Chemical burns are a little different from non-chemical burns, and they often lead to more serious injury
Most of us have suffered a minor burn at some point — a burn on the hand from taking cookies out of the oven, perhaps a spill of a scalding liquid, sunburn, or a burn that feels more like irritation from a chemical or solvent that comes into contact with your skin.
The severity of a burn is classified on a range, from mild (first-degree) to severe (third-degree). There are also different types of burns.
|Type of burn
|External heat sources like touching hot metal, scalding liquid, steam, or flame.
|Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun or x-rays
|Exposure to acids, alkalies, detergents, or solvents
|Electrical current (either alternating or direct)
Causes and symptoms of chemical burns
Symptoms of a chemical burn include:
- Itching or skin irritation
- Pain or numbness
- Skin discoloration (white, red, or darkened)
- Tissue necrosis
Although a chemical burn could happen anywhere, most chemical burns at home are the result of misusing products made for hair, skin, or nail care. In the workplace, chemical burns happen when employees handle chemicals, often in a manufacturing environment.
Household chemical burns
These are some of the household items that could cause chemical burns:
- Tooth-whitening products
- Pool chlorinator
- Batteries/battery acid
- Concrete mix
- Metal cleaner
- Drain cleaner
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Paint thinner
Similar to a sunburn, you might not notice pain or redness until several hours after exposure to these or other chemicals.
Chemical burns in the workplace
Individuals in certain occupations tend to handle hazardous chemicals that could frequently cause chemical burns, such as:
- Construction workers
- Chemical plant employees
- Nail technicians
- Pool cleaning and maintenance employees
- Transport industry workers
- Lab technicians
Some common chemicals used in workplaces are made using sulfuric acids or hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is used in pool cleaners, stone and metal. Sulfuric acids are used in car battery fluid, fertilizer, and drain cleaners.
You can also suffer an inhalation chemical burn by breathing vapors that cause you to cough up blood or have difficulty breathing.
Treatment for a chemical burn
If your burn is deep, covers an area larger than 3 inches in diameter, or covers your hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint, then you should call 911 or seek immediate care. You can also call Poison Control at 800-222-1222 if you’re not sure about the toxicity of the substance.
What to do after a chemical burn
- Remove the cause of the burn by “flushing” (rinsing) the chemical off the skin for at least 10 minutes. If it’s a dry chemical, brush off any excess before rinsing. Wear gloves or use a towel or cloth in order to avoid further exposure.
- Remove any clothing or jewelry that might have come into contact with the chemical.
- Cover the burn with sterile gauze (not cotton) or a clean cloth. Wrap loosely without pressure.
- Rinse again if necessary.
How to prevent workplace chemical burns
Fortunately, most workplaces today are very aware of personal protective equipment (PPE) and taking safety precautions.
A worker in a chemical lab, processing plant, who does cleanup or maintenance, or any other job that could involve handling chemicals should be sufficiently trained in the chemicals’ hazards, precautions, and what to do if there’s a spill or exposure.
There are 3 main strategies for preventing a chemical burn at work:
- Read every label and safety data sheet for all chemicals.
- Wear the correct PPE based on the chemicals being handled.
- Know where to locate your first aid, eyewash station, and fire equipment.
Workers’ compensation for a chemical burn injury at work
The workers’ compensation system provides insurance benefits to a worker who suffers an injury while performing a job-related task. The system is no-fault, which means you don’t have to prove that anyone was negligent.
If you are making a workers’ compensation claim, you must prove:
- You were injured while performing a work-related task, and
- The injury resulted in financial costs that are covered under workers’ compensation insurance.
Workers’ compensation mainly covers medical treatment and a portion of lost wages if you had to take time off from work during your recovery. It can also cover death benefits if you’ve lost a family member in a work-related accident.
Chemical 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 consumers about possible dangers or incorrect use.
A defective product could cause a chemical burn injury in a variety of ways.
There are also cases of people suffering chemical burns from products like home hair dye kits, cleaning products, and other chemicals commonly found in items in the home.
