What Every Property Adjuster Should Know About …

Fire Investigations:

  1. Fire investigations are governed by NFPA 921, published by the National Fire Protection Association.  NFPA 921 is a guide for use by investigators and is not a legal document.
  2. Fire Investigators are certified as Certified Fire Investigators (CFI) or Certified Fire and Explosion Investigators (CFEI).
  3. In the state of Tennessee, fire investigators are also required to be licensed by the state as private investigators.  If necessary, check your state to see if additional licenses are required.
  4. Fire investigation of a structure (or vehicle) is the responsibility of the law enforcement authorities.  Only after the authorities have released “the scene” can a civil investigation proceed.
  5.  Acceptable conclusions for the cause of a fire include intentional, accidental, and undetermined.
  6. There are times when the cause and origin of a fire are not as important as determining if your insured can be implicated in the cause.  Situations do arise where several parties are affected by a massive fire.  Although the cause and origin might not be determinable, it is prudent to determine if the insured can be held culpable.  Sometimes it’s about whether a product is under warranty or who did the work.  These scenarios assume that a fire cannot be attributed to arson or vandalism.
  7. Evidence must be handled carefully.  All parties identified in connection with a fire investigation have to be given notice and allowed to participate in any examination of evidence taken from a fire scene.

The pictures below serve to illustrate some of the investigations that we have been involved with.

Fire Damaged marina, several boats involved, cause and origin undetermined, insured boat owner eliminated as potentially culpable party

Paper Shredder thought to have been the cause and origin of a residential fire due to poor maintenance

Dryer Fire due to accumulation of lint

Fire in senior living center due to electrical short in room A/C unit

Residential structure explosion due to broken gas line

Residential structure fire due to misuse of stove

Defective Products

  1. A defective product is one which is unreasonably dangerous and cannot be used for its intended purpose.
  2. The test for a defective product is that it had to have had the defect at the time it left the possession of the manufacturer.
  3. Not only can be manufacturer be held liable for manufacturing a defective product but, anyone in the distribution/handling chain can also be held liable.
  4. Many times, a recall search can identify a recalled product. The Consumer Product Safety Commission maintains a website and database that lists products that have been identified as hazardous to consumers and recalled. The CPSC website address is http://www.cpsc.gov.
  5. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also maintains a website and database that has identified defective cars and trucks. Their website is located at http://www.nhtsa.gov. The NHTSA is searchable by vehicle make and year model as well as vehicle identification number.
  6. When products have been recalled, investigation of defective products cases becomes a much simpler matter because most of the work has already been done. However, when a product has not been recalled, then the investigator must determine if the product meets the criteria given in #1 and 2 above.

Hyundai Recalls Vehicles Due to Fire Risk

Hyundai Motor America has recalled approximately one half million vehicles as a result of engine problems that pose a fire risk.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that approximately 380,000 Kia Soul and Sportage vehicles will be recalled by Hyundai.  The Kia Soul vehicles are equipped with 1.6 liter engines and can operate at higher than normal exhaust gas temperatures due to abnormal combustion.  The elevated exhaust temperatures can damage the catalytic converter as well as ignite combustible material such as oil, fuel and plastic.  The affected year models are 2012 through 2016.  NHTSA has also announced that Hyundai is recalling approximately 120,000 Tucson vehicles for a potential oil pan leak.  The Kia Sportage is also being recalled for this same problem.  Oil leakage in the presence of an ignition source, such as a hot engine, can pose a fire hazard risk.  The affected year models are 2011 through 2012 for the Sportage and 2011 through 2013 for Tucson vehicles.

For additional information, owners can contact Hyundai Motor America at 855-671-3059 or visiting https://hyundaiengineinfo.com.

