Burn injuries are among the most devastating types of injuries, as they often cause permanent physical and emotional damage. Many burn injuries are caused by the negligence of someone else, such as a property owner that failed to follow fire safety regulations or an employer who did not follow workplace fire safety rules. If you or a loved one has suffered burn injuries due to the negligence of another party, you have legal rights.
No one should be forced to bear the burden of handling medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other burn injury damages on their own. In cases involving negligence, burn victims may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the injured party. You can learn more about your legal rights as a burn victim by contacting the Las Vegas burn injury lawyers at the Cottle Firm.
Types of Burn Injuries
Johns Hopkins Medicine defines a burn injury as a painful wound caused by thermal, electrical, chemical, or electromagnetic energy. Smoking and open flames are the top causes of burn injuries for adults while scalding (hot water burns) is the most common burn cause of burn injuries for children. Infants and older adults are at the highest risk of suffering burn injuries.
A thermal burn is caused by contact with a heat source that raises the temperature of the skin and underlying tissues, causing tissue cells to die or char. Thermal burns are typically caused by contact with flames, steam, hot metals, or scalding liquids. Thermal burns are the most common type of burn injury in the United States.
Radiation burns are caused by prolonged exposure to sources of radiation – most commonly the sun’s ultraviolet rays (sunburn), but also other types of radiation, such as X-rays.
A chemical burn is tissue damage caused by substances like strong acids, paint thinners, drain cleaners, and gasoline. Most chemical burn injuries are obvious when they happen, but some have delayed symptoms that only develop hours after exposure. Major chemical burn injuries require immediate medical care, while minor chemical burns may be treatable at home with basic first aid.
Electrical burns can be caused by a wide range of electricity sources, such as lightning, contact with currents in the home or workplace, and stun guns.
Minor electrical burns may be treated the same way as other minor burns – by holding a cool, wet cloth on the burn, cleaning the skin, and bandaging the damaged area. But according to the Mayo Clinic, electrical burns are often more serious than they initially appear.
Severe electrical burns can damage not just the skin, but also the muscles, nerves, and blood vessels underneath. The brain, heart, and other internal organs can also suffer damage after an electrical burn.
Classifications of Burn Injuries
Burn injuries are classified in degrees from one to four, based on how deeply and severely they have penetrated the surface of the skin.
First-degree burns are superficial burns, meaning they only affect the top layer of skin. These burns are painful, red, and dry, but do not have blisters. Mild sunburn is a common example of a first-degree burn.
Most first-degree burns do not have long-term damage. When such damage does occur, it typically only involves changes to skin color in the affected area.
Also known as partial-thickness burns, second-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and part of the lower layer of skin (dermis). The affected area appears red and blistered and is often painful and swollen.
Third-degree, or partial-thickness burns, destroy both the epidermis and dermis. They often penetrate the deepest layer of skin, known as subcutaneous tissue. Third-degree burns often look either white or blackened and charred.
A fourth-degree burn penetrates both layers of skin and the underlying tissue, reaching deeper tissue. Some fourth-degree burns may penetrate the muscle and bone. Nerve endings are destroyed in fourth-degree burns, so the victim does not feel any pain.
Types of Burn Injury Lawsuits
When burn injuries are caused by negligence, the victims may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent party. Here is an overview of some of the most common types of burn injury lawsuits.
Apartment Building Fires
A fire in an apartment building can easily spread and put the lives of all tenants at risk. Depending on the cause of the fire, various parties could be deemed negligent and held liable for damages suffered by people injured in the fire.
Tenants may be considered negligent if they started a fire due to carelessness or recklessness. Some common forms of tenant negligence include:
- Irresponsible use of portable space heaters
- Smoking inside
- Leaving a candle unattended
- Cooking accidents
- Failing to clean lint from a driver
- Too many appliances plugged into an extension cord
- Any fire hazard that the tenant knew of but failed to address or notify the landlord
Landlord or Property Manager Negligence
Landlords and property managers are legally obligated to keep their properties well-maintained and free of foreseeable hazards that could harm guests. These parties may be considered negligent if the fire happened due to a hazard that they were aware of, or if they failed to follow fire safety rules.
Some common forms of negligence by landlords and property managers include:
- Failure to have enough fire extinguishers on the property
- Not enough fire exits
- Insufficient or poorly maintained fire alarms, sprinklers, smoke detectors, or carbon monoxide detectors
- Failure to follow building and fire regulations
- Unsafe or poorly maintained furnaces and boilers
- Failure to maintain or repair gas lines or electrical wires
Some fires are caused by the negligence of a third party – meaning someone other than the landlord, property manager, or another tenant.
Some third parties that can be held liable for an apartment building fire include:
- Electricians for fires caused by faulty or poorly installed electrical or wiring
- Contractors who built the apartment building
- Other contractors or conducted faulty repairs
- Gas companies for fires caused by preventable gas explosions
- Manufacturers of defective smoke alarms, fire sprinklers, carbon monoxide detectors, or smoke detectors
- Manufacturers of defective home appliances that cause fires
In Nevada, workers typically cannot sue their employers for on-the-job injuries, including burn injuries. Injured workers usually need to file a workers’ compensation claim with their employer’s insurer to recover financial compensation for damages. Recoverable damages may include medical bills, lost wages, vocational retraining, and disability benefits for severe burn injuries.
If the workplace fire was caused by the negligence of a third party (someone other than your employer or coworkers), you may have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit against that party. For example, if the fire started in a neighboring building due to the negligence of the property owner, that property owner could be held liable for damages.
Motor Vehicle Accidents
If you suffered burn injuries in a car accident caused by the negligence of another driver or another third party, that negligent party can be held liable for damages in a personal injury lawsuit.
All types of property owners have a legal duty to keep their premises free of foreseeable hazards that could cause injuries and to address these hazards as soon as possible. If you were injured in a bar, nightclub, store, or any other type of business due to negligence, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against the property owner.
Can I File a Burn Injury Lawsuit If I Was At Fault?
Nevada is a modified comparative fault state. This means that in an injury case, the negligence of each side will be evaluated. You may seek financial compensation even if you were partially at fault for your burn injuries, as long as you are considered less than 50 percent to blame for the accident that caused them.
If the court determines that you were partially at fault for your injuries and you win the lawsuit, your financial compensation will be reduced based on the percentage of fault. For instance, if you are awarded $100,000 in damages and are considered 30 percent at fault, your final award would be reduced by 30 percent, or to $70,000.
What Damages Can I Recover For Burn Injuries?
Burn injury victims can recover financial compensation for all economic and non-economic damages related to their injuries. In some cases, punitive damages may also be available. Here is a summary of the types of damages available in Nevada burn injury lawsuits:
- Economic damages – This category includes all financial setbacks caused by the injury, such as medical bills, ongoing treatment, lost wages, and loss of future earning potential.
- Noneconomic damages – These damages include all of the personal difficulties caused by your burn injuries, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship for family members.
- Punitive damages – While rare, punitive damages are available for injuries caused by gross negligence, extreme recklessness, and intentional acts, such as arson.
You can learn more about which damages are available in your burn injury case by speaking with the experienced Las Vegas burn injury lawyers at the Cottle Firm.