovering.

Non-economic damages include:

  • Pain and suffering: This refers to any physical pain and discomfort that you suffered during and after the fire. It may include emotional or psychological suffering as well, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Loss of consortium: This is a legal term used to describe the loss of a partner or spouse’s physical companionship, including a sexual relationship. If you or your partner were injured in such a way that it affects your relationship, you could be eligible for these damages.
  • Loss of enjoyment: If you find that your injuries make it more difficult to enjoy the activities you once enjoyed, or if you can no longer take part in your day-to-day activities, you may be entitled to compensation for these losses.

Your Trusted Apartment Building Fire Lawyer in New York

In January 2022, the owners of a Bronx apartment tower were hit with a $3 billion class-action lawsuit. The plaintiffs alleged that the owners should be held liable for the fire that killed 17 people, because they had notice of defective conditions at the 19-store building, yet failed to take the appropriate actions.

The apartment building fire attorneys at Chaffin Luhana serve the New York City and New York State area. We are passionate advocates for plaintiffs who have suffered injuries in apartment building fires and stand ready to help you pursue compensation to the fullest extent allowed under New York law.

Call us today at 888-480-1123.