We’ve all been burned.
Both figuratively and literally, of course. But a kitchen mishap that results in a minor burn on the finger that you can treat with a bandage and over-the-counter cream is completely different from a severe burn that leaves you with a permanent disability and scarring.
While some accidents that leave you with a burn injury are no one's fault (after all, some accidents are just accidents), sometimes your burn is the result of a car accident, product defect, unsafe premises, or another incident for which someone was liable.
If that's the situation, you might be eligible to recover losses through a personal injury lawsuit or workers' compensation claim.
A burn will fall into 1 of 3 categories:
This is a mild burn and doesn't require medical treatment. You might feel discomfort and see reddening of the skin's outer layer, but you can likely use an over-the-counter topical burn remedy to soothe the pain. A 1st degree burn will heal on its own after a few days.
A 2nd degree burn includes red skin, blistering, and pain. It might appear glossy or involve leaking of fluid and skin loss. This type of burn should be treated by a doctor or urgent care medical professional.
This is the most severe category of burn injury because it penetrates the skin and destroys tissue. The skin will become dry and leathery, or could appear white, brown, or black. If someone suffers a 3rd degree burn, they should seek emergency medical attention.
There are several ways to suffer a burn injury. The most common include:
A burn injury could be more or less severe depending on which part of the body is affected, the source of the burn, and even the age of the person. Children and elderly people don't heal as well as other people. A burn on the face might cause breathing or vision problems, where the same level of burn on the arm or leg, for example, might not have complications. People with respiratory illnesses, heart conditions, kidney disease, and diabetes might be more affected by a burn than people without those conditions.
No matter how careful you are, a burn injury can happen when you least expect it. Some of the most common causes of severe burn injuries include:
Any injury, including a burn, that happens in your workplace or when you're doing your job is eligible for a workers' compensation claim.
The workers' compensation system is available in every state to compensate an injured employee for medical expenses and lost wages during recovery.
The benefit to workers' compensation insurance is that it covers an employee regardless of whether anyone (including the employee) was at fault. The main questions in a workers' compensation claim are whether the accident happened in the workplace or while the employee was performing work-related tasks.
If you can prove that it was a work-related accident, and if your medical records indicate that there were costs associated with your treatment, then you're likely eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
Workers' compensation covers:
If you've suffered a burn because of someone's negligence, there are ways to recover costs.
A minor burn that you treated on your own wouldn't recover damages, even if it was someone else's fault. The purpose of a personal injury claim is to restore the plaintiff to the position they were in before the injury happened. If there are medical bills, lost time from work, and other expenses, then you might be able to recover damages.
First, you'll need to establish each of the elements of negligence:
A “duty of care” is the obligation to avoid causing harm to another person, either by action or inaction. A duty can exist between two people who don't know each other. For example, a driver has a duty of care with respect to any other person who shares the road—other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Likewise, a manufacturer has a duty of care to make sure that the products it makes and sells will not injure someone when used in a foreseeable way.
A “breach” happens when a defendant doesn't uphold their duty to avoid harm to another person.
Here's an example:
A burn can be very serious and occasionally even fatal.
When someone dies from an injury caused by negligence, their family can file a wrongful death claim. A spouse, partner, child, sibling, or other relative who was financially dependent on the deceased person can file the lawsuit.
A wrongful death lawsuit relies on the same elements as any negligence personal injury case, but it's handled a little differently in court. The family would file one claim on the deceased person's behalf for medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc., and then they can file a secondary claim for themselves. That secondary claim would include causes of action like loss of consortium, which includes loss of companionship and household activities, emotional distress of close family members, and sometimes punitive damages.
You should never feel badly about claiming the damages you deserve — whether you were injured at work, in a car accident, or in some other way that was the result of someone’s negligence.
The amount of damages you can receive will depend on the severity of the injury. This downloadable expense worksheet can help you calculate costs and get a rough estimate of what your claim could be worth. Be sure to scroll through each page to include medical expenses, property damage, prescriptions, and lost wages.
The best way to gauge your damages will be to consult a personal injury attorney who has experience with similar cases and access to accountants, medical experts, actuaries and other financial professionals who can correctly assess your losses. Especially if your burn injury will keep you out of future work or if you have continuing medical treatment, it’s important to have damages assessed by professionals so you’re receiving the correct amount.
If you don’t know where to begin, start by browsing the free Enjuris Personal Injury Lawyer Directory to find an attorney near you who can help with your case. Most personal injury lawyers offer a free consultation, so you can meet the attorney at no cost and get their advice about your best course of action.