Burn injuries are costly, terrifying, and usually, take an extremely long time to heal.
If you’ve suffered a burn injury, you’ll learn how to protect your legal rights and how to deal with the legal questions that arise when someone suffers a serious burn injury.
If you or someone you love has sustained a burn injury due to another person’s negligence, and if you are not quickly offered a sufficient settlement amount, what are your options?
Where can you turn for help?
DO YOU HAVE LEGAL RECOURSE AFTER A BURN INJURY?
In Massachusetts, if you sustain a burn injury because someone else was careless or negligent, and if you are not quickly offered a sufficient settlement amount, you will probably qualify to file a burn injury lawsuit with the help of an experienced Boston personal injury attorney.
In a burn injury case, the injury victim – called the “plaintiff” – has to prove that the “defendant” was negligent and that the defendant’s negligence was in fact either the direct cause or a substantial contributing factor leading to the victim’s personal injury and related losses.
HOW ARE PROPERTY OWNERS OBLIGATED TO PROTECT THE PUBLIC?
Homeowners, landlords, and other building and property owners in Massachusetts are legally obligated to ensure that their properties are reasonably safe.
That obligation may include the installation and maintenance of fire alarm systems, fire suppression systems, fire extinguishers, and properly operating smoke detectors.
Some states have even established laws that forbid the use of upholstered furniture on commercial properties unless the furniture is flame resistant.
Additionally, the manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of consumer products are obligated by law to ensure that items they produce and sell to the public do not cause burn injuries when consumers use those items as intended and as directed, or in an otherwise reasonably expected way.
Consumers have sustained burn injuries that have involved defective automobiles, exploding cell phones, exploding batteries, chemical burns, negligently stored construction debris, and cigarette lighters, along with a variety of electrical devices and appliances.
HOW PREVALENT ARE BURN INJURIES IN THE UNITED STATES?
According to the American Burn Association, from 2011 through 2015, more than 485,000 victims of burn injuries were treated in U.S. hospital emergency rooms.
In 2016, 3,390 people died in fires in the United States. Seventy-three percent of the burn injuries in the U.S. happen in the home.
Also, according to the American Burn Association, children under 15 years of age suffer 24 percent of all the burn injuries in the United States, and children under 5 years old are 2.4 times as likely as the general populace to sustain burn injuries that require emergency room treatment.
Additionally, young adults from ages 20 to 29 have a 1.5 times higher risk of burn injuries than the general population.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF BURN INJURIES?
Burn injuries may happen unexpectedly in almost any setting, but burn injuries in the U.S. are most frequently linked to traffic accidents, explosions, electrical mishaps, hot liquids, kitchen fires, dangerous chemicals, and fires in public settings such as hotels and restaurants.
The National Fire Protection Association tells us that negligence and human error are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the burn injuries in the United States.
HOW ARE BURN INJURIES BEST PREVENTED?
At your home and your workplace, consider these six key burn prevention suggestions offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
1. Employers must have escape plans for employees. That’s a good idea for your home, too. Identify a meeting location for family members and determine how an escape would be made from each room in your home.
2. Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home and near each room where someone sleeps. Replace the batteries twice a year, and test the smoke alarms monthly.
3. Avoid scalds by keeping your home’s hot water heater set at 120 degrees or below.
4. Always replace damaged or frayed electrical wiring immediately.
5. Always store dangerous chemicals away from a child’s reach – and not under the sink.
6. Always monitor food as you are cooking. Never leave it unattended.
HOW DO VICTIMS MOVE FORWARD AFTER SUFFERING BURN INJURIES?
When a burn injury disfigures someone, there is almost always genuine psychological pain as well as physical pain. Some burn injury victims must spend years working to rebuild their lives.
If you or someone you love has sustained a burn injury, consider these four suggestions:
1. When a burn injury happens, seek medical attention at once. Have a doctor examine you and provide the treatment you need.
2. In Massachusetts, if your burn injury was caused by another person’s negligence or carelessness, discuss your options immediately with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
3. Your lawyer will investigate the way you were injured, determine who was at fault, calculate your costs and damages, and fight for the compensation you need and deserve.
4. Learn more about burn injuries. Several organizations in the Boston area offer resources and support to burn injury victims and their families.
5. Sometimes, burn injury victims feel depressed, angry, or withdrawn. Speaking to a counselor can help you overcome your negative feelings and deal constructively with the challenges you face as a burn injury victim.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF BURN INJURIES?
Burn injuries can devastate a family financially.
You may need counseling, at-home care, skin grafts, plastic surgery, or other costly treatments.
These medical expenses can be substantial. Many burn injuries have life-long consequences.
If you are the victim of burn injury, do not accept a quick settlement from an insurance company as the company’s first offer will almost always be well below its full value.
Instead, take your case directly and immediately to a highly experienced personal injury lawyer with significant experience handling burn injury cases.
WHAT ABOUT WORK-RELATED BURN INJURIES?
When a burn injury happens to an employee at the workplace, that employee will likely qualify for worker’s compensation benefits but will likely be precluded from filing a civil personal injury case against his employer.
In Massachusetts, the “exclusivity provision” of the workers’ compensation statute specifically bars civil personal injury cases against employers who suffer a work-related injury in the course of their employment.
While, worker’s comp provides no compensation for pain, suffering, or disfigurement it does provide assistance with lost wages and generally covers all reasonably-related medical expenses.
Only a personal injury lawyer can help you determine if a third-party injury claim (against a party that may have liability, such as an equipment manufacturer) can be pursued in your case in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
HOW CAN A LAWYER HELP A BURN INJURY VICTIM?
If you suffered a burn injury as a result of the negligence of another person or business, you may be legally entitled to receive valuable compensation for your medical care, lost wages, pain, suffering, and more.
Get the legal help you need by contacting an experienced Boston personal injury attorney, before speaking to any insurance adjuster or claims representative.
The insurance company’s first priority is to their own customer – not you. Make sure you have a lawyer with the expertise you need to maximize your recovery.
Eric J. Parker, the Managing Partner of Parker Scheer LLP, has over 30 years’ experience representing victims in complex personal injury cases. He is active in many legal associations and has won many awards for performance and principles. Eric believes in giving back to the community and supports young scholars and law students by acting as faculty and mentor to them.