Des Moines Fire and Explosion Lawyers
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Fires and explosions are tragic events that take their victims by surprise and test the readiness and resolve of those affected. At LaMarca Law Group, P.C., our Des Moines, Iowa lawyers are committed to helping individuals who have suffered burn injuries in a fire or explosion. If you have suffered a burn injury or a loved one has been killed in a fire or explosion, we can help. Our attorneys are experienced in fire and explosion cases and will work diligently to see that you are justly compensated for your suffering and economic loss.
Fire and Explosion Lawsuits
Fires and explosions can be caused by a variety of factors, including defective products (such as electrical systems and appliances, gas leaks, grain and industrial dust), auto accidents, aviation accidents, workplace accidents, and arson. Regardless of the cause however, fires and explosions typically result in catastrophic and life-threatening injuries and burns to those exposed. Unfortunately, these injuries often result in death or years of physical rehabilitation for victims.
The investigation and litigation of explosion and fire cases involves complex issues surrounding the origin and cause of the fire or explosion and the treatment of the injuries. In addition to dealing with the legal issues present in a damage claim, attorneys working on fire and explosion cases must understand the causation issues and be at ease speaking with experts such as arson investigators, fire marshals, electrical engineers, chemical engineers, materials experts, and other investigation specialists, including those familiar with the special risks posed in agricultural settings.
The Des Moines fire and explosion injury lawyers at LaMarca Law Group, P.C. have extensive experience working with legal claims involving the aftermath of fires and explosions, including wrongful death and property damage cases. Our experience includes handling complex, multi-party fire and explosion cases. For an immediate and free consultation regarding any fire or explosion incident, do not hesitate to contact our law firm.
Investigation of Major Fire Cases
There are essentially 2 types of investigation methods to determine the cause and origin of fires: One is the process of elimination of all possible ignition sources, and the second is the determination of the location of origin by virtue of physical evidence that reveals the available sources of energy and combustibles at that site. In complex cases, like the downtown Younkers fire, both methods should be used. For example, all possible energy sources might have been ruled out except electricity and natural gas, but investigators have determined from other physical evidence and witness statements that the origin of the fire occurred where only 1 of the 2 potential ignition sources exists, then this would be the most likely source of the fire.
You need to determine and document detailed knowledge, including an accurate timeline of all internal operations (people, mechanical, electrical, hazardous/combustible materials) of a structure that may have provided the potential energy source of the fire.
Once the scene has been thoroughly examined and all sources of energy available in the structure have been identified, the investigation should rule out all clearly impossible causes to narrow the field of probability. A list of possible causes of the fire must then be established. No list can be considered all inclusive; one must remember that some fires result from odd or unusual circumstances and that unless this fact is understood, an incident will never be properly analyzed.
The proximity of an ignition source to combustible material must be documented with each possible cause. Because all fires require energy, fuel, and the presence of sufficient oxygen, every point of origin must have these available. An ignition potential without a fuel potential is not a probable cause of a fire. Similarly, a suspected initial fuel must have an available and potential source of ignition.
Each potential source of ignition must be considered and investigated. Elimination of an ignition source becomes more reliable when no contrary eyewitness, physical, or scientific evidence is uncovered. Each element of the evidence triangle (eyewitness, physical evidence, and scientific evidence) will rule in or rule out available ignition sources and potential fuels.
All ignition sources in a structure should be identified and located on the blueprint or drawing of the structure. An initial comparison must then be made with the areas of most substantial damage (allowing for firefighting artifact) and the area where smoke or fire or both were first reported by witnesses. This will produce high suspicion areas.
Obvious evidence that the fire was arson (location of incendiary devices, multiple separate points of origin, foreign chemical residues) must first be eliminated. The professional arsonist often tries to mimic a fire of accidental origin. Because the best evidence of arson is usually destroyed by the fire, it requires distinctive arson methodology and a battery of scientific testing.
A list of all persons having a motive for setting a fire must also be established. This includes persons who stand to gain financially, and those who have a grudge against the structure’s operation or owners. Solid police work can assist fire officials in this area of the investigation, as well as forensic accountants.
Sometimes, there is more than one party whose fault or actions contribute to the cause of a fire or explosion. Typically, these cases require prompt identification of all parties at fault and require making claims against multiple parties. In some cases, even though the cause of the fire may be attributable to an ignition source for which one party is responsible, other parties can also share in the liability. For example, this can occur when the fire or explosion is enhanced by unsafe or non-code compliant building construction or interior materials, or other items kept on the property which unreasonably contribute to the extent and nature of the fire or explosion.
