Fire and Burn Injury
Deaths from burn injuries or smoke inhalation in residential fires are one of the leading causes of death in homes in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”). After suffering the physical and emotional damage, navigating the potential fire or burn injury legal claims to recover compensation can seem daunting. The Boston fire and burn injury attorneys at Swartz & Swartz are here to help. In 2017, 1.3 million fires were reported by fire departments in 2017, resulting in an estimated 3,400 civilian deaths, nearly 15,000 civilian injuries, and $23 billion in property loss.
In addition, every day, more than 300 children, from newborns to teens, are treated in emergency rooms for burn-related injuries. Some suffer catastrophic injuries, others become fatalities due to the severity of the trauma. Such tragedies, while often occurring in homes, can also take place in industrial and commercial settings, at construction sites, workplaces and may be gas or electrical explosions, as well as product failures.
Navigating the Legal Issues Involved in Fire and Burn Injuries
This page discusses the common causes of burn injuries, provides some useful statistics regarding fire and burn accidents, describes the classification and types of burn injuries and associated treatment outcomes, explains the types of legal claims that can be brought, the legal services that are available and the types of compensation that can be awarded, and how choosing experienced fire and burn attorneys like the lawyers at Swartz & Swartz is critical to ensure preservation of a victims’ rights, including the recovery of all expenses and damages available when someone else’s negligence causes harm.
Common Causes of Burn Injuries
Set forth below are the most common causes of fire and burn injuries:
Home and Apartment Fire: Home and apartment fire accidents can be caused by several things, including electrical appliances, fireplaces, cigarettes, candles, heaters, and defective products. If the underlying cause of the home fire is due to someone’s negligence or a defective product, the homeowners may file claims to recover any damages to the property and burn accident victims may also file claims for compensation for any injuries sustained.
Negligent Landlord Fire Issues: Landlords have specific fire safety obligations with respect to the tenants in their rental homes. Such obligations include installing smoke alarms, having fire escapes and electrical wiring in compliance with codes, and maintaining escape routes in common areas. Two key landlord responsibilities are:
- Smoke Detectors: Installation of properly working smoke detectors is the landlord’s responsibility. The National Fire Protection Association requires a smoke detector outside sleeping areas, plus one inside each bedroom. In addition, the type of smoke detector or alarm is relevant. Recently, the effectiveness of ionization smoke detectors has been questioned (leading to smoke detector burn injury lawsuits) due to alleged failures in detecting slow-smoldering fires in a reasonable amount of time – as a result, such devices have been banned in Massachusetts.
- Fire Extinguishers: The landlord is also responsible for keeping the required number of working fire extinguishers on the property. State and local municipal codes set forth the amount and location of required fire extinguishers.
In the event a fire is the result of the landlord’s failure to uphold these and other obligations, injury victims may file claims against the landlord to recover for their losses and injuries.
Workplace Fire and Burn Injuries and Burn Injuries Sustained at Work: The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) estimates that there are over 5,000 burn injuries from workplace fires each year. Employees injured in workplace burns may seek redress through workers’ compensation claims and/or through injury lawsuits against the responsible third parties. Workers that suffer from workplace fire and burn injuries should immediately contact our workplace fire injuries attorney to discuss their legal options for compensation, as they must make critical decisions regarding the coverage offered under workers’ compensation claims shortly after the incident occurs, and must also take steps to preserve evidence in the event a third party shares responsibility for the incident.
Electrical Burn: These are caused typically by a faulty electronic product or faulty electrical wiring, representing a defective condition that results in injuries to the user. These lawsuits may be filed against the manufacturer responsible for creating the defective product, or the person that installed, maintained or serviced the faulty wiring.
Chemical Burn: Wherever toxic chemicals are present, there exists the potential for chemical fires. Injuries from chemical burns can be severe and extensive, and victims may file claims
Thermal Burns: Thermal burns are one of the most common type. These burns occur when flames, hot metals, scalding liquids, or steam come in contact with the skin.
