Lawsuits For Burn Injuries

Burn injuries can happen in the blink of an eye, whether you’re on the job, at home, or during leisure activities. According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), there were nearly 3,500 fire-related casualties in the U.S. in 2013 alone. Also, There were almost 16,000 reported burn injuries. Adults aged 80 to 84 reportedly have the highest risk of fire death and burn injuries. Children aged 4 and under were also at an elevated risk of fire and burn injuries.

Types of Burn Injuries

There are four main sources of burns (with subcategories), according to the University of New Mexico.
1) Thermal: Caused by contact with flames, steam, hot liquids. Thermal burn injuries are classified into 4 sub-categories:

  • Flash burns: Explosions of natural gas, propane, and flammable liquids. Characterized by intense heat for a very brief period.
  • Flame burns: Exposure to prolonged and intense heat. Generally from house fires and automobile accidents.
  • Scald burns: Caused by hot liquids, such as water, oil, grease, and tar. This could be anything above 140 degrees for 3 seconds of exposure, or 156 degrees and above for one second. Recently brewed coffee is 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Contact burns: From hot metals, plastics, coals, or glass.

2) Chemical: Strong acid or alkali substances that continue to cause damage until the “agent” is inactivated. These “agents” can be bleach, ammonia, drainage cleaner, and other household cleaners.

3) Electrical: Caused by AC or DC current. Common in workplaces such as construction sites, offices, restaurants, and agricultural sites.

4) Radiological: Caused by alpha, beta, or gamma radiation. X-ray and radiation therapy may cause injury and allow a patient to file for malpractice charges.

Severity of Burn Injuries

After understanding different categories and causes of burn injuries, it’s important to know the severity. First degree burns are only on the outer layer of skin (epidermis). Skin turns bright red and painful. Healing usually occurs in 3 to 5 days.

Second degree burns involve the epidermis and upper layers of the dermis. These burn injuries will be pink or red, painful, and appear wet. This type of wound typically takes 10 to 21 days to heal, and scarring should be minimal.

Third degree burns involve all the layers of the skin. The layers are destroyed, damage extends to the subcutaneous tissue, and may not heal. Areas appear black or white, and will be dry or leathery.

Settling Burn Injury Cases

A personal injury case involving burn injuries factors in the extent or severity of the injury, the intentions of the person who caused the burn injuries (defendant), and extent to which the defendant can pay a settlement.

First, both sides will negotiate what they believe the plaintiff should be awarded at trial. Where and how the burn injury occurred can affect how much a jury will be willing to award (based on how bad it looks, usually). Still, these cases can be complex and nuanced. A workplace injury, for example, might look very bad, and that the employee should be awarded well. But if it’s proven that the employee failed to follow safety regulations, the settlement will be lower.

Special Cases of Burn Injuries

If a defendant acted intentionally, or was guilty of “gross negligence,” the victim may be awarded punitive damages for his or her burn injuries. By and large, punitive damages are meant to punish the defendant beyond simple compensation. For instance, a product manufacturer who failed to conduct testing on its products, which in turn resulted in burn injuries, would be guilty of gross negligence.

Compensation may also be awarded for “emotional pain and suffering,” like other personal injury cases. Burn injuries can lead to permanent disfigurement, so the “pain and emotional damage” defense is quite common in these cases.

Finally, a company’s worker’s compensation carrier will typically pay a workplace injury that isn’t caused by an employer’s negligence. A worker’s compensation case will usually reward much less than a traditional personal injury civil lawsuit. Worker’s compensation law is also very complex, so a victim should definitely hire an experienced worker’s comp lawyer to counsel them.

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