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Burn injuries result in devastating effects. After the incident, the victim likely experiences severe pain, lifelong disfigurement, and damages to crucial body parts like nerves and ligaments, while the financial costs of current medical bills and future rehabilitation increase as employment opportunities diminish.
Unfortunately, negligence attributes to a fair percentage of burn injuries, from manufacturers launching defective products onto the market to unsafe working conditions to building managers being lax with fire safety standards. Because a large corporation or insurance company often resists offering full and adequate compensation, a victim requires legal representation.
Types of Burn Injuries
Annually, 450,000 burn injuries occur in the United States. While roughly 70 percent happen at home, nine percent occur in a place of employment, and another seven percent along a highway or street. Although most burns result from exposure to heat, flame, or fire, other causes include abrasion, chemicals, and lasers.
Incidents fall into premises liability, negligence, personal injury, and wrongful death scenarios and include the following:
- Vehicular accidents, such as cars, motorcycles, and trucks
- Structural fires in homes and buildings
- Chemical Spills
- Defective or poorly-installed fire alarms and smoke detectors
- Electrical fires
- Construction accidents
- Explosions, including from gas lines
- Thermal burns
- Fires resulting from defective products
- Burns from hot liquids
Regardless of how the injury occurs, there are three degrees of severity:
First Degree: Only the top layer of skin, or the epidermis, is affected.
Second Degree: The burn goes deeper into the skin. The victim feels more pain and may be more susceptible to infections. The wound takes longer to heal and may result in a loss of bodily fluids.
Third Degree: The skin burns away, with the condition spreading down to tendons, ligaments, and muscles beneath. Scarring results, and the burn may be severe enough to lead to death.
Filing a Claim
How the burn occurred determines the type of claim the injured party should file. If the burn happened on the job, the injured party may want to start a workplace compensation claim. In many cases, the burn resulted from an act of negligence, and starting a case with a lawyer means identifying the defendant had a required duty of care toward the plaintiff and breached that responsibility, and doing so resulted directly in injury to the plaintiff.
A lawyer handling a burn injury claim gathers evidence in the initial stage. Fire department reports, police records, photos and visual evidence, and medical records may all be reviewed. In the case of a fire, a safety inspector may be requested to determine the cause of an accident and who is at fault.
An insurance company may further be involved. As is frequently the case with personal injuries, a representative may lowball the claim upfront, offering a settlement amount that does not cover the full cost of current and future medical care for the victim.
When a lawsuit results in a win for the plaintiff, compensation may include economic and non-economic damages. The amount a case brings in may cover the cost of current and future medical expenses, rehabilitation, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, pain and suffering, and disfigurement resulting from the burn.
Particularly if the injury resulted from negligence, the case may set an example within the industry. As a result, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant behaved recklessly, and the court may issue an injunction that requires the defendant to change its safety or production procedures to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.