Regardless of how strong their self-esteem is, severe burns and scarring from an injury can hurt even the most confident of a person. When you feel like everyone is staring at you, how do you go forward with your life as you once did? What about when those burns cause physical impairments that stop you from living the quality of life you were used to?
Unfortunately, those are questions that many people who were victims of burn injuries due to car accidents, workplace injuries, product defects, or other types of negligence have to answer every day. And if this person is you, you know firsthand how difficult it can be to face a body every day that has been changed irrevocably from circumstances that were not your fault.
While we can’t take the pain away or get rid of the physical marks for you, we at Hershey Law want you to know that you have legal rights that may help you through this difficult time. As medical expenses accrue and financial struggles ensue, you will need someone in the know to guide you into what you can expect as you heal and recover from your burn injury.
Here are the facts on this type of personal injury and the steps you can take to remove the focus from the legal aspects of your case and let you put it where it belongs – on your recovery.
Are Burn Injuries Really Considered a Big Deal?
The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” No matter how small your injury is, don’t discount it as simply a superficial issue. Burn injuries are considered catastrophic injuries, and as a result, often lead to higher settlements. This wouldn’t be the case if they were superficial only.
In fact, burn injuries cause both extreme mental and physical anguish to the victim and the medical treatment costs are often extensive. That’s why many people who have been burned due to someone else’s negligence file lawsuits to help offset their pain, suffering, and expenses.
To file a burn injury lawsuit, there are a few basic elements that must be met. You as the plaintiff, or the victim, are responsible for proving the correlation between your injury and the defendant’s negligence. This is called the “burden of proof.” Your attorney will work with you to establish the facts and prove your case, but these elements must be included:
- A duty of care must be present. In this case, the defendant must have owed you a reasonable duty of care to keep you safe. For instance, if you were burned by a product that you purchased from a retailer, the manufacturer of the product and the retailer had a duty of care to you to sell a reasonably safe product as long as you used it as directed.
- The duty of care was breached. In this example, the product that burned you was not put together correctly and resulted in an explosion or other situation in which you were injured.
- The breach of duty of care was directly responsible for your injuries and caused damages to your person. When you attempted to use the product as directed, it exploded and you were caught in the explosion, harmed, and burned. These injuries resulted in medical expenses to treat and significant personal difficulties.
Just How Bad is Bad When it Comes to Burns?
All personal injury lawsuit compensation amounts are based at least partly on the significance of the damage. When it comes to burns, this includes where the injury is located on the victim’s body.
Visible disfigurations are considered more mentally damaging than those that are easily hidden, even if physically the hidden one is worse. Questions are considered when the damages are compiled: Will the victim feel confident in their daily activities? Will they be able to wear shorts or t-shirts, or even bathing suits? Will their relationships be affected?
In addition to the location of the injury, the actual venue where the accident occurred is taken into consideration as well. If the injury was foreseeable and the victim did not do enough to reasonably prevent it from happening, the jury may decide that the defendant was not solely at fault.
However, if the injury was the result of negligence and could have been avoided by the defendant if he or she had taken reasonable precautions, the victim’s compensation may be increased, and the defendant may even receive a hefty penalty.
Of course, the severity of the burn itself plays a large role in “how bad” the burn is considered in your settlement. Burns are classified into different categories, each of which would result in varying compensation.
Thermal injuries include those in which the victim was burned by a flame (dry heat burns) or a scalding burn (wet heat). A commonly known example of a wet heat burn was the McDonald’s coffee incident in which an elderly lady developed severe burns when a scalding hot cup of coffee she had just purchased through the drive-thru spilled into her lap. While the burns themselves weren’t life-threatening, other events around the case catapulted her into minor celebrity-dom and elevated her final compensation.
Non-thermal injuries include those that occur through electrocution or electricity problems, chemical burns, frostbite suffering, and radiation exposure. How long the victim was exposed to the burn agent is another factor that makes up the overall compensation and can affect the severity of the injury.
What Can You Be Compensated for With Your Burn Injury?
Those who incurred personal damage due to a personal injury that was the result of someone else’s negligence are often entitled to compensation for their suffering. In the case of burn injuries, you may be eligible to receive damages for:
- All medical expenses that were caused by your burn, including those that may be incurred in the future.
- Any loss of earning wages that you previously suffered due to your injury and any that you may suffer in the future.
- Compensation for pain and suffering that came with the burn.
- Compensation for medical anguish due to the trauma itself and that of dealing with the new disfiguration that you have received.
- Loss of consortium, in which your spouse may be entitled to benefits since they may have been deprived of the benefits of a family relationship due to your injury.
Burn Compensation by the Numbers
No lawsuit is one-size-fits-all, so it is impossible for us as your attorney to be able to look at your injury and tell you how much compensation you will receive. But there are general guidelines that help us to give you estimates.
When it comes to burn injury compensation amounts, there are levels that include the type and what it looks like so you get an idea of where your injury stands in terms of severity.
Level 1 – Minor burn injury consisting of minor burns and scalding to a small area of the body.
Level 2 – Moderate burn injury consisting of a range of small to medium exposure leaving prominent scarring.
Level 3 – Severe burn injury consisting of any severe third-degree burns on your body.
The compensation for each injury will vary also depending on whether the scar is hidden, barely noticeable, or very noticeable.
Beyond Injuries: When a Burn Leads to a Wrongful Death
Sometimes, in more tragic cases, catastrophic burn injuries can result in death. If your loved one’s accident resulted in their passing, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on their behalf.
These types of cases are tried in civil courts through attorneys like those of us at Hershey Law. Instead of a burn personal injury lawsuit, though, it becomes a wrongful death claim and is treated differently. However, you may still be entitled to damages that consist of:
- Medical expenses,
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- The victim’s pain and suffering prior to their passing,
- Loss of their income and services,
- Your (and the decedent’s immediate family’s) emotional loss and loss of companionship,
- As well as other types of compensation depending on the circumstances.
Let Us Help You Move on With Your Recovery
So your life has changed now that you have received a burn injury because of someone else’s negligence. What happens next?
Although burn injuries are considered catastrophic, you still have to deal with the legal red tape in order to get your bills paid and take care of medical expenses. This can be stressful, especially if you are new to the world of legalities and lawsuits. Many times, that same stress can cause your physical condition to relapse, take your focus away from healing, and even cost you in non-monetary ways if you don’t know about certain rights that could help you.
Instead of trying to hold your head up in waters you are unfamiliar with, let us navigate you through these new waters so that you can focus on healing and moving forward with your life. Call the experts at Hershey Law today for your free consultation.