DC Accident Lawyer Explains Your Legal Options After a Fire

In the event of a fire, smoke alarms are often invaluable, life-saving devices that alert a building’s occupants of the danger and give them time to get to safety. Due to the potential dangers of a fire, premises liability law requires building owners to install smoke detectors. However, landlords and other building owners may neglect these rules by failing to install or service alarms. Additionally, some smoke alarms contain dangerous product defects which prevent them from working when they should. In either case, without the warning of a smoke detector, building occupants may be trapped in a fire. This can cause severe burn injuries, smoke inhalation, and possibly wrongful death.

If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a fire due to defective smoke detectors, then you may have a claim against the property owner and/or the device manufacturer. The attorneys at Regan Zambri Long PLLC have over 100 years of collective experience with both product liability and premises liability law. We can work with investigators to find the circumstances that caused the fire and the reason your smoke detector failed.

Who Is Responsible for Installing Smoke Alarms?

Each state has its own laws concerning the number and placement of smoke alarms in residential and commercial properties. However, most areas have regulations that require landlords and property owners to maintain smoke detectors throughout buildings. For example, Washington DC premises liability law requires:

  • A smoke alarm on the wall or ceiling of every bedroom in a residential property, and an additional detector in every sleeping area near a bedroom.
  • At least one smoke detector on every floor, including basements and attics, if habitable.
  • In new buildings, smoke alarms must be wired into the wall, with a battery backup. Additionally, all alarms must be interconnected, so that if one goes off, they all do.
  • Owners of existing buildings must install hard-wired, interconnected alarms only when remodeling or other construction work exposes the house’s wiring. Otherwise, battery-powered devices are acceptable.
  • Washington DC also requires the installation of carbon monoxide detectors in certain buildings where CO2 poisoning poses a risk.

Therefore, if you rent or lease a home or apartment, then your landlord or the property owner may be responsible for complying with these laws. However, property owners sometimes neglect these rules. In some cases, a building may have alarms in the proper places, but they may not have batteries or power. Consequently, if you sustain injuries in a fire due to lack of a proper fire alarm, then you may have grounds for a premises liability claim against the owner.

Can I File a Lawsuit for Smoke Alarm Defects?

Negligence during the design or manufacturing process of a smoke alarm may result in a dangerously defective product. These alarms may malfunction, failing to work properly or work at all. Additionally, some manufacturers fail to adequately warn consumers of a device’s known drawbacks. For example, there are two general types of smoke detectors: photoelectric and ionization alarms. The mechanism of an ionization detector may make it less likely to sense a smolder or slow-burning fire. In some cases, this can cause a delay of 20 minutes or more before the alarm sounds. This can be particularly dangerous, as slow-burning fires may cause serious smoke inhalation injuries. However, many manufacturers do not include warning labels about this risk of ionization smoke detectors.

In these cases, you may be able to file a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer for your burn injuries and other damages. Depending on the circumstances, you may have grounds for a claim based on defects, failure to warn, and/or breach of warranty. However, demonstrating a fire alarm defect in a lawsuit can be difficult, especially if it sustained fire or water damage. A Washington DC accident lawyer can work with industry experts to examine the detector and determine why it failed.

Smoke Alarm Questions? Contact a DC Accident Lawyer from Our Firm

If a smoke detector malfunction caused your injuries or a loved one’s wrongful death, then contact our law firm today. We can investigate the alarm and the premises on your behalf. Once we determine whether the property owner and/or manufacturer may be responsible, we can assist you in filing a lawsuit. We serve clients in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia and other states.

Call (202) 753-4272 or contact us online today to speak to an attorney and schedule a free consultation.

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Millions of Dollars Recovered in Compensation for Injured Victims


Our Washington DC personal injury lawyers have recovered millions of dollars in compensation for our clients. Backed by more than 100 years of combined experience, our firm has an established reputation for pursuing legal excellence. As our client, you will enjoy peace of mind in knowing that your rights will be protected from start to finish. We will do everything in our power to secure the maximum compensation you need to pay for injury-related expenses, such as medical care and lost income, as well as full compensation for all of the physical and emotional consequences of your injuries.

Have Questions? Contact Regan Zambri Long PLLC.


If you have any questions or concerns associated with your case, our firm is here to give you the information you need to make well-informed decisions. We will guide you through the entire claims-filing process so that you don't make a misstep or become overwhelmed. In an effort to better meet the time-sensitive needs of our clients, we make ourselves readily available at all hours. We are here to help you get through this difficult moment in your life.

Please give us a call today to speak with our compassionate legal team.

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