You’ve suffered enough if you’ve had a severe burn injury—it’s important to receive the financial compensation you deserve.
The National Fire Department Registry reported that Alabama saw 2.9 deaths and 6.6 injuries per 1,000 fires in 2019. That’s a higher rate of death but a lower rate of injury compared to the national average. Within residential structures, there were 8.5 deaths and 18.4 injuries per 1,000 fires that same year, which is higher than the national average for deaths but lower for injuries.
Here’s a look:
However, burn injuries happen in a variety of ways, and most are unrelated to being in a fire. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that most people who die in fires are victims of smoke inhalation or toxic gases—not burns.
However, more than 1 million people in the U.S. require medical treatment for burn injuries each year, and about 50,000 of those require hospitalization. Additionally, 20,000 suffer major burns that cover at least one-fourth of their total body surface and about 4,500 die. (source)
Regardless of how a burn injury happens, it can have a life-changing outcome. If your burn injury was the result of an accident or incident caused by the negligence of another person or entity, it’s possible that you could recover damages by filing an Alabama personal injury lawsuit.
Common types of burn injuries
Everyone has experienced a burn at one time or another—whether it’s a minor kitchen burn from a hot pan or a more serious chemical burn from exposure to a hazardous substance.
The most common types of burns include:
- Scalding from hot liquids that come into contact with the skin
- Electrical burns from an electrical voltage that can also cause internal damage
- Chemical burns from a strong acid or base that comes in contact with the skin
- Inhalation burns from inhaling smoke, steam or toxic fumes
- Gas explosions from a gas leak that catches fire
- Radiation burns from X-rays, radiation from medical treatment, or tanning beds
- Thermal burns from exposure to fire, such as in a car accident, or a flammable liquid
How do burn injuries happen?
Some of the most common causes of burn injuries include:
- Scalding water or pipes
- Fires in public places (like restaurants, nightclubs, hotels, etc.)
- Apartment building fires
Burn injury classifications
A burn could be minor and heal on its own within a few days, or it could be severe and require intensive pain management treatment for a long period of time. Most of us have been burned once or twice in our lives—even a bad sunburn is a burn injury.
All burn injuries are broken into these 3 categories:
- 1st-degree burns. These burns are the mildest and don’t require treatment. They are characterized by some pain, discomfort and reddening of the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). Often, you can use an over-the-counter topical burn remedy available at your local pharmacy or grocery store to soothe the pain, and the burn will heal itself in a few days. A mild sunburn, for example, is a 1st-degree burn.
- 2nd-degree burns. A 2nd-degree burn affects the epidermis and the dermis (or the outer and lower layers of skin). This can include pain, redness, swelling and blistering.
- 3rd-degree burns. This is the most serious type of burn, and it affects deeper tissues than the skin. It can result in white or black charred skin that could be numb or painful, and it can permanently destroy tissue. A 3rd-degree burn may lead to permanent disfigurement.
Lawsuit over Alabama interstate crash
A lawsuit was filed after 8 children died from burns in an interstate crash on I-65 in Alabama.
The director of the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch was driving her own 2 children, 2 nephews, and 4 other children between the ages of 3 and 17 as a tropical storm crossed the area on June 19, 2021.
The driver of the van was in the left northbound lane when a truck failed to stop, struck an SUV and then swerved into her lane. The van was struck from behind by another truck. The van caught fire, and the children could not be rescued because of the flames and damage to the burning vehicle.
The children burned to death, and a federal lawsuit remains pending. (source)
Who is liable for a burn injury?
If you've suffered a burn injury and are facing ongoing medical treatment, had costly surgeries or procedures, or are unable to resume work during your recovery period, you might be wondering what you can do to ease the financial burden.
The basis for personal injury law is whether there was negligence. A plaintiff (the injured person) can make a claim for damages (money) from a defendant if they can prove that the defendant was negligent and if the accident cost the plaintiff money. A lawsuit is designed to make a plaintiff whole, which means to restore them to the financial condition they would be in if the accident hadn’t happened.
Negligence is when a person or entity (like a company or government agency) commits a wrongful act that harms someone. It can also be a failure to act if an injury was caused by something that should’ve happened but didn’t.
As in any negligence action, there are 3 elements that must be present:
- The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
- The defendant breached the duty by their act or failure to act.
- The breach was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
Alabama pure contributory negligence rule
Each state follows 1 of 4 fault rules, which are how courts determine whether a plaintiff can be awarded damages if the plaintiff had any degree of fault for the accident or injury.
In some states, a plaintiff can recover damages if they are less than 51 percent at fault for the injury, but their damages would be reduced by the amount to which they were at fault.
In Alabama, however, the rules are a little stricter for plaintiffs. You may not recover damages if you had any percentage of fault in the accident—no matter how small. That means a plaintiff’s lawyer must prove that the defendant wholly caused the accident or injury and there was nothing the plaintiff could do to prevent it.
This can be a tough standard to meet, particularly in situations like car accidents. For example, if a defendant driver caused an accident by drifting over the middle line and hitting another car head-on, their defense lawyer will likely argue that the plaintiff should have seen the driver’s erratic driving and swerved out of the way in time but didn’t.
