Perhaps you had just moved to your new apartment in Bakersfield when it burned down, or maybe you were burned in an electrical accident on your job site. Perhaps you were in a rented car, enjoying a weekend with friends when the motor vehicle accident happened. Whatever the cause, the last thing you had in mind was suffering a burn injury.
In addition to the pain associated with the injury itself, burns also commonly require among the most excruciating types of treatment one can receive.
If you have suffered a burn injury as the result of someone else’s careless or reckless actions, you could obtain compensation for the medical expenses and quality-of-life impacts you have incurred because of your injury through a Bakersfield burn injury lawsuit. A Bakersfield burn injury lawyer from Gomez Trial Attorneys can explain this process to you during a free case evaluation. Our attorneys went from being students at the top law schools in the country, to prosecutors or working for high-level corporate firms, to serving the injured at Gomez Trial Attorneys.
Our recent case results include several multi-million settlements that were garnered on behalf of our burn injury clients including one for $9,500,000; another for $5,819,605; and another for $3,000,000. It should be noted that these settlements were based on the unique aspects of the cases they were associated with and are not a guarantee of any settlement amount in your case. Contact Gomez Trial Attorneys today to see what we can do in your case.
The Source of Burns
According to the American Burn Association, nearly half a million people in the U.S. require medical treatment for burn injuries each year. Around 40,000 individuals are hospitalized for burn treatment, with 75 percent of those hospitalizations occurring in specialized burn treatment centers.
Electrocution, which involves heat-creating electricity traveling through the skin and underlying tissue.
Chemical burns resulting from caustic materials including acids or alkalis.
Five Common Causes of Burn Injuries
Burn injuries are often the result of negligence or an intentional act.
Five common causes of burn injuries include:
Residential fires resulting from faulty appliances, wiring, failure to furnish smoke detectors, and other issues pertaining to keeping others from becoming injured by fire. Private property owners have a responsibility to ensure that efforts are made to mitigate the risk of fire causing injury to personal guests. Landlords have the same responsibility to tenants living on their property, as do the owners and managers of hotels and the owners of short-term rentals. The American Burn Association reports that 73 percent of the individuals requiring treatment at burn treatment centers were injured because of a fire occurring within the home.
Motor vehicle accidents: Five percent of burn injuries occur in the roadway. These injuries are often the result of motor vehicle accidents. Vehicles require combustible and caustic chemicals to run, including gasoline. Motor vehicle accidents often result in sparks from metal scraping against asphalt at a high rate of speed, increasing the risk of a fire starting because of an individual coming in contact with the heat, chemicals, or flames. This is particularly true in cases involving motorcycle accidents, as the rider has little protection besides his or her gear against the conditions of the accident.
Workplace injuries: One of the most common causes of injury in the construction industry is burns caused by an electrical source such as a wire, machine, or equipment. The workplace is the second-most commonplace for a burn injury to occur, resulting in 8 percent of the admissions to the nation’s burn centers.
Intentional acts: Individuals can experience burns because of intentional acts such as domestic violence, child abuse, or attempted criminal activity such as arson.
Who Needs a Burn Center?
A burn center is a specialized treatment facility devoted to providing treatment to individuals who have suffered burns. The American Burn Association notes that individuals should seek treatment at a burn center if they experience these conditions:
Partial-thickness burns over at least 10 percent of the total body surface area.
The burn involves the hands, feet, genitalia, face, or major jointed areas such as the elbows or knees.
Third-degree burns on any part of the body, occurring on individuals of any age group.
Electrical and chemical burns as either of these sources can result in injuries inside the body in addition to skin injuries.
The injury involves smoke inhalation. Smoke inhalation is a major hazard for burn patients who experienced their injury as the result of a fire. Smoke inhalation causes symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, hoarseness or noisy breathing, changes to skin color due to the inability to obtain enough oxygen, the presence of soot in the nostrils and throat, a headache resulting from exposure to carbon monoxide from the fire, and changes in mental status such as confusing, fainting, or seizures.
Burn injuries in any patient with pre-existing conditions that will complicate recovery.
Burn centers are recommended for treatment as opposed to seeking treatment from a hospital’s acute care unit as they emphasis a team approach featuring specialists such as:
Burn rehabilitation specialists.