Fire and Burn Injury Statistics
Some statistics illustrate just how frequently these injuries occur. As stated, burns and smoke inhalation are a leading cause of home deaths in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1.1 million people suffer burn injuries that require medical attention every year in the United States. Approximately 50,000 of these burn victims require hospitalization and 20,000 suffer major burns covering 25% of their body surface. Roughly 4,500 burn victims die annually as a result of their injuries and as many as 10,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of burn-related infections.
Children and elderly people are the most vulnerable. In fact, burns and fires are the most common cause of accidental types of death in the U.S. home for children fourteen years of age and under, and the third leading cause of accidental death for all adults. For children as young as infants, scalding is the major precursor to burn injury deaths, and represent 40% of the burn injuries for children up to age 14. Older adults also have an increased risk – the U.S. National Burn Information Exchange statistics show that people older than sixty have an increased risk of burn injury. In addition, the age class most likely to be killed in a house fire are adults over age 75.
On the employment side, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that over 41,000 heat-related burns occur on job sites every year. A breakdown of these types of accidents indicates: 16,500 retail injuries, 9,500 manufacturing job injuries, and 8,600 service industry injuries, including the food service industry. A report by the National Burn Repository states that there were 10,639 burn injuries reported at industrial sites.
Classification of Burn Injuries
Burn injuries are among the most expensive catastrophic injuries to treat. A burn of 30% of total body area can cost more than $200,000 in initial hospital medical bills. For an extensive injury, there are additional significant costs which will include costs for repeat admission for reconstruction and for rehabilitation. Burns are typically classified by degree, with the higher the degree indicating the more serious the extent of the burn.
- First Degree Burns: First degree burns are minor burns that reach the first layer of skin. Oftentimes these are the common household burns, for example, handling hot liquids or a hot dish from the oven without a safety glove. These can usually be treated without emergency medical help but, if complications ensue, a follow up with a physician should be scheduled to examine any significant symptoms, including red or raw portions of the epidermis.
- Second Degree Burns: Second degree burns reference a severe burn that has reached into the second layer of skin. Second degree burns range in seriousness between superficial partial thickness layer scalds on the low end, and deeper skin layer damage on the high end. Most of the time, these may need to be treated with skin grafts at trauma care.
- Third Degree Burns: Third degree burns are also known as “full thickness” burns, as the damage reaches through all epidermal layers. These can be extremely painful and require immediate emergency medical burn treatment, and may result in significant long term damage.
- Fourth Degree Burns: Fourth degree burns are the most severe category, involving not only damage to all layers of the skin, but also damage to tendons or ligaments. Permanent scarring and physical limitations follow such an injury, with extensive surgeries and rehabilitations.
The degree of the burn, combined with the extent of body area that has been affected, determines the seriousness of the burn and the treatment outcomes. The area of the body affected is also crucial. Finally, one significant complication associated with serious burn scalding is infection. Major infections are life-threatening and can require long term hospitalization. One of leading burn problems in Massachusetts is hot liquid scalds to children under age 5. Boston, Massachusetts is at the forefront of a number of burn injury treatment hospitals such as Shriners Hospital for Children, Massachusetts General Hospital—Sumner Redstone Burn Center, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Burn Rehabilitation Program, Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Types of Burn and Fire Injury Lawsuit Claims
No matter how a fire incident occurred, if your loved one suffered wrongful death or fire/ burn injuries due to someone else’s negligent or reckless behavior, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Legal claims to recover damages for your injuries are often referenced as negligence claims, which are brought against individuals, companies or employers if the fire and resulting injury is due to a breach of a duty of care that resulted in the injury. Product liability claims are a special category of negligence or breach of warranty claim, and are pursued against manufacturers, distributors and/or retailers when there is a defective or a dangerous product that causes the injury.
Legal Services for Burn Victims
When dealing with the complications of a serious burn injury, it is critical to have an experienced team of attorneys on your side. The medical treatment associated with burn injuries can be extensive and costly. An experienced fire accident law firm can thoroughly investigate all aspects of a victim’s case to help ensure that the compensation covers all the associated medical expenses, including those reasonably expected to be incurred in the future.
