When considering physical and psychological pain many people would suggest that a burn injury is one of the worst things you could experience. While the vast majority of burn injury compensation claims will be for relatively minor injuries, around 10% of those attending Accident and Emergency departments will require treatment in a specialist burns unit. It may surprise many to learn that around 50% of those who attend hospital because of a burn injury are under the age of 16.
Burns injuries are classified as first-degree, second-degree and third-degree which reflect the severity of the injury. A burn injury could have a temporary or permanent impact on tendons, ligaments and can in some cases lead to mobility issues and significant scarring. While there are other classes of injury which attract damages for psychological stress, for many people the idea of being involved in a serious accident involving a burn injury is difficult enough to think about let alone experience.
If you have suffered a burn injury due to an act of negligence by a third party then you may have a strong case for burn injury compensation.
Classifying Burn Injuries
As we touched on above, there are three types of burn injuries which are first-degree, second-degree and third-degree although the severity of the injury does vary dramatically. Any compensation payment for a burn injury will obviously depend upon the severity of the injury as well as the impact on the victim’s life and any psychological issues. In some cases a burn injury can immobilise a person temporarily, sometimes permanently and also have a massive impact upon their standard of living.
We will now take a look at the in-depth classifications for burn injuries which give you an idea of their severity.
- First-degree burns. This type of injury will damage the first layer of the skin which may appear red and blotchy but does not generally blister. There may be considerably pain when the injury occurs but after relatively simple medical treatment this pain should stop fairly quickly.
- Second-degree burns. As we move on to second-degree burns the severity of the injury and the potential long-term implications are greater. An injury which damages the deeper layers of the epidermis and the dermis will likely incur significant redness and blistering. Unfortunately, there may also be issues with fluid loss if more than 10% of the body is affected. Some victims have been known to go into shock which brings about its own medical challenges.
- Third-degree burns. This is the most severe type of burn injury with all three layers of the skin destroyed. There may also be issues with the layer of fat and tissue under the skin leading to severe scarring and potentially requiring skin grafts. This type of injury will take a long time to heal and in most cases there will be permanent scarring and other issues to consider when claiming compensation.
If you have suffered a burn injury, the first thing you need to do is seek medical attention. This will ensure that treatment is given as soon as possible together with an official assessment which may come in useful should you pursue a burn injury compensation claim. As and when you appoint a personal injury solicitor they will likely have their own medical experts, who will be able to assess the burn injury in more detail.
Common Causes Of Burn Injuries
It will come as no surprise to learn that the vast majority of burn injuries occur as a consequence of fires, steam, sun, chemicals, friction as well as electrical burns. There may be some surprise when you consider the number of “cold burns” which occur as a consequence of contact with ice and devices such as CO2 fire extinguishers. Cold burns can be just as severe as traditional burns and in some cases where they are chemically induced there can be significant complications.
While there are no hard and fast rules about where burn injuries occur, the most common locations include:
- Accidents at work.
- Road traffic accidents.
- Schools and nurseries.
- Cafes, restaurants and other food establishments.
- Hospitals and clinics.
- Defective equipment in the workplace.
- Defective equipment in the home.
The specific cause and location of a burn injury will have no direct impact upon the level of compensation which will be dictated by the seriousness of the injury and proof of negligence and liability. As with any burn injury claim, it is imperative that the claimant is able to demonstrate that the accident was caused by the act of another party or negligence. They will also need to prove a direct link between the accident and the burn injury although in reality this will be fairly easy with the help of doctors.
Making A Compensation Claim For A Burn Injury
There are various criteria when looking at the burn injury compensation process for those who have suffered because of negligence which include:
- The incident must have occurred within three years of the burn injury claim.
- Negligence and liability must be proven.
- There must be a direct link between the accident and the burn injury.
Where children are involved not only is there a greater duty of care for those “looking after” minors but the timescale is slightly different. If the accident occurs when the child is under 18 years of age then a burn injury compensation claim can be pursued by the child’s parent, guardian or appointed relative. This is known as a “litigation friend” and they will be responsible for appointing a solicitor or lawyer, pursuing the claim and making a final decision which will be in the best interests of the child.
Claims involving burns injuries and children can be lodged, on their behalf, any time up until their 18th birthday. On their 18th birthday the three-year timescale begins again with the claimant able to pursue their own action up until their 21st birthday. This extended timescale, where children are involved, is in place for all personal injury claims.
Establishing Negligence And Liability In Burn Injury Claims
There will be occasions where at first it may not seem obvious which party was negligent and who may be liable, but that does not stop a claimant from lodging a burn injury compensation claim. In the event of an accident at work, the law stipulates that an employer has a legal duty of care to keep their employees safe. There is an array of health and safety regulations to backup this stipulation many of which can be used as evidence by a claimant. Simple things such as maintaining machinery, ensuring the workplace is a safe environment as well as providing protective equipment and relevant training are all considerations.
Unfortunately, while vehicle fires are relatively rare they can cause severe burns when they do occur. Where there is a collision on the road again it can be difficult at first glance to see who was particularly negligent and may be liable to compensate the victim. In some cases it may simply be a case of referring to the Highway Code which will confirm who has right of way and which action should have been taken – this will often help identify the negligent party.
There may also be occasions where more than one party was negligent and may be liable to burns compensation. In this instance the courts will judge the degree of negligence and liability for each party and apportion any compensation awarded accordingly.
Guidelines For Burn Injury Compensation Amounts
The Judicial College issues an array of compensation payment guidelines taking in injuries such as burns. These guidelines are not set down in law but they do form the cornerstone of individual compensation payments which will reflect the severity of the situation.
General damages are made up of compensation for the burn injury and suffering of the victim.
Factors that may be considered when calculating burn injury compensation amounts would be how severe the burn injury/ injuries are, where on the body is the burn, what level of scarring there is and may be as a result of the burns. Also the claimants age and gender may be considered in burn injury and scarring injury cases. In some cases the psychological impact of the injury may also attract additional damages which will be considered by the courts on a case by case basis.
The case for special damages is a lot more straightforward as it is simply a reimbursement of expenses to date and compensation for estimated future expenses. These will include:
- Loss of earnings.
- Loss of future earnings.
- Medical expenses incurred.
- Medical expenses for the future.
- Additional travel expenses.
- Replacement and repair of property.
- Specialist adaptions to the home.
- Mobility aids.
This is just an idea of the factors which come into play when considering special damages. While different personal injury solicitors may have different ideas about levels of compensation for a burn injury, as long as you can prove the data is accurate and how you arrived at your final compensation calculation, the courts will generally look favourably upon the claimant.
How A Personal Injury Solicitor Handles Your Claim
After appointing a personal injury solicitor they will review the details of your accident, the severity of the burn injuries and the impact on your current and future living expectations. This is why it’s advised to keep a detailed record of when the accident occurred, where it occurred and how it occurred. Supporting evidence such as photographs and witness statements, together with medical assessments, will also add weight to your claim.
In the vast majority of cases, burns injuries are settled out of court where negligence is proven and liability accepted. There will be occasions where there is split liability or a dispute about negligence or the “duty of care” with these claims going to court in front of a judge.
If you have any questions about a burn injury compensation claim please contact us and our solicitors will be pleased to answer them.