A person who suffers a burn injury from a defective product can sue the manufacturer for negligence, provided the person was using the product correctly, following directions, and didn’t alter the product in a way that would make it unsafe.
Premises liability claims for chemical burns
A premises liability claim is when a person is injured because of a hazardous condition on someone’s property, whether it’s a private residence, a business, or a government agency (for example, the injury happens on a public street or parking lot).
Generally, you need to prove that you were allowed to be present on the property (you were not trespassing) and that the hazardous condition should have been fixed by the property owner, or you should have been warned to take precautions.
A chemical burn could lead to a premises liability lawsuit if, for example, you breathed in toxic fumes from pesticides used to exterminate pests in a business. If the business owner needed to exterminate the building in a way that would cause fumes, it should have been done at a time when no customers or visitors would be present.
Damages from a chemical burn lawsuit
Regardless of whether your burn was caused by a hazardous property condition, a defective product, at work, at home or in some other way, you can file a lawsuit if someone was negligent — the property owner, manufacturer, or someone else.
The exception is if it was a workplace injury, in which you don’t have to prove negligence to receive workers’ compensation.
If your chemical burn was the result of negligence, you can recover costs associated with your injury, including:
- Medical treatment. A personal injury award almost always includes the cost of medical care, both to repay what you’ve already spent on care and to pay for estimated future treatment. Your lawyer will work with experts like doctors, accountants and actuaries to determine what your future medical needs will entail and what they’re likely to cost. Medical treatment costs can include doctor and hospital visits, prescription medication, assistive devices, rehabilitative therapies, and any other costs related to your physical recovery.
- Lost income. You can also claim salary and wages as a loss from a chemical burn. This might include the time you had to take off from work following your injury, a reduction in wages if you had to return to a different job than the one you had before the accident, and loss of earning capacity. Loss of earning capacity is the difference between what you would’ve earned for the remainder of your lifetime and what you will actually earn because of the injury.
- Emotional distress. Emotional distress (pain and suffering) damages compensate a plaintiff for the non-physical effects of an injury. This might include fear, anxiety, sleep disturbances, post-traumatic stress disorder, or other psychological conditions that arise following trauma or serious injury.Physical scarring and disfigurement can add to or cause emotional distress. Particularly if the scarring is especially obvious or can’t be corrected, this can be life-changing and affect a person’s perception of themselves, or other people’s perceptions of them. It should be calculated into costs for emotional distress.
- Loss of enjoyment. Anyone who has been injured to the extent that they lose some level of capacity to do the things they previously enjoyed could be eligible for a damage award for loss of enjoyment.
- Loss of consortium. If a loved one has been injured and lost the ability to provide love, affection, companionship, comfort, or even the ability to participate in household responsibilities and child-rearing, you might have a loss of consortium claim.
- Punitive damages are a separate award from your other damages. These are intended to punish a defendant or to serve as a deterrent to the defendant from repeating the action or inaction that caused the injury.
- Wrongful death is the type of lawsuit that you can file if you lost a family member because of a chemical burn or other fatal injury.
Find a chemical burn lawyer near you
Whether your chemical burn happened at work, at home, or elsewhere, you should be able to receive compensation to cover costs associated with your injuries. If your burn was at work, you might need a lawyer to negotiate your settlement with the workers’ compensation system. You might be able to handle it on your own if you’ve already received full treatment and won’t require additional medical attention, and if you’ve already returned to work.
However, if your injuries will require continuing or additional treatment or if you’re unable to return to your job right away, it’s important to seek the advice of a lawyer. Your lawyer can consult medical and financial experts in order to ensure that the amount of compensation you’ll receive is the full amount to cover your expenses.
If your chemical burn was the result of negligence by a person, a defective product, property hazard, or a business, you should consult a lawyer for expert advice on a personal injury lawsuit.
The Enjuris law firm directory can help you find an attorney in your area who can maximize your compensation and ensure that you receive what you need to move forward.
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