What Legal Compensation Is Possible for Burn Injuries
If a burn injury lawsuit is successful against the responsible parties, the injured party can be compensated for various types of damages and losses that have resulted from the injuries, including physical and psychological damages, property damages, financial damages and quality of life related damages. Some examples of recoverable damages include:
- Medical expenses (past, present and future)
- Rehabilitation or nursing expenses
- Plastic surgery expenses
- Physical therapy
- Psychological counseling
- Medication costs
- Property damage
- Lost wages
- Loss of capacity to work
- Mental anguish
- Pain and suffering (Physical and Psychological)
- Loss of companionship
Selecting a Burn Injury Attorney
If you are injured in a fire, burn or an explosion that was a result of carelessness or negligence, selecting a burn injury attorney with significant experience in such claims is critically important. Fire and explosion incidents usually require immediate investigation, as well as analysis by arson investigators or other experts able to determine the cause of the blast or blaze, which is essential in making a legal determination as to who may be held responsible for the resulting damages or injuries.
Obtaining full and fair compensation will require negotiating with insurance companies, asserting claims against defendants and third parties, and a thorough understanding of the damages available for compensation.
The Swartz Law Burn Injury Lawyers Will Fight for You
The experienced team of fire and burn injury attorneys at Swartz & Swartz can help. The Boston Massachusetts burn injury law firm at Swartz & Swartz are nationally known as top personal injury and complex litigation attorneys. Our experienced fire injury lawyers can walk you through every step of the process, from appointing investigators to determine the cause of the fire, identifying and bringing claims against the appropriate defendants, sifting through medical records for diagnoses and reviewing all expenses to ensure the maximum amount of damages are recovered.
Some of our Successful Fire, Burn, Explosion Injury Lawsuit Cases:
PONCIN V. BAY STATE
(2 deaths and 6 injuries in gas explosion resulting from improper gas line locating)
$ 17.0 Million
CAREY V. NSTAR
(Deaths of two children in house explosion resulting from failure of gas company to replace corroded fitting)
$ 9.25 Million
VOLKMAN V. EL PASO NATURAL GAS
(Severe burns to child from camping trailer propane fire in New Mexico)
$ 5.6 Million
ALLISON V. WORKWEAR
(Burns from flammable uniforms sustained in Texas factory explosion)
$ 5.4 Million
NUGENT V. SEARS ROEBUCK
(Burns sustained in fire caused by electric blanket)
$ 4.2 Million
MARTEL V. COMMERCIAL UNION INSURANCE CO.
(Burns sustained by 3 employees in Rhode Island factory explosion)
$ 3.5 Million
DOE V. CONDO OWNER
(Death of college student resulting from fire in condominium with inadequate fire detection devices)
$ 2.6 Million
SABEAN V. MARSHALL’S
(Burns resulting from flammable bathrobe)
$ 2.3 Million
DOE V. DOE
(Propane Fire – plaintiff burned after lighting cigarette in house where he was aware gas had accumulated)
$ 1.5 Million
DOE V. STERLING-CLARK-LURTON
(Death resulting from explosion of denatured alcohol in cooking stove)
$ 1.4 Million
ROSENBERG V. EASTERN ISLES
(Burns sustained when relighting candle ignited child’s flammable nightgown)
$ 1.4 Million
WHITE V. ROBERTSHAW
(Burns caused by propane flash fire in New Hampshire)
$ 1.4 Million
HINKLEY V. EASTMAN KODAK
(Burns to children from flammable comforter)
$ 1.2 Million
PORTER V. BROCKTON EDISON
(Death of child from downed wires in hurricane)
$ 1.1 Million
JETTE V. ARLAN’S DEPT. STORE
(Burns from flammable child poncho)
$ 1.025 Million
DOE V. DOE GAS COMPANY
(Death from propane flash fire in mobile home)
$ 1.0 Million
GAUTHIER V. DOE STOVE MANUFACTURER
(Burns to child from defectively designed stove)
$ 1.0 Million
LAPLANTE V. SEARS ROEBUCK
(Burns in New Hampshire propane flash fire caused by)
$ 1.0 Million
MAHONEY V. SPRING A.G.
(Burns from denatured alcohol fire in chafing dish)
$ 1.0 Million
FOWLER V. DUPONT
(Burns sustained in methylene chloride explosion in New Hampshire factory)