Can I Sue For An Accident Involving Fire?

Accidents occur every single day — and many of them involve fire. This is because we typically grow up learning that fire requires fuel, oxygen, and heat to ignite and thrive. Take away any one of those elements and you can snuff out the fire, right? Technically, sure. But fires are more complicated than that, and different kinds of fires require different methods for extinguishing. Speaking of which, fire extinguishers can’t be used on all blazes!

Although most of us have trouble figuring out how to best extinguish various kinds of fires, it’s this lack of basic fire safety knowledge that results in a number of fire-related personal injury or property damage lawsuits. That’s because not knowing how to properly extinguish a fire can actually make it worse. Making it worse means that someone can sue for negligence (and if you’re the victim of one of these accidents, that means you probably can too).

Take one such case that occurred in January of this year: When Howard Kane took his daughter for a routine dental exam, a fire ignited in her mouth after one cosmetic dentist, Dr. Deep Karan Dhillon, made a simple mistake. Kane then sued for medical malpractice, which is personal injury involving medical practice.

The fire ignited when Dr. Dhillon used a diamond bur in the patient’s mouth. A spark ignited a cotton throat pack. The resulting fire lasted for a few seconds. That might not seem like a long time, but it was enough to do serious damage to the patient. She suffered burns on her lips, tongue, epiglottis, and throat. The medical report suggested that some of the patient’s injuries could result in permanent disability or disfigurement.

Attorney Alison Brasier said on behalf of the family, “When you have these procedures, you can have the perfect storm sometimes, and without the proper precautions, a hazard can be created. We want to raise awareness for parents and also to raise accountability, not only with this dentist, but others, so that this can be prevented from happening to another child.”

American Dental Association spokesman Jonathan Shenkin said, “This procedure is performed thousands of times by pediatric dentists, and I’ve never heard of this or known for this to have ever happened before. It sounds like a freak accident, to say the least.”

But understanding how fire starts might have helped prevent the accident. The tool had the capacity to create a spark — and there was fuel present.

How should you extinguish different types of fires? For fires with common sources of fuel like wood or paper, use water or a fire extinguisher. For fires with a fuel source involving a flammable liquid or gas, water won’t work and could actually make it worse. You’ll want to smother these with dry chemicals like ammonium phosphate or pressurized carbon dioxide. Water is also a hazard when electrical fires start. Extinguish these by first turning off the power! Carbon dioxide can then be used to completely extinguish the fire.