Often, patients in Boston hospitals describe burn injuries as the most painful type of injury they've ever received. Whether burns occur due to chemical exposure or because of heat from any source, they can cause lifelong scarring as well as a long recovery period, often in a special burn unit.
If someone else caused your burns, you may have the right to compensation through a burn injury claim. A Boston burn injury claim can help you obtain much-needed funds to pay your medical bills or take care of your other expenses during your recovery. Contact the Boston Burn Injury Lawyers at Dolman Law Group today at 833-552-7274 to schedule a free consultation.
Measuring Burns by Degree
Typically, doctors place burns into three categories.
First Degree Burns
First degree burns involve only the first layer of the skin. Most of the time, they do not blister or turn red or black. Instead, first degree burns usually involve some redness and pain associated with the injury. Often, burn victims with first degree burns recover completely, without significant scarring. First degree burns can prove dangerous if they occur around the face or genitals.
Second Degree Burns
Second degree burns go beyond the first layer of skin and into the second layer beneath. Typically, second degree burns lead to blistering and redness. They can cause substantial pain and may leave significant scars behind after the initial injury heals. Because second degree burns destroy the protective layers of the skin, they can lead to significant infection and other complications.
Third Degree Burns
Third degree burns go beyond the layers of the skin and into the flesh beneath. Rather than appearing red and blistered, third degree burns may appear white or black. They often have a high risk of infection and other complications. Victims with severe third degree burns may require skin grafts to help with healing and minimize scarring as much as possible.
Third degree burns may, however, result in long-term scarring and significant changes in appearance. Many victims struggle with the changes in appearance related to that scarring. Third degree burns can also result in lost mobility around the injury site, since scarring can tighten skin and lead to poor joint movement.
Types of Burn Injuries and How They Occur in Boston
In addition to grading burns by their severity, doctors may also want to define burns by how they occurred. Burns can occur in a variety of ways, depending on the type of negligence committed by the other party and what type of substance the victim came into contact with.
Chemical burns often occur due to improper chemical disposal or a lack of proper safety precautions when handling hazardous chemicals. Construction sites, for example, often contain a variety of hazardous chemicals. Chemical burns may occur due to improper storage of those chemicals, especially if the construction company does not lock them away properly.
Sometimes, chemical burns occur due to direct contact with a chemical, usually over time. Other times, especially with long-term exposure, victims may suffer chemical burns due to caustic chemicals in the air. Seeking immediate care can prove critical after exposure to those hazardous chemicals, since chemical exposure may have long-term effects, including increased risk of cancer.
When most people think of burns, they think first of heat burns: those that occur due to exposure to a high level of heat. Heat burns can occur during fires or due to improper handling of kitchen equipment. Some victims have suffered burns due to the hot water heater getting turned up too high or failure to properly cover hot items in a public place. These burns can occur over large percentages of the body, especially if the victim does not realize the danger before coming into contact with the too-hot surface or substance.
Like heat burns, cold burns occur due to temperature. Just as excess heat can cause serious damage to the victim's skin, so can excess exposure to cold. If cold exposure continues too long, victims can suffer a frostbite-like condition.
Friction burns often present with many of the same symptoms as heat burns, but may occur due to repeated friction over the skin rather than occurring because of immediate heat exposure. Friction burns can occur in a variety of ways. Many friction burns occur because the victim gets dragged across a surface, often concrete. For example, the victims of motorcycle and bicycle accidents often suffer from road rash which, when severe, resembles a burn.
Friction burns also commonly occur on construction sites or when working with heavy equipment, especially equipment that moves at high speeds. Friction burns may have a higher risk of infection than other types of burns since, in some cases, friction burn victims can have debris left in the injury.
When a victim suffers exposure to a relatively low current of electricity, he may receive only a brief shock: a reminder that he needs to move away from the source of that electricity or turn off the electricity to a certain location before working on it. Higher currents, on the other hand, can result in severe electrical burns.
Electrical burns can prove very tricky. While they can leave visible burns at the injury site, they may also leave “exit wounds” behind where the current leaves the body, especially if the victim had contact with another metal surface at the time of the accident. Electric shock accidents, which often occur on construction sites, can also leave the victim with severe, ongoing problems, including heart problems or internal damage. A full evaluation from a doctor can help rule out serious impacts from electrical exposure.