That’s one reason why an experienced Alabama attorney could be the make-or-break factor in whether or not you recover damages—because they will use the available evidence to minimize your liability.
How much is my burn claim worth?
The amount of damages you can receive in a burn victim settlement will depend on the severity of your injury. A more severe injury generally costs more than a less severe one.
Compensatory damages repay the injured plaintiff for both economic and non-economic costs associated with the injury. Economic damages are those that are an actual financial cost, including:
- Medical treatment (including surgery, hospital visits, etc.)
- Skin grafting procedures
- Lost wages (past and present)
- Lost earning capacity (future)
- Property damage
- Other costs of care and services necessary to daily life
Non-economic damages are those that don’t have a specific monetary value but are still part of compensating you for your losses. For example:
- Emotional distress
- Disfigurement, scarring and physical impairment
Punitive damages are in addition to compensatory damages, so they’re not calculated as part of what the plaintiff is owed for their losses. Punitive damages are intended to punish a defendant for a malicious or intentionally wrongful act. An Alabama plaintiff may receive punitive damages up to 3 times their compensatory damages with a maximum of $1.5 million.
Burn injuries caused by a defective product
There are 3 types of defects that can lead to a product liability claim:
- Design defect. This happens if a product is inherently dangerous because the design wasn’t safe. Even if it’s manufactured exactly according to the design specifications, it remains a dangerous product when used correctly. The only way to correct the defect is to change the design and create the product differently.
- Manufacturing defect. If a product is damaged, not assembled properly, or otherwise comes through the manufacturing process incorrectly, it could result in a manufacturing defect.
- Inadequate warnings. Even if the product is designed and manufactured exactly as expected, sometimes injuries happen because the labels or packaging didn’t provide sufficient warning to the consumer about possible dangers or incorrect use.
A defective product could cause a burn injury in a variety of ways. What if a smoke alarm malfunctions and you’re not alerted to a fire in your home? And, why did that fire start in the 1st place—faulty wiring or a defective heating unit? What about space heaters?
Any appliance, large or small, could cause a burn if it has an electrical short or other problems.
Pressure Cooker Injury Lawsuits
One example of a defective product leading to burn injury lawsuits involves pressure cookers. These kitchen appliances use steam pressure inside a sealed pot to cook food quickly, and they’ve become popular in kitchens across the nation.
But here’s the science: When the container reaches maximum pressure, the temperature plateaus. If more heat energy is supplied, then there are random “collisions” of water molecules. Something has to give in order for the cooker not to explode. Newer pressure cookers have a valve that is designed to release steam gradually in order to regulate the amount of pressure. However, most pressure cookers use higher temperatures than the boiling point of water because that’s how they cook food quickly without burning.
Unfortunately, these appliances are not without flaws.
There have been a series of injuries and lawsuits in recent years related to faulty pressure cookers. The most commonly reported defect is that when the internal temperature exceeds 200 degrees, the pot lid can fail to remain locked and secured. This has led to explosions that spray the hot contents onto a person in close range, causing serious burns.
Premises liability and burn injuries
Premises liability is negligence that’s the result of poor maintenance or upkeep of property.
There are 3 main elements to a premises liability claim:
- Was the accident foreseeable? (In other words, could the property owner or manager have reasonably anticipated that the accident could happen?)
- Did the owner make a reasonable effort to warn visitors of a dangerous condition?
- Why was the person on the property, and how were they using it?
A premises liability claim might be the appropriate course of action if you rent a home and suffer a burn injury because of a defective or missing smoke alarm. It’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that fire alarms are installed and working properly.
The owner of a public establishment like a restaurant, hotel, stadium, grocery store, gym, public transportation or other location also has a responsibility to keep patrons safe. That means meeting fire code regulations that include properly marked exits, maintaining capacity, using fire-retardant building materials, and having working sprinkler systems and smoke detectors.
What to do after an Alabama burn injury
If you’ve suffered a burn injury, the 1st step is to seek medical treatment.
The American Burn Association (ABA) provides this guidance for 10 instances when an injury should be referred to a burn center:
- Partial-thickness burns greater than 10 percent of total body surface area (TBSA)
- Burns that involve the face, hands, feet, genitalia, perineum or major joints
- Third-degree burns in any age group
- Electrical burns, including lightning injury
- Chemical burns
- Inhalation injury
- Burn injury in patients with pre-existing medical disorders that could complicate management, prolong recovery or affect mortality
- Any patients with burns and concomitant trauma (such as fractures) in which the burn injury poses the greatest risk of morbidity or mortality. In such cases, if the trauma poses the greater immediate risk, the patient may be initially stabilized in a trauma center before being transferred to a burn unit. Physician judgment will be necessary in such situations and should be in concert with the regional medical control plan and triage protocols.
- Burned children in hospitals without qualified personnel or equipment for the care of children
- Burn injury in patients who will require special social, emotional or long-term rehabilitative intervention
Alabama burn injury resources
You can also seek help from Ameriburn, which includes lists of burn centers nationwide.