Burn injury victims face a painful and often long-term recovery. Even when burn injuries aren't life-threatening, they can be disabling, disfiguring and permanently damaging.
Where these injuries are the result of someone else's negligence, the Fort Lauderdale burn injury lawyers at The Law Offices of Richard Ansara work tirelessly for our clients to ensure they receive the maximum possible compensation.
We understand the enormous burden of medical expenses, lost income and pain and suffering can have on both the individual and the family. In many cases, it involves recovery of damages from insurance companies, which are mainly concerned about protecting their bottom line than taking care of rightful claimants whose injuries have robbed them of the life they once had.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report there are approximately 1.1 million burn injuries every year that require medical attention. About 50,000 of these result in hospitalization and about 20,000 are classified as serious, meaning burns are reported on 25 percent of the body. About 4,500 of these cases result in fatalities. On top of that, about 10,000 people in the U.S. die every year from burn-related infections.
Of course, there are a substantial number of cases that result from home fires, but burns can also be the result of:
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Chemical Spills
- Electrical Fires
- Construction Accidents
- Contact with Hot Liquids
Because burn injuries can be catastrophic, the financial implications are great. To understand the types of damages available, we must first explore the various types of burns that often lead to these cases.Types of Burn Injuries
There are numerous types of burn injuries, each with the potential to be quite severe. The nature of these injuries may directly impact the damages to which victims are entitled.
- Thermal Burns. These are perhaps the most common type of burn injury, and they result from contact with fire or heat. They can be broken down into three categories: Flash, Flame, Scalds and Contact. Flash thermal burns are those that result from explosions of gasoline, propane, natural gas or other kinds of flammable liquids. It usually involves intense heat for a short time. Flame thermal burns involve prolonged exposure to intense heat, usually in house fires, auto accidents and ignited clothing resulting from contact with heaters or stoves. Scald thermal burns are those caused by hot liquids – oil, tar, water, grease, coffee – that can create serious injury in seconds. Contact thermal burns are the result of contact with hot glass, plastic, coal or metal.
- Chemical Burns. These are burns that result from contact with some type of strong acids or other alkali substances, such as lye.
- Electrical Burns. These are burns caused as a result of contact with an electrical current. The full extent of electrical burn injuries isn’t always apparent from the visual appearance of external injury.
- Radiological Burns. These are burns suffered as a result of gamma, beta or alpha radiation, usually in a workplace setting. In most cases, radiological decontamination is necessary to halt further injury.
There is also consideration for the extent of the injury. Burn injuries used to be classified as either, “first-degree,” “second-degree” or “third-degree” burns. Now, the medical community has adopted a new, more specific model that describes the full impact. These categories are:
- Superficial/ First-Degree Burns. These are burns that impact the first layer of skin, known as the epidermis. Usually, they don’t cause permanent damage, though they may involve some minor pain, swelling and redness. A good example is a sunburn. Usually, these burns heal on their own.
- Partial Thickness/ Second-Degree Burns. Typically, these type of burns result in damage to both the epidermis and the dermis, or the second layer of skin. In most cases, these injuries don’t require surgery, but scarring is not uncommon. Some victims do need to undergo skin grafting where the burns are located extensively all over the body.
- Full Thickness/ Third-Degree Burns. These are some of the most severe type of burns, and involve damage to all skin layers, as well as underlying tissue. Affected skin or tissue is black or brown and leathery. In most cases, skin grafting surgery is necessary.
- Fourth-Degree Burns. These are burns that affect not just the skin but the muscle and tissue beneath the skin. These types of burns may result in amputation or even death.
What isn’t mentioned but is still very much a factor in these cases is the element of psychological trauma. Many burn injury victims who survive suffer substantial scarring, hair loss, and permanent disfigurement that may result in severe depression, posttraumatic stress and other mental and emotional disorders. This too can be a significant issue in these cases.
Although the severity of burns does play a role in damages that may ultimately be awarded, it’s not the primary factor. First, one must ascertain whether negligence played a role in causing the injury in the first place. If not, a person with even the most severe burns won’t be able to pursue compensation.Determining Negligence
In order to prove another party was negligent, plaintiff’s attorney will need to prove:
- Defendant owed a duty of care to plaintiff.
- Defendant breached that duty.
- That breach of duty proximately (directly) caused plaintiff’s injury.
- Plaintiff suffered significant losses/ damage as a result.
Our burn injury lawyers will prove this by:
- Reviewing all medical records and reports.
- Gathering all relevant evidence, which is going to include police reports, fire department records, photographs, inspection reports and witness statements.
- Work closely with experts in the medical field to affix monetary value to the extent of injuries and necessary future medical needs.
- Consult extensively with electricians, accident investigators and safety inspectors to determine causation of the burns and assess the potentially liable parties in a case. There is often more than one defendant in a burn injury case.
In cases where the injuries were the result of a work-related injury, it may not be necessary to prove negligence, at least against the employer, as that is not an element needed to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. F.S. 440.15 indicates a worker may be presumed totally and permanently disabled if a person suffers:
- Second- or third-degree burns on at least 25 percent or more of the total body surface;
- Third-degree burns of 5 percent or more to the face and hands;
- Burns resulting in total or industrial blindness.
But even in those instances, there may be a third party who might additionally be liable. Although both workers’ compensation benefits and third-party compensation may be available, there could be certain offsets, so it’s important to consult with someone who has experience in both areas of law to ensure a favorable outcome.
Many cases are resolved in a settlement agreement reached prior to trial. However, our committed attorneys will prepare each case as if trial is the ultimate outcome and will not hesitate to pursue all avenues of compensation.