Defective Fire Extinguishers and Smoke Detectors Virginia

Richmond Defective Fire Extinguisher and Smoke Detector Attorneys

Help for victims of injuries from faulty smoke alarms and home fire extinguishers in VA

Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are our first line of defense against a house or vehicle fire. A smoke alarm is meant to alert occupants of a building to danger so they may get to safety in time. A fire extinguisher can help put out or mitigate a small kitchen or engine fire until help arrives. However, if these devices fail, occupants and passengers can suffer severe injuries or death.

The American Burn Association (ABA) reports over 480,000 people receive medical treatment for burn injuries every year, and nearly 3,300 deaths from fire and smoke inhalation. Virginia burn injury victims suffer both physical and emotional trauma, due to the serious nature of these types of injuries. Additionally, because burns tend to require long-term medical care and therapy, lifetime health care costs can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you or a loved one were hurt because of a defective smoke detector or fire extinguisher, the Richmond product liability attorneys at Phelan Petty are here to help. Our legal team has decades of combined experienced protecting the people of Virginia from defective products and the companies and manufacturers who cause them harm. Please do not hesitate to contact us today for assistance.

Why working smoke detectors are essential

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in three out of every five house fire deaths, there are no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms in the home. This translates to a death rate twice as high as those in homes with working smoke detectors. And, in more than half of house fires reported to fire departments in Richmond and throughout the rest of the country, smoke alarms sounded the call.

These statistics illustrate why working fire safety tools are so crucial, and how lives can be lost when they fail.


Fire extinguishers and smoke alarms are just one part of a fire response plan. Ensure you and your family also have a fire escape plan in place, like this one from the NFPA.

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Why do smoke alarms fail or malfunction?

Smoke detectors use one of two types of technologies – ionization or photoelectric. Each one detects the presence of smoke and fire differently. The type of smoke produced by a fire depends on the type of fire. For example, a flaming fire produces a different smoke than a smoldering fire. And, although both types of alarms detect both types of smoke, the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that:

  • Ionization alarms respond faster to smoke produced by flaming fires
  • Photoelectric alarms respond faster to smoke produced by smoldering fires

The USFA recommends consumers use both types of smoke detectors, or a dual-sensor smoke alarm. Even so, units can still break down. In 2018, a dual-sensor smoke detector from Kidde resulted in 452,000 units recalled after reports that a manufacturing defect covered one of the sensors, compromising the alarm’s ability to detect smoke in a timely fashion.

Smoke detectors can fail to operate due to a variety of other reasons. Some of these may be due to bad design or manufacturer defect. Reasons a smoke or fire alarm may fail include:

  • Dead batteries
  • Missing or disconnected batteries
  • Hardware failure
  • Improper maintenance
  • Improper installation or placement
  • Defective or malfunctioning detector

Why might a fire extinguisher fail to operate?

Fire extinguishers are a home safety item like a smoke detector – something that every house should have, but hope to never need to use. In the event you do, however, it is vital that the fire extinguisher work as it is supposed to with no delay. Your life and your family’s life depend on it.

If a fire extinguisher in a home, apartment, or building fails when it is needed, everyone is put at risk for injury or death. Non-working, old, or malfunctioning fire extinguishers may not only be useless, they can also explode, turning a minor fire into a catastrophic one. The massive November 2017 Kidde fire extinguisher recall illustrates the far-reaching use of these safety tools. This recall encompassed fire extinguishers manufactured between 1973 and 2017, a full 43 years of products that included nearly 40 million extinguishers and one consumer death.

The defective fire extinguishers either failed to activate, only partially activated, or had the nozzle detach. They were sold mostly for use in kitchens, commercial trucks, recreational vehicles, boats and personal watercraft.


Who is liable for my injuries when a fire safety product fails?

When a fire extinguisher or smoke detector fails due to a defect, the resulting injuries can be severe, ranging from burns to smoke inhalation to wrongful death. One or more parties may be liable for your injuries and property loss:

  • Manufacturers and distributors. When the smoke detector or fire extinguisher is defective, the company itself can be liable for your injuries. Whether it was a design defect, manufacturing mistake, or other issue, if the company was negligent, our attorneys will work to hold them responsible.
  • Landlords and property owners. The fire extinguishers where you live and work must be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. If you are injured in a fire due to a non-working or malfunctioning fire extinguisher in your building, you may be able to hold the owner or manager liable.
  • Maintenance companies. Many rental properties or housing complexes outsource their maintenance or inspections to third-party companies. If these companies fail in their duty to property inspect or maintain fire safety tools, they can also be held responsible in the event of a tragedy.

Fire safety is never a place for a company to cut corners – and if they do, the injury attorneys at Phelan Petty in Richmond will work to ensure they are held responsible and compensate you completely for your losses and damages.

What compensation can I recover in a defective smoke alarm/fire extinguisher case?

If you suffered injury or loss in a fire because of a defective fire safety tool, you are likely overwhelmed by medical bills and insurance paperwork. We understand you are facing financial and health insecurity – we can help. The Richmond product liability attorneys at Phelan Petty hold negligent parties accountable when they fail to keep you safe.

We seek full financial compensation when you or your loved ones are injured, including:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages and future earning capacity
  • Scarring and disability
  • Pain and suffering

In some cases, the court also awards punitive damages when a defendant’s behavior was particularly reckless or egregious. Our legal team can consult with you about your specific circumstances.

Richmond defective smoke detector and fire extinguisher injury attorneys

Fire safety equipment like fire extinguishers and smoke alarms are meant to protect us in the event of a fire. When these fail due to defects or malfunctions, people are injured and lives are lost. At Phelan Petty, we hold companies and manufacturers responsible when they fail in their duty to keep you safe. We can help. To schedule a free consultation, please call 804-980-7100 or fill out the contact form. Our offices are located near I-64 and Route 250 in Richmond.