Overview of Burn Injury Cases Under Texas Law
For starters, it's fair to say that burn injuries are in a completely different realm than normal injuries because they're so severe and cause such a great deal of pain and suffering. But so too are the legal cases stemming from burn injuries in a class all their own.
Whereas more conventional injuries are usually somewhat expensive to treat medically, burn injuries can easily costs hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to treat, and that's precisely where the added challenge of pursuing a personal injury case on behalf of a burn victim comes from. To put it simply: burn injuries are expensive, which means burn injury cases must be pursued for significant compensation, which means you run into more push back from the person you're suing than you would in a case based on more conventional injuries.
In this article, we will cover how burn injury cases are handled under Texas law, as well as, the various types of burns and their causes.
Questions answered on this page
- What are the different types of burns?
- What are the most common causes of burns?
- How can attorney help me if I was burned in an accident?
What Must Be Done to Win
In order to win any given case, you have to use evidence to prove:
- That the person you are suing is, in fact, liable and should be forced to pay
- The value of your injuries and losses
The first issue is really the same in any case. The person you sue is not likely to admit fault, so you sue them, take them to court, and prove to the jury that they are at fault. If the jury agrees, they will make them pay you. Now, that is certainly a process in and of itself, but the bigger challenge in most cases is the second task; proving the value of your injuries.
With minor injuries, it usually isn't very challenging to convince the jury that you should be compensated. The reason it is easy is because most people have sustained some type of injury at some point in their life, and that past experience serves as a basis for comparing what an accident victim went through. Juries typically call upon that first-hand knowledge to determine what they think would be fair compensation, but what they're really doing is thinking to themselves, "I remember what it was like that time I broke my leg. If someone caused that to happen to me, I think they should be forced to pay $30,000. Therefore, I will make the defendant pay $30,000 in this case."
But the challenge for burn injury victims is that most juries can't intuitively understand the agony, embarrassment, or expense of a burn injury. So in order to win a burn injury case, your attorney must be capable of helping a jury understand exactly what you experienced. The only right way to do accomplish that goal is to rely on more than words.
Evidence is Worth 1,000 Words
In order to establish in court what a burn injury case is truly worth, a good attorney will rely on the following:
- Demonstrative Aids
- Photographs which depict your burn injuries
- Photographs which depict your recovery process
- Photographs which document any permanent scarring you may have incurred
- Video of doctors performing the various painful procedures that you experienced (if our client's procedures were not filmed, we have stock footage of the most typical procedures, and we've used these films with great results)
- Medical illustrations showcasing the injuries
- Expert Testimony
- We often employ video recorded testimony and/or in-person testimony to take your various doctors' expertise and turn that into a way for the jury to understand the scope of treatment you received.
- Eyewitness Testimony
- From witnesses to the actual burn incident
- From your relatives who have helped you recover
- Medical Records and Bills
- Juries may not be able to intuitively know what a burn injury feels like, but when they see medical bills that illustrate the cost you've sustained, they get it
As you can see, it takes a mountain of evidence to fully substantiate your claims. The main thing you need to be aware of is that the defendant that you're suing will fight back and do their best to keep the jury from seeing that evidence.
What are the Different Types of Burns?
Burns range in severity from 1st degree to 4th degree. 1st-degree burns are going to be the least serious, but they can be very painful. Many sunburns qualify as 1st-degree burns. On the opposite side of the spectrum, you have 4th-degree burns, which are incredibly serious and painful.
- Burn Injuries: First-Degree These can be described as superficial and usually only result in minor pain and discomfort. First-degree burns are those that only affect the outermost layer of the skin, cause temporary pain, and are the equivalent of ordinary sunburns. Hospitalization for first degree burns is usually unnecessary, as first-degree burns heal in a few days with no or extremely limited scarring. Read more about first-degree burns in the article below.
- Burn Injuries: Second-Degree These can range from relatively superficial burns that result in some pain and blisters to deeper burns that may leave scarring or require skin grafts to repair the damage. There is usually more intense pain and swelling associated with the burned area of skin. There is also the chance of needing skin grafts or suffering some scarring.
- Burn Injuries: Third-Degree These burns destroy a victim's entire upper and lower skin layers and destroy all nerves below the skin along the way. Unlike first and second-degree burns, victims suffering third-degree burns will only feel minimal pain or no pain at all because of the nerve's destruction. These injures almost always require invasive surgical procedures and skin grafts during the course and scope of treatment. A third-degree burn can also result in amputation or even be fatal.
- Burn Injuries: Fourth Degree These types of burn injuries are somewhat similar to third-degree burns, except the burns are so severe that they consume the subcutaneous tissue and extend directly to the victim's skin and bone. These burns can quickly cause a victim to suffer brain damage due to seizures, to enter into hypovolemic shock, both of which can be fatal. Fourth-degree burns are the worst types of burn injuries and they do permanent damage to the nerves and muscles. They also usually result in amputation and can lead to severe infection. Both third and fourth-degree burns can be fatal.
