What legal options do you have if you suffer a burn injury in Texas?
Your skin is the largest organ of your body and — we think you’ll agree — pretty darn important. A serious burn injury can result in permanent scars, tissue damage, extreme pain, and even death.
Let’s take a closer look at burn injuries in Texas.
Classification of burn injuries
If you've suffered a burn injury, it's important to consult a medical expert in order to properly assess the damage. The severity of a burn injury can be placed into 1 of 4 categories. They include:
- First-degree burns. First-degree burns are the least detrimental of the types of burns, and primarily only affect the outer layer of the skin. They include sunburns or other minor brushes with heat, and their symptoms include reddened skin and occasionally some swelling. These types of burns usually don’t require any medical attention unless pain is significant.
- Second-degree burns. Second-degree burns move past the outer layer of skin and reach the dermis layer. These burns are normally fairly small but can include blisters, pain, and uncomfortable swelling.
- Third-degree burns. Third-degree burns are considered severe, affecting not only the skin but seriously injuring underlying tissues as well. Skin that has suffered a third-degree burn is very sensitive, can change color to either white or black, become very dry, and can be extremely painful. Medical attention should be sought if a third-degree burn is suffered.
- Fourth-degree burns. Fourth-degree burns are the least common of the 4 categories; however, they’re the most damaging and debilitating. Fourth-degree burns not only injure the skin and underlying tissue, but also the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or even bones in the affected area. These burns can cause extreme pain, amputation and disfigurement, or even death.
Common causes of burn injuries
A majority of burn injuries occur in the home. Common causes of burn injuries include:
- Chemical burns. Contact with dangerous chemicals can lead to serious burns. Various acids, detergents, and alkalis can cause injury if mishandled.
- Inhalation burns. Inhaling toxic fumes or gasses such as smoke or steam can inflame the lungs.
- Defective product burns. Malfunctioning products can cause an unexpected serious burn injury.
- Thermal burns. Thermal burns occur when skin is exposed to heat that’s over 115°F. This includes boiling water, steam, fire, and hot metals.
- Electrical burns. Exposure to electrical currents can cause severe external burns, internal burns, or even death depending on the current's strength.
Legal options for burn injury compensation in Texas
If you suffer a burn injury in Texas, consider filing a negligence lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim.
Under Texas law, you must prove the following elements to win a burn injury lawsuit based on negligence:
- The defendant owed you a certain duty of care. Generally, an individual must take “reasonable care” to avoid causing harm to others. What constitutes “reasonable care” varies depending on the context and the relationship between the parties.
- The duty of care was breached. In other words, the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care.
- The breach of duty caused your injuries. To put it another way, but for the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care, you wouldn’t have been injured.
The situations that might give rise to a negligence lawsuit based on a burn injury are endless and include:
- Defective household products
- Defective industrial equipment and products
- Flammable materials
- Automobile accidents with or without drunk driving
- Structural fires
- Gas explosions
- Faulty wiring
Workers’ compensation claims
If your burn injury occurred while you were working, you’ll likely file a workers’ compensation claim instead of a negligence lawsuit. Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that pays money to workers who are injured on the job. Most, but not all, employers in Texas are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
Unlike a personal injury lawsuit, there’s no need to prove that your employer was negligent. Rather, in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you need only prove that your injury occurred while you were performing your work duties.
Possible damages in a Texas burn injury case
If you can establish that you have been burned due to negligence (or while at work), Texas law allows you to be compensated for the following damages:
- Medical expenses (past and future)
- Other expenses related to your burn injuries that were paid out of pocket (keep good records of all expenses)
- Past and future lost wages
- Past and future pain and suffering (in a personal injury case, but not as a result of filing a workers’ compensation claim)
- Punitive damages (in cases where the defendant acted with malice or gross negligence)
What if your loved one died as a result of a burn accident?
In Texas, certain family members can step into the shoes of the deceased and file a wrongful death lawsuit. The claim is intended to compensate the surviving family members for the losses they suffered as a result of their loved one’s death.
If the spouse, children, or parents fail to file a claim within 90 days of the date of death, a personal representative or executor of the estate may do so. Also, Texas allows adult children to file a wrongful death claim for the death of a parent. An adoptive child can file a wrongful death claim for their adoptive parent, as well.
If you or a loved one recently suffered a serious burn at work or caused by another person’s carelessness, consider reaching out to an experienced Texas attorney to make certain you receive the compensation you deserve.