Fire Hazard Prompts Ford to Recall 2 Million F-150s

The National Highway Safety Administration, NHTSA, has announced that Ford has recalled approximately 2 million F-150 pick up trucks.  The recall applies to 2015 -2018 F-150 regular and super crew cab pick up trucks.  The seatbelt pretensioner can generate sparks when activated during a sudden stop.  The sparks can ignite flammable material located inside the “B” pillar post including carpeting and insulation.  Ford has also identified the manufacturers of the seatbelts.  Joyson supplied the seatbelts for the 2015 to 2017 models while ZF supplied the belts for the 2018 year models.  Approximately 1.62 million vehicles were sold in the United States, 340,000 vehicles were sold in Canada and 37,000 were sold in Mexico.  The recall is expected to begin on September 24, 2018 with Ford notifying owners.  The Ford recall identification number for this recall is 18S27.  NHTSA’s campaign number is 18V568000.  For additional information, consumers can contact Ford by calling 1-866-436-7332 or visiting Ford’s website at www.ford.com.

 

 

 

GM Recalls 2014 Silverado and Sierra Trucks

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced on June 29, 2017 that General Motors is recalling 2014 Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks. According to NHTSA, 690,685 vehicles in the United States are involved.  The problem with these vehicles is that the electric power steering assist can fail increasing the risk of a crash.  At this time, neither NHTSA or General Motors is providing any details about the specific problem.  NHTSA has also indicated that GM has not yet scheduled a date when notification letters to owners would be mailed.  For additional information, owners can contact General Motors customer service by calling 1-800-222-1020.  Similarly, GMC owners can call 1-800-432-8782 for answers to their questions.  In both cases, owners will need to reference GM recall # 17276.

Honda Accord Recall

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced that Honda has recalled 1,148,550 vehicles because of a battery fire hazard. More specifically, the recall is for 2013-2016 Honda Accords.  The problem is that a battery sensor, when wet, will short circuit and can ignite.  Honda will begin notifying owners by sending out an initial notification letters beginning July 31, 2017, since parts are not yet available.  The letter will instruct owners to take their vehicles to their Honda dealer and that the dealer will replace the battery sensor free of charge.  Owners should also know that the NHTSA campaign number is 17V418000 and the Honda recall number is KGO.  Lastly, for additional information owners can contact American Honda Customer Support by calling 1-888-234-2138.

Takata Air Bag Recall, Part 2

Back in May of this year, it was announced that Takata had recalled its air bags used in several different vehicle manufacturer’s vehicles.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Takata has extended that recall to include 19 million vehicles from 12 manufacturers.  The current list of manufacturers includes BMW, Honda, Mazda, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Daimler Trucks North America, Daimler Vans USA, Subaru, Ford, Toyota, and General Motors.  Owners are advised to go to www.safercar.gov and click on the “Takata Recall” button on the toolbar to see of their specific vehicle is on the list of those recalled.  Note that the list is extensive and should be reviewed carefully.  The website also offers owners an option to enter their vehicle identification numbers to check for recalls.  The vehicle identification number can be found on most vehicles on the lower left corner of the windshield or the manufacturers sticker located on the inside edge of the driver’s side door or pillar.  The vehicle identification number is a seventeen digit number unique to each vehicle.  Owners can also check with their dealers for recall information.

Takata Airbag Recall

Earlier this year, several automobile manufacturers announced recalls of different vehicle makes as a result of faulty airbags manufactured by a Japanese company called Takata.  Takata manufactured airbags for both driver and passenger’s sides in the recalled vehicles.  After investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and others, it has been determined that the propellant used in the airbags has a tendency to deteriorate in humid areas.  As a result, when the airbag is deployed, the combustion of the propellant which produces the pressure to inflate the bag can do so with greater than necessary force.  The excessive force can cause the inflator to rupture sending pieces of metal to the occupant of either the driver or passenger seat resulting in greater risk of injury to the occupant.  The vehicles that are involved in this recall are Acura, BMW, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Infiniti, Lexus, Mazda, Nissan, Subaru, and Toyota.  The recall covers models years generally from 2002 through 2008.  In order to determine if the recall applies to a specific vehicle, owners can go to the manufacturer’s website and use its VIN lookup tool or contact a dealer and ask to speak with a service writer then give that person the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN).

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