Now that we've covered a bit about the types of burn injuries, let's move on to talking about what causes them.
What are Common Causes of Burns?
The most common cause of burn injury is, of course, fire or heat. A burn can be caused by fire - or even other hot substances like liquid or steam. Naturally, there are lots of different accidents that result in extreme heat or fire. The descriptions below will give you a brief overview of the different accident types, along with helpful links to other pages on this site, which will help you understand more about the legal process behind them.
- Workplace Accidents. One of the common ways people suffer burn injuries is through workplace accidents. Many jobs require workers to be exposed to high-temperature equipment like heavy machinery or even open flames. If you've suffered a burn injury in a workplace accident, then you'll likely have a workers' compensation claim to file, along with other possible claims. Follow the link below to our work injury sections of this site to learn more about work injury lawsuits.
- If your employer subscribes to workers' compensation coverage, then read the following article: Texas Workers' Compensation Cases.
- If your employer does not subscribe to workers' compensation coverage, and is therefore a "non-subscriber," then read this article: Non-Subscriber Work Injury Cases.
- Car Accidents. This is another common cause of burn injuries. For example, some car accidents result in part of the car catching fire which can cause a burn injury if you're trapped inside the vehicle. Obviously, any kind of explosion or ruptured fuel tank can cause this as well.
- Electrical Burns. Electrical burn injuries are caused by exposure to an electric shock. One common way that you could receive an electrical burn is, again, in the workplace. Your job may expose you to machinery or other objects that require electricity to operate. If the machinery isn't properly cared for, or if it's malfunctioning, it can cause an electric burn. Another common cause of electric burn injuries is being exposed to negligence at someone else's property - like touching exposed wires at a poorly maintained property. Electric burns generally only cause 1st through 3rd degree burns.
- Chemical Burns. These types of burns involve corrosive substances like acid or lye, which is used to make soap. You can also inhale dangerous fumes and chemicals, causing internal burns and injuries. A lot of chemical burn injuries are suffered in workplace accidents where the employees handle such chemicals. Chemical accidents generally result third and fourth-degree burns.
- Defective products. Many people have sustained serious burns caused by defective consumer goods. When such an event transpires, the manufacturer of said product may bear liability. Cases against the manufacturers and designers of consumer goods are known as products liability cases, and they work completely different than most personal injury cases do.
It's a Challenging Process, But We're Up To The Challenge
So having a burn injury case is an "easy" win, right? Not exactly. A burn injury case, like any other, has to be handled a certain way and presented to a jury. Ultimately, if someone causes an accident that leaves you severely burned, you have claim against them. That person could be your employer, a truck driver, or even a power company - we'll talk about that a little later. But the key is convincing a jury of how serious your injury truly is.
There are several things to consider when you try to put an exact figure on how much a burn injury will "cost" you, but to put it simply, you need an attorney who knows how to convince a jury that your burn injury is both serious and deserving of compensation. Imagine suffering third-degree burns in an accident caused by an electrician who just wasn't paying attention to his work. Say the hospital bills and expenses are worth $50,000 and the electrician agrees to cover the costs. Is that a fair deal for you? The answer is "no," because your injuries are much more than just the $50,000 debt you incurred from the medical expenses. There will be lifelong consequences from the accident and your injuries will make it difficult to earn a living, or even return to the life you had before the accident.
A good attorney will know how to present your injuries to a jury and make sure they understand how serious the accident was. Part of getting fair compensation in a burn injury lawsuit is making sure that the jury understands how much suffering you've endured and will continue to endure due to the accident.
We call the legal process "litigation," and this article will explain everything you need to know about filing a claim with a burn injury. In general, you must:
- Establish liability
- Prove your damages and how valuable your case is
- Follow the rules of court
- Understand the process of mediation and know the statute of limitations
- Be able to argue your case
- Withstand the defense's attacks
The Personal Injury Attorneys at Grossman Law Offices Can Help You
Remember that, on paper, a burn injury might look like any other injury -- costing you hospital bills, therapy expenses, and medication. But the reality is that a burn injury ends up costing you for the rest of your life, and can seriously inhibit your ability to earn a living.
To get fair treatment from whoever caused your accident, a jury needs to understand everything that's happened to you, as well as the full extent of your injuries and how it will affect you and your family's future. Though your employer will act like this injury is "no big deal," we can assure you they're acting out of fear that they'll actually have to take responsibility for their negligence.
Like we said earlier, it's important that you understand how serious burn injury cases are. If you decide to file a lawsuit against whoever caused your injury, you need to know what you're walking into. Hopefully, this page has prepared you for that process and there won't be many surprises. However, it's always a good idea to at least consult with an attorney to make sure you're on the right track. Most defense attorneys will be looking closely to see if you really know the law. If you don't, they'll take advantage of you in court and make sure their clients don't have to take full responsibility for their actions. The burn injury attorneys at Grossman Law Offices, based in Dallas, TX, have over 25 years of experience in helping people in your situation. Call us today at (855) 326-0000 for a free consultation.