When a high profile case makes it to a courtroom, the general population is nearly guaranteed to hear all about it in overwhelming amounts. Mainstream media and social networking sites like Facebook and Google+ allow popular stories to spread like wildfire across the internet. Speaking of hot topics; we’ve all heard the story of Stella Liebeck who was originally awarded $2.86M by a civil jury (before the 2 parties came to a confidential settlement agreement), claiming that McDonald’s acted negligent by selling her coffee that was “unreasonably dangerous” when she spilled the entire cup on her lap and suffered from third-degree burns.
Because of the popularity of Liebeck’s trial and verdict, it seems to be the only thing people can think of when it comes to suing a company for burns. Believe it or not, it’s the lesser heard of the court cases that are the most shocking. Burn injuries can be caused by the negligent acts of person, company, organization, or entity in a countless number of ways. Because people often fail to notice a correlation between their burn injuries and someone else’s negligence, they in turn fail to pursue the case in court and bring any wrongdoers to justice.
But Accidents Happen…
Accidents do happen; that’s how civil procedures differ from criminal procedures. An injury inflicted by someone with intent to harm is a crime, while an injury inflicted by someone who failed to show reasonable care is a civil matter in court. But justice isn’t something served only to those who intended to cause an injury. Justice covers more than just criminal repercussions.
Those who are burned due to someone else’s negligence—even the families of those who are burned—could undergo an enormous amount of pain and suffering depending on burn severity. While there’s nothing wrong with expressing a little sympathy to a negligent party (for example, not wanting to bankrupt a small company), it should be on a level playing field. Medical expenses could need paying; even funeral costs could arise should the burns be fatal; a settlement between the two parties could be in the works.
Settlements are out-of-courtroom agreements made by the parties involved in a case (normally “under the table”) to settle the case and please both parties (to an extent). If a decision is made by a jury in court, they may award the plaintiff with more money than the defendant could ever provide in their lifetime. Settlements are discussed directly between the two parties and are essentially a form of compromise. A proper settlement would generally void your right to sue, but there should be no reason to sue if you’ve come to good terms with the negligent party.
Obscure Burn Accidents
A big factor which must be determined in a negligent burn injury case is the amount of fault each party has expressed. Florida operates as a pure-comparative negligence state, which means that plaintiffs here can secure compensation based on how much the negligent party was at fault. For example, if you scald your hand by touching the hot roof of a taxicab, you may be considered 99% at fault for expressing a lack of care around sun-exposed objects on a hot day. On the other hand, the taxicab company may be 1% at fault for not making the hazard obvious to passengers.
Believe it or not, it’s the frivolous cases like this one that yield the highest plaintiff awards, allow me to explain. I stated above that the taxicab company (defendant) was 1% at fault due to their negligence, meaning that you (plaintiff) would only be able to recover 1% of the final determined award amount.
“Well that’s not a very high plaintiff award; I thought you said they yield the highest.” Here’s the catch.
Rare Cases Lead to Rare Finds
The thing most surprising about Liebeck’s case is this: Judge Robert H. Scott actually had a great reason to award her. At first glance, it may seem like Liebeck is almost completely at fault for failing to express care while handling the hot coffee. When lawyers and a civil jury got involved in the case, however, it was determined that Lieback was only 20% at fault for the incident. Lawyers provided evidence that McDonald’s served their coffee exceptionally hotter than necessary and provided inadequate warnings of such conditions.
Liebeck’s severe burns may have appeared like your standard case of clumsiness, but soon proved otherwise by uncovering the negligent acts of McDonalds which inevitably led to her pain and suffering. If she hadn’t spoken to an attorney to discuss to her case, she may have never imagined being only 20% at fault. Some people may not see a correlation between a burn injury they’ve received, and the negligent acts of another. That’s why it’s so important to contact an experienced burn injury attorney to discuss your case and get an idea of how well it would hold up in a court of law.
SPEAK WITH AN EXPERIENCED BURN INJURY ATTORNEY IN THE CLEARWATER & TAMPA BAY AREA FOR FREE
There’s no better way to determine if you’re eligible to seek compensation than by speaking with an attorney face-to-face. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation to learn your rights, options, and best course of action. To further ease any stress placed a burn injury victim or their loved ones, we promise to never charge a litigation fee unless we secure a favorable result. An experienced burn injury attorney is standing by; call the Clearwater office of Dolman Law Group today at 727-451-6900.
Dolman Law Group
800 N. Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900