appliances like water heaters, stoves and space heaters are the cause of a lot of residential fires every year. Sometimes you do not know what caused the fire, but you know the injury or death that resulted from the fire could have been prevented. For example, sometimes the fire investigators we hire to give us expert opinions on the cause of a fire cannot tell us how the fire started. They can almost always tell us where the fire started – say, on the west wall of the living room – but they cannot always tell us exactly how it started. Maybe it was faulty wiring. Maybe someone knocked a candle over. You cannot always figure it out, because sometimes too much evidence is destroyed in the fire. But I have never represented anyone who was burned in a residential fire where the smoke detectors functioned properly, because those people get out in time. So, when someone is burned in a house or apartment fire, there is a high probability the smoke detector did not function properly. And if the condition of smoke detectors was the responsibility of someone else – say, a landlord – then you might have a cause of action against the landlord for violating safety rules. Manufacturers of smoke detectors have advertising material that says, “every second counts”, and they are right. Research has shown that delayed sounding of detectors dramatically increases the risk of serious injury or death. What are the most common reasons why smoke alarms do not function properly? Many times, it is because the detectors are not hard-wired to a power source and the battery is either dead, not installed properly, or not installed at all. Sometimes they are installed correctly, but they don’t work because they’re out of date. All smoke detectors have an expiration date. Some models last as little as five years and some as much as 10 years. Alarm sensors wear out and dust and cobwebs make it harder for alarms to detect smoke, so it is important to keep them clean and replace them before they expire. Even if the detector is in date and installed properly, it may not timely detect the fire if it is not a combination 16 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 I have never represented anyone who was burned in a residential fire where the smoke detectors functioned properly, because those people get out in time.