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Though all of us have probably touched something hot by accident and burned ourselves at least once, these accidents may not have been serious enough to cause serious injury. Still, tens of thousands of people each year do have burn accidents that send them to the hospital for treatment. Recovering from a burn injury can be a painstaking process both medically and financially.
If you or your loved one have been injured due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to compensation. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a free consultation with one of our burn injury lawyers and we can help you today.
Types of Burns
Burn injuries run the gamut from mild to debilitating to fatal. Children are often burned by scalding, being exposed to boiling hot water or steam, and senior adults are also susceptible to that kind of injury. The types of burns affecting both children and adults vary; here are some descriptions of some to help you understand the differences between the most common types of burns.
Thermal burns are likely the burns you think about when you think about burns. They often occur because of household accidents, fires, and automobile accidents. These burns occur because contact is made with a flame, scalding water, or extremely heated objects. Even the most minor of thermal burns can lead to blistering.
Chemical burns occur when the skin gets into contact with a strong acids or bases. For instance, cleaning products such as bleach can cause serious irritation to the skin depending on how long the substance was on the skin.
Electrical burns generally occur at the workplace where electrical wires are often exposed. For example, electrical burns frequently occur at construction sites. The severity of an electrical burn depends on the current and voltage of the source of electricity.
Be aware that an electric current can damage the body in other ways besides causing burns. It can cause the muscle to contract and interfere with the proper functioning of the heart and the central nervous system, for example.
Two types of electrical current exist: alternating and direct. Though both types of current can be fatal, alternating is considered to be much more dangerous due to its ability to cause more rapid muscular contractions. It can also cause sweating, which lowers the skin to resist an electrical current. The entry point of the current into the body is significant. Though a current that goes only from the fingers to the elbow may be an inconvenient shock, a current that goes from the extremities to the chest can be fatal no matter how old you are.
Long exposure to radiation can cause burns as well. Just like exposure to the sun for long periods of time can increase the risk of skin cancer by burning your skin, exposure to radiation from x-rays or radiation therapy can likewise increase one’s chances of getting skin cancer.
Though most people may think of burns as something affecting only the outside organs of the body like the skin, burns can also occur internally, injuring internal organs. These burns are known as respiratory burns; surprisingly, these kinds of burns actually kill more people than external burns. They occur as a result of a victim inhaling toxic gases such as carbon monoxide and cyanide.
Degrees of Burns
The degree of a burn describes the severity of it. There are generally three degrees of burns.
First-degree burns are generally superficial. Only the outermost layer of skin is affected by first-degree burns. Though painful, there is usually no need to go to a hospital. The burn will likely heal itself naturally.
In a second-degree burn, the burn penetrates deeper than the outermost skin layer. Though the second layer of skin is affected, it is still unlikely to have caused permanent damage. Again, the burn may heal itself naturally, but it may take much longer than a first-degree burn to heal. Furthermore, there is the likelihood an infection can occur at the injured site.
Third-degree burns are much more serious than first-degree and second-degree burns as they not only affect all the layers of skin but also the blood vessels and muscles. The skin may appear charred. In extreme third-degree burns, the nerves in the affected area may be damaged.
A fourth-degree is a burn that can be life threatening. Extensive surgery or amputation may be needed.
Can I Sue the Party Responsible for My Burn Injury?
Lawsuits can arise from incidents which have caused a burn injury; the amount of compensation one can receive from a lawsuit depends in large part on the source of the injury. For instance, if your burn was simply caused by the negligence of another, you would file a lawsuit under the negligence theory.
There are four elements to prove in a negligence claim. The first is that the defendant owed a legal duty to you. The second is that the defendant breached that duty. The third is that you were actually injured. Finally, you must prove that the injury was caused by the breach of the duty.
To see how this would work in a burn injury case, imagine that your landlord decided to keep extremely flammable material in a room near the room where you live, without your knowledge. Landlords have a legal duty to keep tenants safe from fire injury. If that flammable material happens to catch on fire and ends up causing a fire in your room and serious burn injuries to you, you have the right to sue your landlord. This is because he breached his legal duty to store flammable material in a space that is at a safe distance from where his tenants live. You can prove the third and fourth element by showing that you would not have received your burn injury if not for the landlord leaving flammable material near your room.
In some cases, defective products cause burn injuries; that may be the case with your burn injury. If so, you may be able to sue the manufacturer or distributer of the product. There are three types of product defects that you may base your products liability claim on.
The first is the manufacturing defect. A manufacturing defect is a defect that arises during the manufacturing of the product. The second is the design defect, which means the product was inherently defective in its design. For instance, if a product designer creates a product that is extremely flammable even though a safer design could have been used, there may be a case for a design defect products liability claim. The third is the marketing defect or failure to warn defect. A plaintiff can argue under this theory if the product has the potential to cause burns that could have been mitigated if there was a warning attached to the product.
Know Your Tenant Rights
Because burn injuries often occur in the home, if you are a tenant, you should be aware of the following obligations that landlords have toward their tenants, which are spelled out in the contracts signed by both parties when they enter into a leasing agreement.
- A landlord has the obligation to insure that his or her property has safe electrical wiring.
- A landlord has the obligation to make sure smoke alarms are fully functional.
- A landlord has the obligation to insure that there are fire extinguishers.
- A landlord should insure that doors of the property are fireproof.
Possible Compensation You May Recover
If you have a successful claim, you may recover for your economic losses and non-economic losses. Economic losses are those losses that are tangible and monetary in nature. For instance, the hospital bill that resulted from you being treated for your burn would be an economic loss that would be compensated. Non-economic losses are those subjective losses such as pain and suffering or disfigurement. In legal terminology, compensation is referred to as damages.
In some cases, you may receive what are called punitive damages in addition to economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages are awarded if the defendant acted in a grossly negligent manner. What behavior counts as grossly negligent varies between the states.
In certain cases, a defendant’s conduct can be grossly negligent if the defendant purposely caused the harm. Therefore, if a defendant intentionally tried to burn you, he or she may have to pay punitive damages. Another example of grossly negligent behavior would be a manufacturer failing to test a product to see if it could cause burns even if used in a reasonable manner. Often, wealthy defendants, knowing that they may have to pay punitive damages, are willing to settle rather than take their case to trial.
Statute of Limitations
Note that your ability to sue a responsible party for your burn injury is limited by a certain time period. In general, the statute of limitations for personal injuries is for one to three years, depending on the state where you reside. If you decide to file a lawsuit beyond the statutory period, a court will most likely reject your claim.
However, there are exceptions to the statute of limitations rule. For instance, if you do not discover your injury until the statutory period expires, you may still be able to sue if the court can find that you could not have reasonably discovered the injury within the statutory period. This can occur with victims who suffer from respiratory burn injuries or radiation burn injuries that may take years to develop fully.
CONTACT a burn INJURY LAWYER near you who can help lessen your stress while you recover from burn injuries received in an accident.
The experienced attorneys at Zinda Law Group may be able to help you with your burn injury claim. After an accident, you shouldn’t have to worry about affording legal representation, which is why we work on a contingency fee basis. You don’t owe us anything unless we win your case. This is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.