Steps to recover compensation after suffering a burn injury in the Hoosier State
A burn injury occurs when some or all of a person’s layers of skin are destroyed by a hot liquid (called a “scald burn”), a hot solid (called a “contact burn”), or a flame (called a “flame burn”).
According to the Indiana State Department of Health, roughly 123 Hoosiers die from burn injuries every year. What’s more, burn injuries account for more than 2% of all inpatient hospitalizations.
Let’s take a look at burn injuries and burn injury claims in Indiana.
Types of burn injuries
Burns are generally classified based on their severity:
Minor burns that affect only the outer layer of the skin (epidermis). Possible symptoms of first-degree burns include:
- Mild pain
Burns that affect both the outer layer of skin and the second layer of skin (dermis). Possible symptoms of second-degree burns include:
Burns that reach the fat layer beneath the skin. Possible symptoms of third-degree burns include:
- Discoloration (black, brown, or white)
- Leathery appearance
- Permanent scarring
Burns can result in intense and prolonged pain. What’s more, severe burns can cause a number of surprising complications, including:
- Bacterial infections
- Fluid loss
- Low body temperature
- Breathing problems
- Bone and joint problems
- Mental trauma
Common causes of burn injuries
Some of the most common causes of burn injuries include:
- Work-related accidents
- Electrical accidents
- House fires
Burn injuries and legal options in Indiana
If you sustain a burn injury, there are 4 legal options that might allow you to recover compensation depending on the circumstances of your injury:
1. A negligence lawsuit for a burn injury
Most accidents happen because someone is careless. If someone’s carelessness caused your burn injury, the person may be considered negligent.
To prove negligence in Indiana, you must establish that:
- The defendant owed you a duty of care.
- The defendant breached the duty of care.
- The defendant’s breach was the cause of your injury.
Indiana is a modified comparative fault state, which means that if you were partially at fault for your injury, your damage award will be reduced by your percentage of fault. What’s more, if the court determines that you were more than 50% at fault for the accident, you’re barred from recovering ANY damages.
2. A product liability lawsuit for a burn injury
A product liability lawsuit is based on a defective product that causes an injury. In Indiana, there are 3 types of defects that can give rise to a product liability claim based on a burn injury:
- Design defect. A product has a design defect if it’s inherently dangerous even though it was manufactured as intended. To put it another way, the only way to make the product safe is to come up with a different design.
- Manufacturing defect. A manufacturing defect occurs when the product would be safe if manufactured properly, but some error occurred in the manufacturing process that rendered the product unsafe.
- Inadequate warnings. If a product doesn’t come with proper warnings, the manufacturer may be liable.
There are a number of products that could cause burns, including defective barbecue grills, fireworks, smartphones, and even cooking spray.
3. A premises liability lawsuit for a burn injury
Premises liability is a specialty within negligence law that holds landowners responsible for injuries to others on their property. Whether or not a landowner can be held liable for a particular injury depends, in part, on the why the injured person was on the property. But generally speaking, landowners are liable for dangerous conditions that they fail to make safe or warn visitors about.
Let’s look at an example:
Jimmy, a 10-year-old boy, was picking strawberries when he walked underneath the herbicide sprayer. The herbicide came in contact with Jimmy’s face and caused severe burns.
In this example, Jimmy (or his parents) may be able to recover damages by filing a premises liability lawsuit against Bill.
4. A workers’ compensation claim for a burn injury
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that provides benefits to employees who are injured on the job. In Indiana, almost all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance, which means injured workers can receive financial compensation regardless of who’s at fault for the injury.
Damages available for an Indiana burn injury
Indiana allows plaintiffs of burn injury lawsuits to recover both economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages refer to loses that have an actual monetary value, such as:
- Medical expenses (including surgeries, skin grafts, and physical therapy)
- Lost wages (for the work time missed due to the injury)
- Lost earning capacity (for future work that can no longer be done because of the injury)
- Property damage
- Other expenses associated with the injury
Non-economic damages refer to the losses that don’t have a reasonably objective monetary value, such as:
If the burn victim dies because of the burn injury, certain family members can recover compensation by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Resources for burn injury victims
Burn victims commonly point to a strong support system as one of the most important factors in a successful recovery. With that in mind, here are some resources that can help you after a burn injury:
- Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors
- Burn Model Systems resources for people living with burn injuries
- Burn Care Foundation
- Find a verified burn center