There is an extraordinary amount of physical and emotional trauma involved in severe burn injuries. Not only that, but the extensive medical treatment required to get a burn victim on the path of healing is enough to put the average middle class American into debt. Luckily, victims can pursue compensation for medical bills, lost wages, scarring and disfigurement, emotional distress, and other damages through a civil burn injury claim. If this is something you’re considering, you may be wondering what the average settlement amount is for burn victims. The truth is, the value of a burn injury varies greatly depending on multiple factors: burn injury severity, where and how the injury occurred, punitive damages, pain and suffering, and more. Below, we break down everything you need to know about calculating burn injury settlements.
If you have suffered catastrophic injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you may have grounds to file a personal injury lawsuit in the state of Texas. Call 210-366-4949 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer at Janicek Law today.
What Are the Degrees of Burn Injuries?
Burn injuries are characterized by skin damage caused by intense heat, too much sun exposure, harsh chemicals, electrical currents, or radiation. Burns can also cause extensive damage to the nerves, muscles, capillaries, sweat glands, hair follicles, and subcutaneous tissue, depending on the degree of severity. The most common types of burn injuries include sunburns, electrical burns, thermal burns, and chemical burns.
Burn injuries range from very mild (first degree) to life-threatening (fourth degree).
First Degree Burns
A first degree burn causes temporary damage to the outermost layer of skin called the epidermis. Common examples of first degree burns include minor sunburns and hand burns from accidentally touching a hot pan for a few seconds. They are initially painful and red, but heal completely over the course of a week.
In most cases, you cannot file a claim or recover compensation for a first degree burn because of how minor of an injury it is. Most people don’t suffer any damages from a first degree burn, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. So if a burn injury lawyer does happen to take on your case, the average settlement value would likely be less than $5,000.
Second Degree Burns
A second degree burn damages the epidermis and the second layer of skin called the dermis. Minor second degree burns usually only cause damage to the upper portion of the dermis, while severe second degree burns cause damage to nearly the entire layer. Second degree burns are very painful, red, swollen, and blistery. Additionally, these types of burns often have a wet or shiny appearance. Depending on the severity of a second degree burn, it can take several weeks for it to fully heal, and when it does, it can leave behind a permanent scar.
It’s very possible for victims to recover compensation for a second degree burn injury, especially if the burn covers a large portion of their body. Depending on the circumstances of the burn injury case and the severity of the burn, a victim could recover between $25,000 and $75,000 for their damages.
Third Degree Burns
A third degree burn injury, also known as a full thickness burn, damages all three layers of skin: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis (AKA: subcutaneous tissue). In the most severe cases of third degree burns, the nerve endings, hair follicles, and sweat glands become damaged as well, because all of these things lie in the dermis and hypodermis layers of skin.
A third degree burn victim may not feel much pain because of how much damage their nerve endings sustained. However, they will likely notice white or black skin discoloration, swelling, a dry or leathery skin texture, and blisters. These burns require immediate medical treatment, as they can lead to infection and skin necrosis. Most people with third degree burns experience permanent scarring and disfigured skin once they fully heal.
Third degree burns are very serious, and possibly even life-threatening without extensive medical treatment. Many victims end up thousands of dollars in debt due to a combination of medical bills and lost wages. Therefore, third degree burn injury cases can have a high settlement value, especially if the burn covers a large portion of the body. The expected settlement compensation for this type of burn could be upwards of $100,000.
Fourth Degree Burns
Fourth degree burns are the most serious type of burn injuries that are often fatal if they cover a large portion of the body. These burns affect all three layers of skin as well as the underlying muscles, tendons, fascia, and even bones in the most severe cases. The skin is often completely black and dead, and victims typically need skin grafts to recover. If victims do heal from their injuries, they will likely experience permanent scarring and disfigurement.
Fourth degree burn victims absolutely should file a personal injury claim for their injuries, especially if they were caused by gross negligence. The settlement for this type of burn injury lawsuit could be upwards of $1 million, especially if the burn covers a large portion of the body.
How Burn Injury Settlements Are Calculated
Thus far, we have given an approximate settlement amount for each degree of burns, but as you can imagine, determining the exact value of a burn in a personal injury lawsuit is tricky. An attorney must look at several different factors in order to calculate an average burn injury settlement.
Where and How the Burn Injury Happened
Firstly, a burn injury attorney must investigate where and how the burn injury happened to determine if the victim shares any portion of liability or if the burn injury was purely an accident that doesn’t involve negligence.
If a victim was acting recklessly or dangerously in a certain situation and that led to a fire and/or burns, then their burn injury settlement may not be very high. Similarly, if a victim’s burn injury occurs from a fire that was purely an accident, meaning no one could have foreseen or prevented it, then they may also recover a fairly low burn injury settlement.
As a general rule of thumb, burn injury settlements are highest when someone’s negligence causes the injury, and the victim was more or less an innocent bystander.
Punitive Damages Availability
Gross negligence means that the at-fault party committed a reckless act, despite knowing it had serious risks of injury or death. In the context of burn injuries, gross negligence means that the at-fault party recklessly caused a fire, chemical spill, or electrical accident which caused the victim to suffer burn injuries.
Burn injury cases involving gross negligence commonly result in punitive damages, which is basically extra compensation for the victim that’s meant to further punish the at-fault party. It’s difficult for attorneys to predict or calculate punitive damages in burn injury lawsuits. That’s because if the threat of punitive damages is on the table, the negligent party is more likely to agree on a large amount of damages, especially if they’re already wealthy.
Emotional Distress and Physical Pain and Suffering Damages
Severe burn injuries tend to result in an extraordinary amount of physical and emotional pain. Not only was the initial fire or burning incident traumatic, but the healing process is often traumatic as well. Not to mention, the emotional trauma of being permanently scarred and disfigured is enough to put anyone in therapy for the rest of their lives.
In a burn injury lawsuit, a disfigured burn victim can definitely recover compensation for both physical pain and suffering as well as emotional distress. These damages can also include the mental health counseling costs necessary for coping with the trauma of being badly burned.
Some jobs are very dangerous and can result in all types of burns: thermal burns, electrical burns, and chemical burns. If negligence from a coworker or employer did not cause the burn injury, the victim can file a workers’ compensation claim and recover a settlement from the employer’s insurance company. Workers’ compensation settlements are typically much lower than burn injury compensation from a civil lawsuit, especially if the victim is not scarred or disabled from the incident.
On the other hand, workplace accidents caused by negligence can certainly warrant a personal injury lawsuit, which can lead to a much higher settlement depending on how many damages the plaintiff suffered.
Workers’ compensation laws and settlement amounts vary from state to state. Be sure to speak with a legal professional about your workplace accident before pursuing any type of claim.
Damages in a Burn Injury Claim
A San Antonio burn injury lawyer at Janicek Law can help victims recover financial compensation for the following burn injury damages:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity if the burning incident results in disability or disfigurement
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Mental health counseling costs
- Permanent scarring, disfigurement, and/or disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
Call San Antonio Burn Injury Lawyers at Janicek Law Today
If you have suffered a severe burn injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may have grounds to file a burn injury claim and recover damages. The legal team at Janicek Law has decades of combined experience handling all sorts of personal injury cases, including burn injury cases. We can analyze the details of your case, protect your legal rights, and help you obtain a fair settlement from the negligent party. Call 210-366-4949 to schedule a free consultation with experienced burn injury attorneys today.