Most often, radiation burns occur in an industrial or medical setting. For example, you might receive medical treatment, including radiation delivered for cancer, that results in a minor burn due to a miscalculation on the part of the technician. Radiation burns can have many of the same symptoms as other types of burns, and their severity may vary based on the extent of the exposure.
Boston Burn Injuries and Complications
Burn victims suffer a high rate of complications. Not only can burns result in severe scarring, many burn victims suffer from infections. When a burn occurs, it removes the skin: the protective layer that helps prevent bacteria and other foreign matter from entering the body. Victims may need to spend a long time in a special burn unit in the hospital, where sterile procedures can help reduce infection risks. Burn victims with burns over a large percentage of the body may require longer stays or more careful care.
In addition, burn victims may suffer from:
Risk of Hypothermia
As the body tries to regulate itself following severe burns, victims may suffer from hypothermia, or dangerously low body temperature. Hypothermia becomes increasingly likely with more severe burns. Victims who receive prompt treatment may have a lower risk of complications, but doctors may need to observe patients long-term to reduce hypothermia risks.
Fluid or Blood Loss
The hazards associated with severe burns can lead to the loss of fluids or blood volume in the body, which can pose a severe danger to the burn victim.
Failed Skin Grafts
Many burn victims undergo skin grafts, in which doctors remove skin and transplant it over the burned area. Skin grafts can help replace burned skin faster and lead to a higher level of protection for the patient. Unfortunately, skin grafts have a high failure rate, and many victims have to go through multiple treatments to treat their injuries.
Determining Liability in a Boston Burn Injury
To file a burn injury claim, your Boston personal injury attorney will start by identifying the party or parties that contributed to your burns.
The liable party is someone who:
Bore a duty of care to you at the time of the accident.
To have liability for your injuries, the liable party must have borne a duty of care to you at the time of the accident. For example, a neighbor who failed to warn you about a smoldering fire across the street, despite seeing you walk in that direction, has not violated his duty of care to you. On the other hand, a neighbor who invites you to his home, but does not warn you about smoldering coals on the ground that you will need to walk across, may bear liability for severe burn injuries suffered due to that negligence.
Violated that duty of care in some way.
To bear liability for your injuries, the liable party must commit an act of negligence that violates his duty of care to you. For example, drivers on the road bear a duty of care to everyone who shares the road with them, including cyclists and pedestrians. Every driver sharing the road with you at any given moment, however, does not contribute to the circumstances that result in you sliding across the pavement, receiving severe friction burns that ultimately result in severe infections.
On the other hand, the driver that causes your accident—a distracted driver who ignores your presence on the road, for example—may bear liability for your injuries.
Causes your injuries due to negligence.
To file a burn injury claim in Boston, you will need to show that your injuries resulted from the other party's negligence. Suppose, for example, that your landlord keeps the hot water tank for your apartment turned way too high. You turn on the water, but quickly note steam rising from it and turn it off before it can cause serious injury.
While you may need to contact the local Housing Authority to determine your next steps with your landlord, especially if your landlord refuses to take care of the water heater, you do not have grounds for a burn injury claim, since no one suffered a serious injury. On the other hand, if you suffered severe burns due to contact with that water, you may have grounds to file a burn injury claim against your landlord.
Seeking Compensation After a Boston Burn Accident
Burn injuries not only cause a great deal of pain, they can also prove very expensive. Your burns can prevent you from working for a long time, especially if you need to remain in a burn care unit. They can also lead to substantial medical bills. How much compensation should you expect?
An attorney cannot guarantee the compensation you will ultimately receive for injuries sustained in a Boston burn accident. Most victims, however, include these elements in their claims.
After your burns, did you need to go straight to the emergency room? Did you spend time in a sterile burn unit? What procedures did you need to help restore your skin and heal from your injuries? You can include your medical expenses as part of your burn injury claim.
Many burn victims have to miss work following their injuries. It could take weeks or months before you can fully return to your usual job duties. To help maintain your overall quality of life and pay the bills accumulated during that period, you can include lost wages as part of your burn injury claim.
Pain and Suffering
Not only did you suffer severe financial losses because of your burns, you may have suffered immense pain, as well. Talk to an attorney about how to include pain and suffering as part of your claim.
Boston Burn Injury FAQs
Below, we take a look at some of the most commonly-asked questions concerning burn injury claims in Boston.