Burn surgeons who have gained additional education and training in trauma or critical care.
Dieticians who can work with the burn patient to understand the important role good nutrition plays in healing.
Nurses who have special training in how to care for burn patients.
Social workers, who can help burn patients access mental health resources and other assistance while they are recovering.
Advances in burn treatment in recent years have led to increased survival rates, even for the most severely injured patients. Some of these advancements include adding to the standard of care management of inhalation injuries, a focus on nutrition to prevent infection and aid healing, and early burn excision and skin grafts immediately following the injury. Currently, around 97 percent of the patients who receive their treatment in specialized burn centers survive the injury.
Levels of Severity
Burn injuries are categorized in levels of severity, known as degrees, as follows:
First degree: First degree burns are the mildest level of burn one can experience and is known as a superficial burn. This level affects only the top layer of skin, known as the epidermis, and features redness of the skin, minor inflammation and swelling, pain, and dryness or peeling as the burn heals. Generally only requiring home treatment, first-degree burns heal within a week to 10 days.
Second degree: This level of burn is a bit more serious, with damage extending through the epidermis to the layer of skin beneath it, which is known as the dermis. Second-degree burns present with symptoms such as red and weepy skin, blistering, and the development of thick, scab-like tissue on the wound that is known as fibrinous exudate. Second-degree burns can take up to three weeks to heal, but generally do so with minimal scarring.
Third degree: Third-degree burns are quite serious, impacting the epidermis and dermis, as well as the fatty layer beneath the skin. Third-degree burns exhibit symptoms such as skin that appears charred, waxy white, or even deep red. The skin also has a raised, leathery texture and blisters that do not develop. The surface of the skin is often numb to light touch due to damage to the nerve endings in the skin.
Fourth degree: This is the highest level of burn severity, involving destruction of both layers of skin, the tissue beneath, and even muscle tissue and bone.
First and second-degree burns are referred to as partial-thickness burns, while third and fourth-degree burns are known as full-thickness burns. It is not uncommon for a burn to initially be regarded as partial-thickness and then changed to full-thickness as the damage from the injury spreads.
Estimating the Size of the Burn
In addition to determining the degree of severity of the burn, treatment providers will also determine how much of the total body surface area (TBSA) is impacted by the burn. In determining the TBSA of an adult patient, providers often use the rule of nines. This rule is a formula that divides the body into regions that equal approximately 9 percent of the body or a portion of the body that is a multiple of 9. For example, each arm is 4.5 percent of the body, while the chest area, abdomen, and each leg is 9 percent.
The Complications of Serious Burns
Any burn that causes the skin to break is capable of becoming infected—one of the most serious complications of the injury—is more likely with third or fourth-degree burns. Infection occurs when bacteria enter the open wound. This can cause redness, swelling, or oozing around the wound, or an increased amount of pain. The significant danger of a bacterial infection in a burn injury is that the infection will travel to the bloodstream, causing illness throughout the body. This is known as sepsis, and it is often fatal.
Other common complications of serious burns include:
Fluid loss, including blood volume, due to the open wound.
A dangerously low body temperature, known as hypothermia, which is caused by skin degradation, which affects the body’s thermoregulation system.
Difficulty breathing caused by damage to the throat and lungs from the inhalation of smoke and heat.
Scars or ridged areas of the skin that result from an overgrowth of scar tissue.
Bone and joint problems resulting from a tightening of the scarred skin on jointed areas such as the elbows and knees that can restrict movement.
The Psychological Impact of the Injury
Burns can be excruciatingly painful injuries to experience and to treat. The psychological impact of a burn injury is often regarded as the most debilitating complication that a burn injury patient can experience. Some of these impacts include mental health conditions such as acute stress disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and struggles with body image issues following the injury.
These psychological impacts can prevent an individual from fully participating in his or her recovery, make him or her reluctant to participate in activities and events outside the home, and can even impact the individual’s ability to return to work.
The risk of encountering psychological impacts with a serious burn injury is so high that many specialized burn centers have social workers and mental health counselors as part of the treatment team to begin addressing the psychological impacts immediately. When seeking compensation for the impacts of your injury, it is important to include the psychological impacts in your damage calculation to help ensure that you can access mental health services as needed.
