Question: Is the HVAC Company liable for starting the house on fire?
What type of attorney do I need if a repairman caught the house on fire, caused other damages, I missed work and was written up over it? I was having a furnace installed. It caused me to be sick to my stomach. [I'm going to guess the cause is probably a cracked heat exchanger. Was this family breathing in CO?] The gas company shut the gas off. They started the work and then the repairman fell through the ceiling. This has been going on for over a month. They replaced the carpet, then ruined another room and now have to replace it. Help! What do I do?
Answer: Wow, if you're a religious person maybe start with praying or consider playing the Lottery and hoping you win enough money to buy a new home. Maybe you did something wrong and God is punishing you. That is what my mother would tell you. But I suppose that's not why you came to me. After all I am an attorney, not a priest.
You need a civil trial attorney (as opposed to one who handles criminal cases) and frankly a new HVAC company. Have you put your own homeowner's insurance company on notice of the claim? Start there. Do this immediately and they may hire an attorney who will represent you at no cost and they should repair or rebuild the part of your home damaged when the big fat stupid HVAC guy fell through the ceiling.
Now I want warn you about that furnace. If you were getting sick with the old furnace it’s because you had a cracked heat exchanger and you were beginning to suffer the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning. Deaths occur every year because of unintended carbon monoxide poisoning. Do you remember the tennis pro Vitas Gerulaitis who died in 1994? That’s how he died. CM poisoning is referred to as the quiet killer. You need to have your furnace checked on an annual basis.
Here is a home furnace maintenance checklist from Energy Star:
Maintain your equipment to prevent future problems and unwanted costs. Keep your cooling and heating system at peak performance by having a contractor do annual pre-season check-ups. Contractors get busy once summer and winter come, so it's best to check the cooling system in the spring and the heating system in the fall. To remember, you might plan the check-ups around the time changes in the spring and fall.
A typical maintenance check-up should include the following.
- Check thermostat settings to ensure the cooling and heating system keeps you comfortable when you are home and saves energy while you are away.
- Tighten all electrical connections and measure voltage and current on motors. Faulty electrical connections can cause unsafe operation of your system and reduce the life of major components.
- Lubricate all moving parts. Parts that lack lubrication cause friction in motors and increases the amount of electricity you use.
- Check and inspect the condensate drain in your central air conditioner, furnace and/or heat pump (when in cooling mode). A plugged drain can cause water damage in the house and affect indoor humidity levels.
- Check controls of the system to ensure proper and safe operation. Check the starting cycle of the equipment to assure the system starts, operates, and shuts off properly.
- Clean evaporator and condenser air conditioning coils. Dirty coils reduce the system's ability to cool your home and cause the system to run longer, increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
- Check your central air conditioner's refrigerant level and adjust if necessary. Too much or too little refrigerant will make your system less efficient increasing energy costs and reducing the life of the equipment.
- Clean and adjust blower components to provide proper system airflow for greater comfort levels. Airflow problems can reduce your system's efficiency by up to 15 percent.
- Check all gas (or oil) connections, gas pressure, burner combustion and heat exchanger. Improperly operating gas (or oil) connections are a fire hazard and can contribute to health problems. A dirty burner or cracked heat exchanger causes improper burner operation. Either can cause the equipment to operate less safely and efficiently.
Actions To Do Yourself
- Inspect, clean, or change air filters once a month in your central air conditioner, furnace, and/or heat pump. Your contractor can show you how to do this. A dirty filter can increase energy costs and damage your equipment, leading to early failure.