When a person suffers a catastrophic burn injury because of someone’s negligence or malicious intent, that person has the right to seek compensation under the law. However, as with any type of injury case, it is difficult to know how a burn injury case will resolve or how much a victim will receive. Deciding if a claim is worth pursuing comes down to the extensiveness of the injury, the severity of damages, and the evidence available.
Each year, thousands are killed and millions are treated in emergency rooms for burns from fires, explosions, and exposures. Most burn injuries happen at home, and sadly, most victims are young children. Common sources of these burns include scalds, chemicals, motor vehicle fires, electrical fires, house fires, water heaters, explosions, work-related accidents, cigarette lighters, and other flammable materials.
Burns are categorized based on their severity. The higher the level of the burn, the costlier it will be for the victim, and the more painful it will be to recover. The more severe burns often require multiple reconstructive surgeries and years of pain and suffering.
Where and how the burn occurred is critical information that helps your attorney decide if the other party is liable, the level of negligence, and the potential settlement value. Your attorney must also determine the cause of the burn, such as a defective product, work injury, an intentional act, or another type of negligent act.
To succeed in a burn injury case, you hold the burden of proof as the plaintiff. That means that you must provide sufficient evidence to show that the defendant was responsible for the accident that led to your burn injury.
To do this, you must have three elements proven by a preponderance of the evidence:
Burn injuries can happen for a variety of reasons. Not all burn injuries are the result of negligence. However, some common causes of burn injuries that stem from negligent acts include:
Burn victims require extensive, ongoing treatments that typically include skin grafts and restorative surgeries.
Skin grafting is a surgical procedure that takes healthy tissue from a donor or elsewhere on the victim and replaces the burnt and damaged tissue. Skin grafts have two purposes:
Not only are skin grafts extremely painful, but they are expensive. These procedures are done in various stages, with the victim undergoing multiple surgeries. An extensive hospital stay is typically required with these procedures as well, which costs thousands. If the victim is a child, they will require skin grafts as they continue to grow until they make a full recovery.
In addition to the cost of medical treatments, burn victims often suffer emotional and physical trauma. While no amount of compensation can truly make up for the suffering the victim must endure, common compensation in these types of cases includes:
Compensation in a burn injury case is not predetermined. No two cases, even with similar types of burns, will have the same amount of compensation. This is because individualized factors can influence the overall payout.
There are three critical factors that play a role in determining total compensation.
The skin is the human body’s largest organ; therefore, any injury to this organ is detrimental. Second and third-degree burns can dramatically affect the human body’s ability to sense or even regulate body temperature. It can also lead to chronic conditions, such as cellulitis, urinary tract infections, and respiratory infections.
The extent of the physical harm to the victim varies greatly from case to case, and will be a big factor when determining compensation.
The extent of financial harm is also important because this will determine general damages for the victim. The more surgeries and the longer the victim will require treatment, the higher the settlement value. Likewise, permanent disfigurement and limited ability to earn a living in the future will increase the settlement value – as opposed to a victim who is able to readily return to work.
Lastly, the reasons for the injury will determine how high the settlement gets. When burns are caused by someone’s direct act or gross negligence, the settlement might be higher, because the judge or jury could award the victim punitive damages. Punitive damages are designed specifically to punish the defendant and serve as a public example to others.
Filing a burn injury lawsuit is complex, and requires extensive knowledge of tort law and burn injuries. Therefore, it is best that you consult with an injury attorney.
Victims have enough on their plate trying to recover from a burn injury. An attorney is there to serve as an advocate. They handle insurance companies, gather evidence, and negotiate a settlement while their clients focus on recovering.
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a fire or suffered extensive burn injuries, contact Berkowitz and Hanna, LLC to schedule a no-obligation case evaluation.