Serious Injuries, Serious Impacts
Burns present many serious physical, emotional, and financial challenges that can permanently change a person’s life. If your life has been changed by a burn injury that was caused by someone else’s careless or reckless actions, a Bakersfield burn injury attorney from Gomez Trial Attorneys can guide you through the process of obtaining compensation and can provide important services focused on ensuring you receive the maximum amount of compensation available to you.
Read on for the answers to the questions our Bakersfield clients ask us most often about burn injuries and the claim process. You can also learn more about the process of obtaining compensation for burn injuries that occur in the workplace as well as obtaining compensation after losing a loved one to burn injuries. For answers to legal questions about your specific case, contact our Bakersfield burn injury lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys today for a free case evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions About Obtaining Compensation for Burn Injuries
What is a Bakersfield burn injury lawsuit?
When an individual is injured because of someone else’s negligent or intentional actions, California grants the victim of those actions the right to obtain compensation for the expenses and psychological impacts of the injury. You would file a Bakersfield burn injury lawsuit in civil court that seeks to show who is liable (legally responsible) for the accident that resulted in the injury as well as to demonstrate the expenses and the quality-of-life impacts that the claimant has incurred.
Who are potential sources of liability in a Bakersfield burn injury case?
Who may be liable in a burn injury case depends greatly on the type of accident and the actions that the at-fault party took that resulted in the accident.
Some examples of potential liability include:
Injuries caused by residential fires: The property owner has the responsibility to ensure that his or her property is safe from hazards such as faulty electrical wiring, defective appliances, missing or inoperable smoke detectors, and other hazards that could cause a fire and result in injury to guests. This responsibility also belongs to landlords who rent their property to tenants, as well as hotel and short-stay rental operators.
Burns resulting from motor vehicle accidents: The potentially liable party is the individual or entity whose actions or omissions led to the accident, such as a careless or reckless driver; the manufacturer or distributor of defective auto parts; or even the company that employs a commercial truck driver who caused the accident that resulted in someone experiencing burn injuries.
Burns resulting from intentional acts such as domestic violence, child abuse, or the commission of a crime such as arson. The at-fault party would be the one who committed the intentional act. Individuals who cause injury during the commission of a crime can face both criminal and civil consequences for their actions. Other potentially liable parties in this type of case could include the owner or manager of the property where the intentional act occurred, if that individual or entity had reason to know that there was a high risk of a crime being committed and failed to protect the victim from injury. This is a premises liability concept known as negligent security.
How long do I have to file a Bakersfield burn injury lawsuit?
In California, claimants generally have two years from the date of their injury to file their case. This is called the statute of
limitations. This time limit can be extended in limited circumstances and is also shorter if the claim involves a local, state, or federal governmental agency. Your attorney can advise you if there is a different deadline for filing your case.
What can I receive compensation for in my Bakersfield burn injury case?
California allows those who have suffered burn injuries that were caused by someone else’s carelessness or recklessness to recover both economic and non-economic damages. In the legal realm, damage means a payment made in compensation for harm. Economic damages refer to the compensation you can receive for the expenses of your injury, while non-economic damages are claimed for the quality-of-life impacts your injury has caused.
Some of the common expenses and impacts included in burn injury damage claims are:
Medical expenses, including emergency treatment at the scene, transport to the hospital or burn center, hospitalization, the services of your treatment team, physical therapy and rehabilitation, prescription medication, and the provision of assistive devices such as crutches or a wheelchair.
Wage loss resulting from being too injured to work or missing work to attend a medical appointment related to your injuries.
Loss of future earning capacity if your injury impacts your ability to earn in the same capacity as you did before you were injured.
Property damage resulting from the accident, such as the cost of replacing your vehicle that was damaged in a motor vehicle accident or the contents of your rental home due to a fire.
Physical pain and suffering resulting from the injury itself as well as the method of treating the injury.
Scarring or disfigurement.
Loss of the enjoyment of life, if your burn injury prevents you from participating in activities you previously enjoyed.
Loss of consortium, which is a damage collected on behalf of the injured person’s spouse for the loss of physical intimacy and companionship that is often experienced after a serious injury.
In some cases, punitive damages are also available. These damages are not recovered as compensation for your injury but as a way to punish the defendant for particularly reckless behavior and to discourage such behavior in the future.
My child died as the result of a Bakersfield burn injury. Is there compensation available for me?