1. Can I include the cost of reconstructive surgery as part of my Boston burn injury claim?
Plastic surgery can help many burn injury victims restore a more normal appearance, which can help increase overall confidence and give victims normal function following serious burns. Many burn victims choose plastic surgery for a variety of reasons, including self-consciousness resulting from appearance-changing burns.
In many cases, you can include the cost of plastic surgery as part of your burn injury claim. Talk to an attorney about how to calculate and include those expenses.
2. Do I need a lawyer to handle a Boston burn injury claim?
Working with an attorney can offer advantages in any burn injury claim.
As a burn victim, you may want to work with an attorney to receive help:
- Investigating your claim. Often, your attorney will have a good idea of where to investigate to not only seek clear evidence concerning who caused your injuries, but to identify any other parties that might have contributed to your burns. Keep in mind that locating multiple liable parties may increase the compensation you can ultimately receive for your injuries. Ultimately, this may increase the funds you have on hand to take care of your medical expenses and pay your bills during your recovery.
- Dealing with the insurance company. Most often, you will deal with an insurance company to pursue compensation for your burns. Even little things you say to the insurance company may later have a big impact on your claim. Talk to your attorney before dealing with the insurance company to get a better idea of how you want to handle those interactions. Many burn injury victims choose to turn those interactions over to their attorney entirely.
- Managing negotiations and, if needed, a court battle. While most burn injury claims, including burn injury claims, settle out of court, some insurance companies will push the claim to mediation or even require you to go to court to get the compensation you really deserve for your injuries. An attorney can help fight for you, ensuring that one person remains on your side throughout your claim.
3. How long do I have to file a Boston burn injury claim?
You must file a claim for your burns before the statute of limitations runs out. In many cases, however, an experienced burn injury attorney can help identify potential exceptions to the statute of limitations, which can help extend the time you have to file your claim. If you suffered burns due to negligence on the part of the government, including burns suffered due to government negligence or in an accident with a government vehicle, you may have a more limited amount of time to file your claim, so contact a burn injury attorney as soon as possible.
4. When should I file my Boston burn injury claim?
Get in touch with a lawyer as soon after your burns as possible. Many lawyers will work with you to ensure that you can get the legal representation you need, whether that means the lawyer comes to you or conducts a virtual meeting to get a better idea of your claim, any evidence you may have collected, and how much compensation you deserve.
However, that does not necessarily mean that your lawyer will advise filing your burn injury claim immediately. In some cases, you may need to take the time to heal before you begin your claim. Remember, burns have a high rate of infection and complications. Not only does infection increase scarring or the length of your recovery, it can also lead to increased medical bills, all of which you may want to add to your burn injury claim. Talk to your attorney about how long you may want to wait before beginning the claim process.
5. What if the liable insurance company offers me a settlement for my Boston burn injury? Should I take it?
Sometimes, the insurance company that covers the liable party may offer you a settlement. You may talk to the auto insurance company that covers a distracted driver, for example, or the property insurance provider that covers either a retail establishment, a public place, or even a private homeowner.
That insurance company, however, rarely has the victim's best interests at heart.
Insurance companies rarely issue the maximum settlement for serious injuries, including burns, in their initial offer. Instead, they will try to convince the liable party to accept a low settlement offer. That offer can provide immediate compensation, which may seem very tempting when you have serious burn injuries to deal with and medical bills piling up.
If you accept, however, the insurance company will have no further liability to you. The insurance company will not have to pay for future medical bills, including the cost of managing infections or failed skin grafts. You may find yourself struggling to pay for all those medical bills. If you end up out of work longer than initially anticipated, you may not have the funds you need to pay your other bills, which can lead to undue financial hardship.
Do not accept that first offer without taking the time to discuss it with a lawyer. Instead, get in touch with an experienced burn injury lawyer who has dealt with burn injuries in the past and can provide you with clear advice about the compensation you really deserve for your injuries. An attorney can help you make an informed decision about when to accept a settlement offer and when to wait and negotiate further.
6. How long does it take to settle a Boston burn injury claim?
The time to settle a Boston burn injury claim can vary. First, your attorney may need time to collect evidence regarding your claim.
Suppose, for example, that you suffered severe chemical burns due to a collision with a tanker truck. Your attorney will want to investigate every element of your claim: the truck driver, the trucking company, and even the company transporting those chemicals.