Cases We Have Handled Involving Fires and Explosions
Younkers – Merle Hay Department Store Explosion and Fire (Urbandale, Iowa)
Regarding the Younkers Merle Hay Department Store Fire, “It was one of the largest scientific battles of the decade. This is where the country-wide battle over PVC was fought. There have been a number of fires around the country where PVC was alleged to have been the cause. But this is the first time there has been an actual jury verdict.” — George A. LaMarca. Click here to read more of George A. LaMarca’s media comments.
The attorneys at LaMarca Law Group, P.C., were counsel for all of the families of the deceased and injured in the tragic Younkers Merle Hay Department Store fire in Des Moines, Iowa that took the lives of 10 people and seriously injured 5 others. This fire caused the largest number of deaths ever in a single fire in the State of Iowa. The successful 2-month trial on the cause and origin of this fire in the Iowa District Court for Polk County was the first civil case to have in-court television coverage.
Agri-Industries Grain Facility Explosion (Council Bluffs, Iowa)
LaMarca Law Group, P.C., represented the widow of the manager killed in the Agri Industries Council Bluffs grain elevator explosion.
Washington Heights Apartments Fire (West Des Moines, Iowa)
The firm represented 14 tenants who suffered substantial property damage during a fire caused by faulty heating tape at the large multi-family Washington Heights apartment complex in West Des Moines, Iowa.
Presenting a unified front for all of these families in negotiations with the insurance company of the building owner was an important step in obtaining prompt and fair compensation for the substantial property damage and other losses connected with this fire.
The electrical outlet is from a campground in Southern Iowa. Our client sustained severe electrical shock injuries when plugging in his camper to the outlet. His relative later wrote “you will get shocked” to warn other campers. Our firm immediately hired an electrician to investigate. The electrician found numerous violations of the National Electric Code. He also placed a lock on the electrical outlet to prevent anyone else from being harmed by the electrical outlet.
Multi-Fault Fires and Explosions
Sometimes there is more than one party whose fault or actions contribute to the cause of a fire or explosion. Typically, these cases require prompt identification of all parties at fault and making claims against multiple parties. In some cases, even though the cause of the fire may be attributable to an ignition source for which one party is responsible, other parties can also share in the responsibility. For example, this can occur when the fire or explosion is enhanced by unsafe or non-code compliant building construction or materials, or other items kept on the property which unreasonably contribute to the extent and nature of the fire or explosion.
In addition to these large-scale disaster cases, our attorneys have handled numerous other fire and explosion cases resulting from a variety of causes. You can rest assured that our legal team is experienced in the investigation and litigation of fire and explosion cases, including cases involving single and multi-family housing, commercial, and industrial buildings.
Contact a Fire and Explosion Attorney in Des Moines
At LaMarca Law Group, P.C., our Des Moines fire and explosion injury lawyers will work diligently to secure the compensation to which you are entitled.
LaMarca Law Group, P.C., has an impressive track record of handling fire, electrocution, and explosion cases. Determining the cause and origin of a fire or explosion is often not readily apparent. Our law firm has the experience and resources to effectively investigate, prepare, and litigate these types of cases in both the state and federal courts of Iowa. In order to properly investigate and handle a fire and explosion case, the law firm you hire must not only have experience in handling such cases, but they should have the resources and funding to employ the necessary experts, such as fire and explosion experts, medical experts, construction experts, forensic economists, and others.
If you or someone you love has suffered severe burns or other injuries in a fire or explosion, you should seek legal counsel from an experienced attorney.
As a result of his recognized experience in fire and explosion cases, George A. LaMarca was invited to write the chapter entitled “Investigation of Fire Cases,” which comprises Chapter 38 of the encyclopedic work Forensic Sciences, published by Matthew Bender and edited by nationally known forensic pathologist and lawyer Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
Don’t Let Delay Destroy Your Rights
Fire and explosion accident victims, unfortunately, do not have unlimited time in which to file a lawsuit against the person or entity responsible for their suffering. The statute of limitations, which is the deadline within which a fire or explosion victim can file a lawsuit for compensation, can catch many victims unaware, and if this timeline expires, a victim may find themselves unable to take legal action, regardless of the severity of their injuries and other losses. As such, fire and explosion victims should contact an attorney as soon as possible to ensure that they do not lose their chance to file a claim.
We have dedicated our lives to protecting the rights and futures of injured Iowans. We work to ensure that your case is handled while you focus on your recovery.