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Burn Injuries in the Workplace

Workplace injuries are, unfortunately, commonplace. According to the National Safety Council, a workplace injury occurs every seven seconds in the United States. That equates to 510 injuries per hour, 12,600 per day and 4.6 million per year.

The top five industries with the largest number of workplace injuries include service (firefighters/police officers), transportation and shipping, manufacturing and production, installation, repair and maintenance and construction.

Burn injuries happen frequently as well; in the U.S., every year, 1.1 million burn injuries require medical treatment, and up to 10,000 people die from burn-related infections.

The Types of Burn Injuries That Occur

At work, burn injuries can occur in the line of service if you’re a firefighter, as well as if you regularly use fire in your position (i.e. in the kitchen if you’re a chef or in the workshop if you’re a welder), and even if you don’t.

However, not all causes of burn injuries in the workplace are so obvious. For instance, perhaps you’re a hairdresser and you burnt yourself on a curling iron, or you were making coffee for your team’s upcoming meeting and the hot beverage spilled all over you, an auto mechanic on hot pipes, a chef in the kitchen, a maintenance job involving chemicals, even electrical burns.

The types of burns experienced in the workplace include:

  • Thermal burns
  • Chemical burns
  • Electrical burns

Thermal burns come about from contact with boiling water, grease, fire or steam, or from touching hot objects like engines and tools. Chemical burns are caused by contact with thinning agents, bases, acids, solvents and oxidizers. Electrical burns happen if someone touches a working wire or electrical socket, they contact electrified water or they are struck by lightning.

Not all burn injuries are the same; instead, they are broken up into first, second and third degree burns.

First degree burns, also known as superficial burns, are the least severe, since they result in “minor” damage to the skin’s outermost layer. If you have a first degree burn, you may see swelling and redness, as well as experience some pain. When your burn starts to get better, it will dry and peel. Since first degree burns aren’t so serious, they can usually be treated with over-the-counter medicine like ibuprofen and antibiotic gel.  Of course, any burn carries dangers of infection and serious consequences, so care must be taken with all types and degrees of burns.

A second degree burn harms the layers of skin below the outmost layer, and will cause the skin to become very sore and blister. If the blisters are severe, the burn is going to take more time to heal.  Skin grafting may need to be done, which means a doctor will take healthy skin from another area of your body to replace the skin where you got the second degree burn.

A third degree burn damages every layer of the skin, making it the worst type of burn you can experience. Third degree burns may go beyond the skin and into internal organs, resulting in major injuries or even death. These types of burns could require multiple, major, surgeries in order to heal.

There are also complications that can arise from first, second and third degree burn injuries, including blood loss, infections, tetanus, scars, hypothermia, sepsis and shock.

Getting Workers’ Compensation and Damages for Burn Victims

Whether you got a first, second or third degree burn at work, reporting a workers’ compensation claim is a necessary and best course of action. You may also be able to file a claim against a third party if they were responsible for your burn. For example, perhaps a manufacturer provided your workplace with a piece of equipment that malfunctioned, or a vendor or contractor who came into your workplace caused damage to you.  Equipment could have malfunctioned or caused the burn, or failed to protect you from burns.

You be may entitled to damages for any past and future medical expenses, mental anguish, emotional suffering, permanent scarring or disfigurement and lost wages or any reduced ability to earn wages.

The success of your case, as well as any settlement, will involve a multitude of factors, including proving your employer’s or a third-party’s negligence, showing that you were following workplace safety precautions and determining if a piece of equipment malfunctioned.  A good lawyer is essential.

Since burn injuries can be so severe, they could result in a recovery of money in the thousands or even millions of dollars. You may be so injured you are not able to function in the same way, and you can’t go back to working at your job, or working at all.

At the very least, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation, which will cover your medical treatment, some income replacement for the past and future, some compensation for permanent injuries sustained, possible other benefits and even death benefits if you have a loved one who died from burn injuries.

Starting Your Workplace Burn Injury Case

When you’re ready to pursue your burn injury case, you should first contact a good, qualified, and experienced legal team, such as Heiting & Irwin, they will obtain medical records from the doctors who treated you, and ensure you keep up with treatment so you’ll heal as soon as possible. You’ll show that you went into the doctor to get help, and that your injury is serious. List any witnesses who were on the scene and may be able to back up what happened to you. If there are cameras in your workplace, there may be a request that footage, too.  Other earnings will also be important.

If all of this sounds overwhelming, especially when you’re just trying to heal from your burn injury, an experienced burn injury attorney could help you and will take all these burdens off your shoulders. They will know the ins and outs of the process and laws, as well as how to determine who was at-fault and how to proceed in your burn injury case.

They will be able to advise you on whether or not you’re likely to be compensated for your damages, injury and losses, and help you build your case. You want to focus on getting better, and that’s it, so it’s best to find someone who can take your case off your hands and get you the best result possible.

Remember that you are entitled to fair compensation. Once you’re ready, call the burn injury attorneys at Heiting & Irwin at 951-682-6400 or contact our office online to schedule a free consultation.

James Heiting

The only past President of the State Bar of California ever elected from the Inland Empire, James Heiting handles civil litigation matters throughout California, recovering over $300 million for clients, dealing with wrongful death, serious injury, professional malpractice and transportation accidents. Also past President of Riverside’s County Bar, his firm has served the Inland Empire for over 30 years. View Attorney James Otto Heiting's Attorney Bio Here.

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