The cool fall air has finally arrived. Cords of wood are being delivered and wood stoves are being fired up. Gas fireplaces are being flicked on.
The best way to prevent injury and loss from fire is to be prepared. But when you have been affected by fire, you need to know your legal rights and options for seeking compensation.
If you have suffered damage to your home or property due to fire or smoke damage, you need to be proactive in dealing with your homeowners insurance company to make a fire insurance claim. Call your insurance agent or company immediately.
Fire loss claims are complex and time-consuming. You will be required to submit a “proof of loss claim” as soon as possible, with a time limit in which to do so under your policy. If you are displaced from your home, you may claim living expenses. You may have the option to repair or rebuild your home and it is important to have the right appraisers and contractors working for you. Your insurer may deny your claim based on misrepresentation on your application, failure to advise your insurer of a change of use in the property or that a renovation has been completed. You may need to resort to legal action to obtain compensation from your insurer.
Damage to homes and personal belongings are not the only devastating effects of a fire. On average, 19 children aged 14 and under are killed by fire or smoke each year in Canada and nearly 600 are hospitalized. Fire victims suffer physical pain and emotional trauma. The recovery process for burn injuries can be excruciating and lengthy.
You may have the right to bring a claim for damages against a negligent party who caused a fire, including property designers, owners, managers, landlords and product manufacturers. A fire can be caused by a failure to maintain or replace wiring, improper storage of flammable materials, lack of or defective fire and CO2 detectors, obstruction of fire exits, non-compliant building code construction, exploding propane or gas tanks, etc. Also, the origin of a fire may be the result of defective products, including electrical equipment, wiring, circuits or heaters.
And what about your duties and obligations? It’s the law in Ontario for homeowners to have working smoke alarms on every storey of a home and outside all sleeping areas. Landlords are responsible for ensuring their rental properties comply with the law. Tenants of rental properties who do not have the required number of smoke alarms should contact their landlord immediately; it is also against the law for tenants to remove the batteries or tamper with an alarm in any way. Failure to comply with the Fire Code smoke alarm requirements could result in a ticket for $235 or a fine of up to $50,000 for individuals or $100,000 for corporations.
Ontario fire statistics reveal that in about 50 per cent of fatal home fires, the victims had no smoke alarm warning. Smoke alarms are a proven way to prevent injuries and death from fires - see more here.
The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services provides numerous resources (click here) about keeping your loved ones and property safe from fire.
Take some time to get prepared.