Understanding What an Employee Can Sue For in a Workplace Burn Injury
Workplace injuries happen far more frequently than people would like. Employers aren’t happy about them, since injuries drive up costs for insurance coverage, training, and medical expenses. Employees don’t want them due to the personal pain, discomfort, loss of income, and inconvenience. Yet, amazingly, preventable injuries like burns continue to happen far more frequently than they should. In this regard, the question comes up of whether an employee can sue for being burned in the workplace. The answer depends a lot on exactly how the accident happened and why.
The first level of response typically involves workers’ compensation. In every state other than Texas, employers are required to have the coverage in place to pay for medical expenses, loss of income, and rehabilitation for a workplace injury. The employee files a claim through this process first and, if approved, it covers the above expenses to an extent. Generally, this is about 70% of average weekly pay. With workers’ compensation, typically the program is the exclusive remedy available to injured workers – unless very specific exceptions are met under state law (e.g. situations involving gross negligence or intentional conduct).
Can You Claim for a Burn at Work?
As noted above, most states require employers to have workers’ comp coverage, and employees make a claim through that program first. Texas is a notable exception – as a state that does not require workers’ compensation. Employees in Texas may need to file a claim with the employer’s private insurance or directly, and in these cases the employee could sue for the full range of damages when suffering from a burn injury by the employer.
Known as non-subscribers, employers without workers’ compensation have frequently been involved with burn cases in a variety of circumstances. These have ranged from oilfield work to drivers in car accidents to use of defective equipment. Even having employees work on property where insufficient safeguards are in place have been sufficient reasons for liability for resulting burns.
Can You Sue a Restaurant for a Burn?
Restaurant-related burns are very common given the nature of the work. Cooks and waiters are all repeatedly exposed to situations with hot equipment, materials, food, and liquids. Many of these situations are preventable if training and proper safety measures are followed. However, burns happen often as people get stressed during busy times, workplaces get crowded, mistakes are made or corners are cut. When these instances occur, hot liquids or materials can catch people unaware and serious injuries happen. Again, in most cases, employees need to go through their employer’s workers’ compensation or insurance program first. Then, if the coverage is insufficient and it’s clear the employer failed in a protection or duty of care, the employee can consider an injury lawsuit against the employer for further recovery.
Damages That Can be Pursued for a Burn at Work Injury
In a lawsuit, the damages you can claim for a burn at work will depend on your specific injuries and losses. Generally, damages in burn injury claims include:
- Medical expenses for doctors, hospitalization, surgeries, skins grafts, therapy, and other treatments
- Costs of prescription and over-the-counter pain medications, antibiotics, and other drugs
- Reimbursement for time away from work while you recuperate
- Compensation for loss of earning capacity if you can’t work at all any more or your ability to work is reduced
- Pain and suffering for your physical pain and emotional trauma from scarring and disfigurement
- Punitive damages meant to punish at-fault parties in cases of gross negligence.
If you tragically lost a family member to workplace burn injuries, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit (and survival action) against the party who caused the accident. Damages in wrongful death lawsuits may include medical costs, funeral and burial expenses, pain and suffering of the deceased, lost income and inheritance, lost love and support, and more.
How Does a Legal Claim for a Workplace Injury Work?
If an employee reaches the point where the employer’s coverage is denied or is insufficient to address the employee’s burn injuries, or if there is a strong argument for employer negligence or intentional action involved, an attorney can make professional determination of whether an injured employee’s lawsuit is viable and has a strong chance of winning. The general approach involves trying to negotiate a private settlement first and, if that option does not work, then a formal lawsuit increases the pressure as well as potential losses for the employer who refuses to be accountable.
The large majority of cases tend to settle eventually, as the costs of going to trial and the potential of loss tend to be far greater. Insurance companies actively work at keeping their coverage costs down as much as possible, so the work of an attorney representing a burned worker can take some time before a negotiation is successful.
Ultimately, if the case goes to court, then a full trial process occurs and the case is decided either by a jury or a judge. There is no guarantee who will win, which is why a trial is such a high risk for everyone involved. Once the decision is made, the likelihood of appeal is minimal as it requires that a legal mistake was made.
How Workplace Burn Injuries Can Happen
How much a burned employee might get in a burn injury lawsuit depends on the severity of your injuries. Burns range from first degree to fourth degree, which are the most serious. There are three general classifications of burns. They include:
- Chemical burns – Chemical burns happen from exposure to acids, solvents, and other corrosive substances. People who work in cleaning professions, manufacturing, chemical plants, laboratories, and oil drilling are some examples of workers who may be at risk of chemical burns.
- Electrical burns – Electricians who work around electricity can suffer electrocution and severe burns. Workers who come into contact with faulty electrical outlets or wiring can also suffer electrical burn injuries.
- Thermal burns – Construction fires resulting from flammable materials and other things are also not unusual and can cause severe burns to construction workers. Food service workers are often victims of thermal burns, which affect the skin. These burns result from hot liquids such as cooking oil splashing on the skin or from reaching into an oven and coming in contact with hot surfaces or open flames.
These examples are just a small sampling of how workers can be burned on the job. If you are interested in learning whether you can sue a restaurant or another employer for a burn, it’s wise to get skilled legal advice from a work injury attorney.
Reach Out for Experienced Houston Burn Injury Lawyer for Help
There are nearly 500,000 burn injuries requiring medical treatment every year, according to the American Burn Association. Serious burn injuries are extremely painful, disfiguring, and expensive to treat. At Terry Bryant Accident & Injury Law, our burn injury lawyers help workers who have been injured get compensation to pay for medical care, lost income, and other losses they’ve suffered. Once we review the facts of your case, we’ll advise you about your potential options for suing for your burn injury. Even if you aren’t sure that you want to sue an employer or other party, we are here to answer all of your legal questions. For a free and confidential consultation, call us now at 713-973-8888 or toll-free 1-800-444-5000.