It can take time for your attorney to obtain and go through all of those records. That investigation, however, can help prove who caused your burns, holding each party liable and increasing the odds that you will get the compensation you need.
Next, you may need time to recover. Your doctors cannot always immediately predict how much you will recover from your injuries or how much scarring you will face. You may need time to see how well you heal before you can file your burn injury claim.
Once you file your claim, which will typically begin with submitting a demand letter that will indicate the funds your attorney believes you deserve for your injuries based on your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, you will need to negotiate. Often, you can go back and forth with the insurance company several times as you work to come to an agreement that works for both you and them.
If you cannot reach an agreement through negotiation, you may need to proceed to mediation or take your claim to court. If you must take your claim to court, you may need to wait for a court date, then present your argument.
Each stage of the claim process takes time. Working with an attorney can help you handle any delays and make sure that your needs get met throughout the process.
7. How much does it cost to hire a Boston burn injury attorney?
You have severe burns, which have led to high medical expenses. You cannot work during your recovery. Just how much should you expect it to cost to hire a burn injury lawyer?
Most burn injury lawyers will start with a free consultation. During that free consultation, you will have a chance to tell your story, discuss your options, and learn more about your legal rights. The attorney will take that time to assess your claim and determine your odds of winning your claim as well as how much you likely deserve for your injuries. Then, the attorney will determine whether he wants to accept your claim.
If the attorney does accept your claim, the firm may take the claim on a contingent fee basis. You will not have to make a payment for representation upfront or as the attorney renders services. Instead, you will pay for your legal representation only as a percentage of any award or settlement achieved.
8. I suffered agonizing physical pain and substantial emotional anguish due to my burns. How can I include that as part of my Boston burn injury claim?
The pain you suffered due to your burns falls into the category of pain and suffering. When you file your burn injury claim, you can include the suffering you faced due to your burns: not just the physical pain, but also the emotional anguish associated with your injuries. Talk to your attorney about how to include pain and suffering in your claim.
Most often, the insurance company and your attorney will base compensation for pain and suffering off of a percentage of your medical expenses. However, in some cases, you may choose to increase the amount you ask for in compensation for pain and suffering due to the specific losses you faced. For example, if you have visible scarring that you cannot cover with your clothing, like scarring on your face, and work in the public eye, you may discover that you have the right to increased compensation.
9. Can I file a Boston burn injury claim if I suffered burns on private property?
Yes. The owners of private property can hold liability for accidents that injure visitors on that property, especially if those accidents occur due to the negligence of the property owners.
Many burn victims struggle with the idea of filing a burn injury claim against a friend or family member, even if that family member or friend's negligence causes those injuries. Keep in mind that most homeowners carry property insurance to protect them financially from such a claim. Also, remember that your medical bills may mount quickly following severe burns, and you deserve compensation for your injuries.
10. I have a lot of medical bills from my burns. Does the liable party have to pay them directly?
Many burn victims face severe medical expenses, especially if they need a long-term stay in a burn unit, substantial plastic surgery, or repeated skin grafts. As the injured party, you will need to make arrangements to pay your medical bills. The liable party will not take responsibility, in most cases, for paying for your medical bills directly; instead, the liable party will compensate you for those medical bills, and you will take care of using those funds for paying for them.
You do, however, have some options for alleviating some of your immediate medical expenses.
Start by talking to your attorney. In many cases, your attorney will write a letter of protection, which will establish intent to pay for your medical bills once you receive compensation for your injuries. This can help reduce pressure from your medical providers and allow you to continue receiving care.
Next, talk to your health insurance company (or, better yet, ask your attorney for help). Your health insurance will offer vital protection for the expenses you may face while recovering from your burns. Get a solid understanding of your medical insurance policy, since knowing what your insurance company will and won't cover can help you make important decisions relating to your care.
You may also want to talk to your care provider about your payment options. Some hospitals, including university hospitals, will help you make modified payment arrangements based on your income or the extent of your medical bills.
Did You Suffer Burns in Boston Due to Someone Else's Negligence?
If you suffered burns due to the negligence of another party somewhere in Boston, Dolman Law Group can help you understand your rights and, in many cases, aid in the pursuit of compensation for your injuries. Contact us today at 833-552-7274 to learn more about whether you have grounds for a burn injury claim following severe burns.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
76 Canal Street, Suite 302
Boston, MA 02114