Anyone who has suffered a scald injury will be well aware how painful they are but people often underestimate the medical consequences.
Scald injuries are actually recognised by the UK courts as a burn injury caused by hot liquids or steam. Statistics show that each year around 130,000 individuals attend Accident and Emergency Departments with burn injuries with 10,000 of these admitted to hospital. If you also add in an additional 250,000 people who attend primary care units this equates to 380,000 individuals making use of primary care units. The majority of these injuries are referred to as “thermal injuries” with the largest element relating to scalds.
It is safe to say that most of these incidents occur in and around the home and unless there is some kind of defective product or substandard construction work, they are unlikely to result in scald injury claims. However, we also know that many scalds occur in the workplace, business premises as well as hospitals and other public service units. If you experience a scald because of negligence by one or more third parties then you may be able to make a scald injury claim for compensation.
Different Types Of Scald Injury
While scald injury claims are reviewed under the general burns grouping of injuries, they are distinguishable from other burn injuries simply because they involve hot liquids or steam. The symptoms themselves are similar to general burns but can vary enormously from mild to life-threatening injuries. When seeking compensation for a scald injury the more common symptoms include:
- Peeling of the skin.
- Unsightly blisters.
- Significant swelling.
- Redness around the scald area.
- White or charred skin.
The vast majority of scald injuries are considered first-degree burns as they impact the first layer of the skin. There are other more serious injuries which damage deeper layers of the epidermis and dermis and these are referred to as second-degree burns. One of the main issues with scald injuries is the fact that where steam in particular is involved there is a high latent heat as the liquid evaporates. So, even attempts to cool the scalded area may result in greater short-term discomfort as the hot liquid evaporates.
While the vast majority of scald injuries will result in short-term discomfort some of the more severe examples can create permanent scarring and even nerve damage. Such injuries will obviously require medical treatment, potential skin grafts and even rehabilitation. If the injury was down to negligence this is when you could make a scald injury claim.
Scald Injuries In The Workplace
There are many different areas of the employment market where employees are subject to hot liquids and chemicals which can lead to scald injuries. These include:
- Commercial machinery used to heat liquids and chemicals.
- Transportation of hot liquids and chemicals.
- Maintenance of steam pipe systems.
- Commercial kitchens.
This list is by no means inclusive because in theory, from a simple kettle to a specific piece of machinery used to heat water and chemicals, there are many other potential dangers which may result in scald injury claims. At this point it is worth noting that every employer has a legally binding duty of care to ensure the health and safety of all employees in the workplace. Therefore, if an employee was to suffer a scald injury as a consequence of negligence on behalf of an employer then there may be an opportunity to pursue a compensation claim.
Protecting Employees From Scald Injuries
As well as the legal duty of care that all employers have to their employees, there are also specific acts of Parliament which protect employees from acdcidents and injuries. These acts set out specific regulations by which all employers must abide to ensure the safety and well-being of their employees. Failure to abide by these regulations may result in legal action and possible fines where appropriate. Over the years we have seen a variety of scald injuries resulting in personal injury claims with negligence proven on behalf of the employer because of:
- Failure to carry out a full risk assessment of the working environment.
- Failure to identify potential hazards.
- Failure to maintain a safe workplace.
- Inadequate personal protective equipment such as gloves, protective clothing and appropriate footwear.
- Inadequate training of staff to address the dangers of scalding and other burn injuries.
- Failure to highlight hazards in the workplace with even simple signage.
- Poor maintenance of equipment leading to leaks, broken valves and increased danger of scalding.
The cumulative effect of these regulations and required actions by employers has seen a significant improvement in workplace safety in recent years. Even though there are still many instances of scalding injuries in the workplace, more employers are now aware of their obligations, how to protect their workforce and improve their safety record as a direct consequence of specific acts of Parliament.
Scald Injuries Outside Of The Workplace
As we touched on above, while there are many scald injuries in homes up and down the country, the vast majority of these are accidents and in general there is no negligence on behalf of third parties. The situation is different if customers/patients receive scald injuries on business premises as a result of negligence. Examples where scald injuries may occur outside of the workplace include:
- Business premises serving hot food and drinks.
- Care homes.
Obviously, in order to pursue any potential scald injury claim the claimant will need to prove negligence on behalf of one or more third parties resulting in their scald
injuries. Even though these injuries will involve customers/patients there is still a need to carry out risk assessments and ensure the business environment is as safe as possible. There will be some circumstances where scald injuries occur but the potential defendant was shown to have acted appropriately and done as much as possible to avoid injury. In these situations, without proving negligence, it will be impossible to pursue compensation.
Pursuing A Compensation Claim For Scald Injuries
In the event that you suffer a scald injury, the first action must be to arrange a medical assessment and treatment where required. Due to the latent heat surrounding evaporating hot liquid it is imperative that medical assistance is received as quickly as possible. Where medical assistance has been requested, details of the assessment and any treatment required will be noted on the patient’s file. This will likely also note details of when, where and how the injury occurred, elements which can be very useful when pursuing a scald injury claim.
Due to the often distressing nature of scald injuries it may be some time before the injured party is able to create a record of details surrounding the accident. In a perfect world a photograph of the scald injury together with the location of the accident would add further strength to a compensation claim. The collating of witness statements together with company health and safety records may also be useful to paint a broader picture of the incident. A personal injury solicitor will be able to examine your medical records, photographs, witness statements and company health and safety records and tell you if you have a strong enough case to pursue.
In the event that there is a strong case for scald injury compensation you will likely be offered a No Win No fee arrangement meaning there are no upfront legal costs and any compensation awarded would have deducted from it the solicitor or law firms fee, on a predetermined basis. This ensures that not only are valid scald injury claims pursued in the courts, and negligent third parties held responsible, but it also encourages changes in working practices to protect employees in the future.
Lodging A Scald Injury Claim
The process of lodging a scald injury compensation claim is fairly straightforward, a copy of the details of the accident and supporting evidence are passed to the courts and the defendant. Where negligence is fairly obvious it is highly likely that an out-of-court settlement will be agreed between the relevant parties. Where negligence is contested or perhaps there is shared negligence with one or more third parties this will likely go before the courts.
Types Of Compensation
There are two main types of scald injury compensation available which are general damages and special damages.
In simple terms, general damages include compensation for:
- The claimants pain and suffering.
- Life changing scald injuries.
- Mental trauma due to the scald injury.
The levels of compensation awarded for scald injuries will be based on similar accidents in the past.
The second type of compensation is known as special damages and is in regards to:
- Loss of earnings due to the scald injury.
- Future loss of earnings.
- Your medical expenses.
- Any future medical expenses.
- Adaptions to the home.
- Additional transport expenses.
In essence, special damages are compensation for costs incurred and funding for future costs relating to the injuries. As a consequence, there is no discretion with regards to the size of special damages although when you bear in mind the issues covered, the cumulative amount can be sizeable.
If you have a scald injury claim and require further advice, or would like to know what sort of compensation figure might be applicable please contact us today.