Certain family members—including the spouse or domestic partner, children, grandchildren, or parents—can pursue compensation for the expenses and impacts of their loved one’s death through a wrongful death lawsuit. Like a Bakersfield burn injury lawsuit, this is a legal claim filed in civil court generally within two years after the date of death against the individual responsible for the accident that caused injuries resulting in death.
You can recover:
Financial support for the deceased would have contributed to his or her family.
Loss of gifts and benefits family members would have reasonably been expected to receive from the deceased.
Funeral and burial expenses.
The value of household services the deceased provided.
Loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, society, and moral support.
Loss of the decedent’s guidance.
I suffered a burn at a Bakersfield workplace. Should I sue my employer?
Most workplace injuries are covered by California’s workers’ compensation program. Workers’ compensation is a type of no-fault insurance policy that most employers are required to provide for their employees. The policy covers the cost of medical treatment for individuals who have suffered a work-related injury as well as partial wage replacement for the time that the worker is required to miss from work while recovering from his or her injury.
There are only a couple of circumstances where a lawsuit would be filed for a workplace injury. The first circumstance involves a worker whose employer failed to provide a workers’ compensation policy as required by law. The second circumstance is when a workplace injury is caused by a third party (someone who is not your employer or coworker).
Examples of how a third party can cause a burn injury include:
Construction-related injuries that were caused by a negligent subcontractor or general contractor that is not your employer.
Transportation-related injuries occurring during the normal scope of employment were caused by another driver on the roadway.
How much is my Bakersfield burn injury case worth?
Conditions that could positively or negatively affect the value of your case include:
How much insurance the at-fault party has. Insurance pays most Bakersfield burn injury settlements and awards. It is possible to file a lawsuit against an uninsured person and even to obtain a judgment in your favor. However, collecting the amount you were awarded will likely be difficult to impossible, since most uninsured people cannot afford to pay for someone else’s injury expenses out-of-pocket. This is why the insurance policy limit of the at-fault party can make a difference in the amount of recovery available to you.
Your liability. In California, you can file a Bakersfield burn injury lawsuit against other individuals whose actions led to the accident that caused your injury even if you, yourself, were partially liable. However, any award or settlement you receive would be reduced to reflect your level of responsibility for the accident.
Multiple injured parties. In some cases, even an ample insurance policy cannot provide as robust compensation as one would expect due to several injured parties each seeking compensation for injuries and the need to divide the available money up between them.
Where you were at in life when the accident occurred. Individuals who are in the midst of a successful career will often see higher damage amounts as several damage categories involve the amount of income a person was earning at the time of the accident. It stands to reason that—in most situations—an individual who is in the middle of their career will be earning a larger amount of income than a young person with little work experience or an individual who has already retired and no longer earns an income.
Your level of patience. Most Bakersfield burn injury cases resolve before they ever see the inside of a courtroom. One of the common methods of resolving these cases is through settlement negotiations. However, while insurance companies will regularly offer a quick and low settlement early in the process, it may take time for a fair settlement to be obtained. During this negotiation process, your attorneys at Gomez Trial Attorneys will be preparing for trial. However, because litigation is extremely time-consuming and expensive, there are incentives for both parties to resolve the case before it goes to trial.
I will require additional skin graft surgeries. Should I wait to file my case until after I have those surgeries?
No, you should speak to an attorney who can begin working on your case as soon as possible. California only allows two years to file a claim in most cases. While this seems like a lot of time, it passes quickly. Your attorney could include the cost of surgeries that are going to likely be needed in the future with testimony or documentation from your physician about that need.
How can a Bakersfield burn injury lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys help me?
A Bakersfield burn injury lawyer from Gomez Trial Attorney brings experience to your claim—experience both with the legal process of pursuing compensation for injuries as well as experience in the profound impacts that often accompany this type of injury.
Some of the services we can provide to help you with your case include:
A free, no-obligation case evaluation, which is time with an attorney where you can obtain answers to your legal questions, learn about your options for pursuing compensation, and come to understand your attorney’s role in the process.
A valuation of your case based on the expenses and impacts you have already incurred because of your injury as well as those you will likely incur in the future.
Determination of all sources of liability and all insurance resources that can be used to compensate you.
The timely filing of your court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction.