Severe burn injuries are among the most painful and most expensive of all types of personal injuries. Minor burns often heal quickly on their own, but when someone suffers a severe burn, they often face at least one reconstructive surgery involving skin grafts and deal with debilitating pain. If you have sustained a burn injury because of another party’s careless choices, Florida law entitles you to seek damages for losses related to your injury in a personal injury lawsuit with the help of an experienced burn injury lawyer. You and your family shouldn’t have to suffer the devastating effects of a burn injury when another party’s negligence caused you harm.
The knowledgeable and compassionate Fort Myers burn injury attorneys at Viles & Beckman have decades of experience communicating and negotiating with insurance companies and championing the rights of injured individuals to hold liable parties accountable for their negligence. One of our qualified lawyers can handle the details of your burn injury case while you focus on healing and recovering to the best level you can. Contact Viles & Beckman at 239-334-3933 for a free consultation and to discuss how we can assist you after a burn injury.
Advocating for Burn Injury Victims Since 1995
The skilled legal team at Viles & Beckman has more than four decades of experience helping injured clients seek compensation for damages related to burn injuries caused other parties’ negligence. Our passion for seeking justice for our clients has resulted in the recovery of millions of dollars in damages from verdicts in favor of the plaintiff and settlements before litigation. We cannot guarantee outcomes in any case, but our team will aggressively advocate for you and build the strongest case we can against at-fault parties to maximize the chances of a positive outcome for your individual circumstances.
I’ve suffered a burn injury. Should I consult a burn injury lawyer?
If you have sustained a significant burn injury, it is advisable to contact a burn injury lawyer as soon as possible, especially if you answer YES to any of the following questions:
- Have you suffered significant pain and suffering as a result of the burn?
- Have you experienced long-term physical or mental injury or any type of deformity?
- Do you have huge medical bills?
- Have you been unable to work, cannot work in the job you traditionally held, or become disabled?
- Were you badly burned on your face, arms, legs, or groin area?
- Was there negligence or the possibility of negligence on the part of a third party that caused or contributed to your burn incident?
- Did a defective machine or appliance cause the burn?
- Do you think someone else’s actions or inaction resulted in your injury?
- Do you think you deserve compensation?
Why should I consult a burn injury lawyer?
In Florida, the law allows accident victims, including burn victims, to seek compensation from the at-fault party (if there is one). Many attorneys offer a free initial consultation, so you can sit with a burn injury lawyer, discuss your case, and make an informed decision about whether you want to pursue a case – all without laying out any money. If compensation is potentially involved, being represented by a burn injury lawyer most often substantially increases the amount of the settlement you are offered. If insurance companies call you to make an offer for a quick settlement, do not agree to anything without consulting your lawyer. You may inadvertently lock yourself into an agreement that provides you with less money than the amount which your lawyer will be able to negotiate for you.
Burn injuries fall under Florida’s personal injury laws. If you and your lawyer decide to pursue a civil case to determine negligence and potential compensation, you generally have four years to file a lawsuit. There are some exceptions to the statute of limitations; your lawyer will be able to offer professional and knowledgeable counsel and guidance.
I suffered my burn injury in Fort Myers. Should I hire a lawyer local to Fort Myers?
Yes, absolutely! It is always helpful to hire a lawyer from the jurisdiction where the injury occurred. A local lawyer is most familiar with local and state laws; knows the local court system and proceedings; has good contacts with the local police and prosecutors, and works hard to maintain his reputation and good standing with the local community. Your lawyer should be professional and compassionate, available to answer your questions and update you on your case status when requested.
Where do most burns occur?
The vast majority of burn injuries occur at home. The second most likely place to sustain a burn is at the workplace.
Burn injuries can fall into four types: thermal, chemical, electrical, or radiological. According to the American Burn Association, the top six causes of burn injuries are:
- Contact with flame or fire (46%)
- Contact with steam, hot water, spilled coffee (scalding) (32%)
- Contact with hot objects or appliances, such as ovens or irons (8%)
- Contact with electricity, live electricity wire (4%)
- Chemical burns (3%)
- Other causes, such as sunburn, fireworks, smoke inhalation (7%)
Common Causes of Burn Injuries
According to the American Burn Association, almost 500,000 persons per year sustain burn injuries that require medical treatment. Among those who suffer injury, about 40,000—including 30,000 at burn centers—require at least short-term hospitalization. Receiving the appropriate treatment for a burn requires the burn victim, or someone on his or her behalf, to tell the doctor the source of the burn. The five main sources for burns are: sunlight, heat, radiation, chemicals, and electricity. Doctors treat chemical burns differently than sunburns and electrocution burns differently than heat burns, etc.
More specifically, the most common causes of burns include:
A scald occurs when steam or hot liquid burn a person’s skin. Several different activities might lead to a scald, such as dining out, cooking, or bathing. A server in a restaurant might spill hot coffee, hot water, soup, or some other hot liquid. Those who work in the food service industry are especially at risk for scalds while cooking in busy kitchens where pots and pans might get knocked over. Unattended children in the kitchen or the bathtub may sustain severe scalds if they accidentally spill hot liquids or run hot bathwater.
The ignition of a fire might be purposeful or accidental and may stem from a variety of sources. Everything from electrical shorts that cause a spark, unextinguished cigars and cigarettes, explosive car crashes, unattended campfires, and spontaneous combustion might start a dangerous fire. Flammable liquids literally add fuel to the fire and can lead to dangerous and fiery explosions. Examples of flammable liquids include gasoline, propane, ammonia, ethanol, butane, and hydrogen. When people get trapped and cannot safely escape a building fire, motor vehicle fire, or a wildfire, the result is often severe and catastrophic burns—that is, if they live through the disaster.
Whether cleaning or doing tasks at home or on the job, many people come into contact with harsh chemicals every day. Exposure to harsh and toxic chemicals is not only dangerous for a person’s lungs, but also when some chemicals make contact with skin, they can cause painful chemical burns. Examples of common culprits that corrode the skin and cause burns include bleach, chlorine, ammonia, denture cleaners, teeth whitening products, and battery acid.
The medical field uses radiation to treat cancer patients; radiation can shrink or eliminate some tumors. Although less common, doctors also treat thyroid disease, blood disorders, and other types of tumors with radiation. Those who need x-rays and other diagnostic imaging also face exposure to radiation. When a person’s body is exposed to too much radiation, they can suffer damage to the skin and other tissues inside of the body.
Live Electrical Wires and Outlets
Electricity creates potential burn hazards for many. Sloppy electrical work and loose wires can cause a fire, and direct contact can cause electrocution. Unprotected outlets can also be dangerous for young children. The National Institutes of Health reports four main types of electrical injuries:
- Flash injuries refer to superficial burns where no electrical current travels through the body.
- Flame injuries occur when an arc flash throws a spark and ignites clothing. Sometimes current passes through the skin.
- Lightning injuries occur when an electrical current flows through a person’s body. These injuries involve short bursts of energy with very high voltage.
- True injuries refer to electricity flowing through a person’s body to the extent that they become part of an electrical circuit.
Evaluating Burn Injuries
The severity of your burn injury will play a part in the amount of damages you might recover in a personal injury lawsuit. General physicians, burn specialists, and other medical professionals evaluate the severity of a burn by the extent to which it penetrates through the skin and body. You’ve heard this evaluation expressed as first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree burns.
While you might know that first-degree burns are minor and third-degree burns are severe, you might not know exactly how medical professionals distinguish between the various degrees. The following broad guidelines will give you an idea of the different levels of burn injuries:
- First-degree burns are minor burns which only cause injury to the epidermis, the outer layer of skin. Typically, those who sustain a first-degree burn do not need to see a doctor. Basic first aid involving some cold water, burn ointment, and a bandage will help these minor burns heal quickly. If a burn victim suffers a first-degree burn on a large piece of or all of their body, they should seek medical attention.
- Second-degree burns permeate deeper into the human body. They extend past the epidermis into the next layer of skin on the body, the dermis. Second-degree burns require more time to heal, and in some cases, doctors might have to perform a skin graft. The approach doctors use to treat second-degree burns hinges on the source of the burn and how much of a person’s body suffered a burn.
- Third-degree burns extend through both the dermis and the epidermis. Burn victims must undergo reconstructive surgery, which includes a skin graft. Third-degree burns cause excruciating pain and require hospitalization so doctors can manage pain and potential infections until sufficient healing has occurred. It’s not uncommon for those who suffer third-degree burns to have permanent scars because of their injuries.
- Catastrophic burns refer to all burns that are more severe than third-degree burns. Variance exists among catastrophic burns. The least severe catastrophic burns permeate the skin and layers of fat and muscle. In the most severe catastrophic burn cases, the skeletal system might be exposed in one or more areas. Most who suffer catastrophic burns go into shock and need to be kept in a medically-induced coma until a substantial amount of healing occurs and pain subsides. Catastrophic burns can be fatal, even during recovery, because they open the body up to infection and affect other vital body processes.
Defense Strategies in Florida Burn Injury Claims
If you bring a lawsuit against another party to seek compensation for damages related to your burn, expect him or her and the involved insurance carrier to employ every possible tactic to avoid financial liability. Some strategies the defense might use to devalue your bun claim include:
- Shifting blame to you. Florida courts apply pure comparative negligence to personal injury claims, including those that involve burn injuries. Comparative negligence refers to the idea of shared liability, assessing the extent to which you might have contributed to your burn injury. If the court determines that you contributed to your injury, it will reduce your damages award according to your percentage of fault. Comparative negligence motivates defense teams to shift the blame to reduce financial liability. They might argue you were using a product improperly, didn’t heed printed warnings, or should have known the danger and risks of the source of your burn.
- Downplaying your burn injuries. Another way the defense might try to avoid financial liability is by suggesting that your injuries are not as bad as you claim. Your attorney will ask for a specific amount based on your expected recovery plan, which may include multiple surgeries and treatments. The defense might argue that you have overestimated the cost of future medical expenses and the amount of time that you need for a complete recovery, if possible.
- Making a quick settlement offer. After an insurance company investigates a burn injury, they have a good idea of whether a court will hold the policyholder liable for damages. This sometimes prompts insurance companies to make low settlement offers right away, so they can avoid a large payout during litigation. These initial offers are especially attractive to victims who are financially struggling because of missing work and amassing medical bills. Yet, initial offers are typically far lower than what they should be if another party’s careless choices led to a severe burn injury. Accepting an early offer prevents you from suing for more money in the future, making it imperative for you to contact an attorney for advice before signing on the dotted line.
Who is responsible for a burn injury?
Sometimes establishing liability for a burn injury is very difficult. Did the head of a company ignore safety precautions? Was there a device that malfunctioned due to a manufacturing or design defect? Was there faulty wiring in a building? Were safety code violations purposely ignored? Did another driver’s inattention cause the car accident that you were burned in? Were the car’s brakes faulty? Were flammable materials not stored correctly in the workplace? Was there negligence by a third party?
Alternatively, some burn injuries are strictly accidental.
That’s why it is of paramount importance to hire and work with the best local burn injury lawyer you can find. An experienced lawyer will be with you every step of the way in the long process of resolution of your lawsuit.
Recouping Loss After a Burn Injury
If your attorney negotiates a favorable settlement or the court rules in your favor, you might receive compensation for the following damages and losses related to your burn injury:
- Medical expenses, including ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, diagnostic imaging, skin grafting and other reconstructive surgery, aftercare, and pain medication
- Future medical treatment when your burn injury requires multiple surgeries with extensive recovery time or results in a permanent disability or condition requiring around-the-clock care for life
- Rehabilitation costs to help restore functions lost due to a burn injury, such as physical therapy, and assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, canes, and walkers.
- Lost wages for missing work due to injury, treatment, and recovery
- Future lost wages when a severe burn injury causes extensive damage which prevents you from returning to your job or requires you to reduce your hours.
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Scarring and disfigurement