Burn injuries in Odessa — An Overview
Burns can occur in any number of situations, including accidents caused by negligence, carelessness, or intentional misconduct. When someone else causes your catastrophic injury, you deserve compensation for all the pain and suffering you go through.
An experienced burn injury attorney can help you prove fault and get the money you deserve so you can get back to your life.
Types of Burn Injuries
Burns are damage to your body tissue due to heat, chemicals, electricity, or radiation. Scalding injuries are caused by hot liquids and steam. Another related injury is smoke inhalation, caused by breathing toxic substances.
There are three types of burns:
- First-degree burns – Damage to the outer layer of skin
- Second-degree burns – Damage to the outer layer and the layer underneath
- Third-degree burns – Damage to the deepest layer of skin and tissues underneath
Effects of Burn Injuries
Burns can cause swelling, blistering, scarring, shock, and even death in severe cases. They can also lead to serious infections because of the damage to your skin’s protective layers.
In many cases, the full impact of a burn cannot be determined right away. Even if you think your burn is not serious, you should seek medical treatment. It can get worse over time and may become infected, causing your condition to become even worse.
Treatment for Burns
Treatment for burns depends on the cause of the burn, how deep it is, and how much of the body it covers. Antibiotic creams can prevent or treat infections. For more serious burns, treatment can require skin grafting, IV fluids, antibiotics, and pain management.
When you go to the emergency room or see a medical provider, they will first evaluate the severity of your burn.
If it is a first-degree burn, you may be prescribed a topical treatment or antibiotics. You will not likely have to spend time in the hospital for a first-degree burn unless it covers the majority of your body.
For second-degree burns, you will likely need topical creams or ice packs, and you may need hydration therapy to make sure you do not become dehydrated. If the skin is torn or severely blistered, you may need special wound dressings to protect the internal layers of your skin.
If a significant amount of your body is covered in burns, you may need to stay in the hospital for one or more days.
Third-degree burns pose serious risks to your health. You will need antibiotics and pain management right away. You may also need surgery to reconstruct the skin that was damaged. The faster you can get treatment, the less scarring you will have and the better chance you have of recovering quickly.
Burn Injury Damages & Compensation
When seeking compensation through an insurance claim or litigation, there are various types of damages you could potentially seek, depending on the facts.
Economic damages are those that are easily proven through direct monetary loss, such as medical bills and lost income. You can also be compensated for income you expect to lose in the future if you have permanent injuries, called loss of earning potential.
Another out-of-pocket expense includes property damage, like loss of your vehicle.
Non-economic damages are not directly related to a loss of money. However, they do include losses you have experienced due to the accident. These are particularly important in burn injury claims because your pain and suffering will likely be extensive.
Other non-economic damages include loss of consortium (impact on your relationships) as well as mental and emotional harm caused by the accident and injuries.
Damages could be shown with the following types of documentation:
- Copies of receipts
- Expert opinion as to what medical treatment will be needed in the future
- Testimony from family members and mental health professionals on the emotional and psychiatric impact of the injury
- Tax records to document your earnings
- Expert opinion establishing what you could expect to earn if there was no accident and what should be expected afterward
Economic damages are easy to calculate because they’re hard figures. Non-economic damages are often based on what damages have been awarded in other cases in similar situations and what the injured party is willing to accept.
Proving Negligence in a Burn Injury Claim
Negligence is a legal theory used in personal injury legal actions like burn injuries. The injured party has the burden of proving that the defendant is legally responsible.
The plaintiff in a burn injury case needs to show the following elements of negligence:
It must be proven that the defendant owed the plaintiff a legal duty or obligation. That means they were responsible for what happened. For example, an inspector might be required to ensure a piece of equipment meets safety standards.
Duty was Breached
The plaintiff must prove that the defendant breached their legal duty through negligent actions or inaction. For example, if the inspector skipped over a dangerous piece of equipment and did not ensure it met safety standards, they breached their duty.
Breach Caused the Accident
You must show that the breach of duty by the defendant was the cause of the accident. For example, the lack of inspection must have led to the accident in which you were burned.
To recover compensation, you must prove that you suffered harm. The accident itself must have resulted in your harm, and you must have had losses as a result. If you were burned in the accident, this proves actual harm.
Often in accident cases, both sides disagree on who’s at fault and by how much. In Texas, there is a modified comparative fault rule that follows a 51% bar rule. The plaintiff can’t recover compensation if they are found to be 51% or more at fault for causing the accident. If the defendant is proven more at fault than the plaintiff, recovery will be reduced by the share of the plaintiff’s fault.
For example, if a jury decides a plaintiff is 30% at fault and there are $100,000 in damages, the plaintiff’s recovery will be $70,000.
New Mexico follows a different system called pure comparative negligence. A plaintiff can recover from a defendant whatever share of fault the defendant is responsible for. If the plaintiff’s share of the blame for the accident is a third, they can recover two-thirds of their total damages.
Burn Injury Settlements
The goal at The Kemmy Law Firm is to help you get the most compensation possible. We can often accomplish this through a burn injury settlement. However, if the insurance company refuses to settle for a fair amount, we are not afraid to file a lawsuit and take them to court.
Making a Demand
The first step to achieve a settlement is to make a demand to the insurance company for compensation.
You must first determine the value of your claim to make a reasonable demand. This starts with an in-depth investigation. You must preserve and collect evidence involved in the accident. This may include obtaining copies of a police or incident report, photo or video evidence, and any eyewitness statements available.
You also must document your physical, psychological, and financial injuries. Having proof of the type and extent of your injuries is essential to demand maximum compensation.
The insurance company may reject your initial demand for compensation. The claim will then enter settlement negotiations before a lawsuit is filed. Both the plaintiff and defendant’s legal representatives will attempt to reach an agreement in lieu of going to trial. While most burn injury claims are settled at this stage, if a favorable resolution is not reached, the matter will move forward to trial.
When deciding how to handle negotiations, you need to think about all the harm done since the accident and the expected future harm. As the degree of burn increases, more harm is done.
Obtaining a Fair Settlement Offer
The Kemmy Law Firm will present many factors to the insurance company so they understand how your injury has impacted your life.
Factors to consider in a burn injury settlement negotiation are:
- How much of your body was burned
- How much pain and suffering you endure
- Whether there will be permanent scarring, and if so, how much will be publicly visible
- Whether there were serious complications, such as infections, that caused setbacks
- If there are permanent physical limitations, how they will impact the enjoyment of your life and ability to make a living
- What psychological harm has been done
- Your expected future medical needs
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Burn Injury Lawsuits and Trial Preparation
If the insurance company denies your claim or refuses to make a reasonable settlement, then you may be forced to file a burn injury lawsuit. It’s important to work with a lawyer throughout this process. You will have to draft many legal documents with specific language to prove you deserve to win your case.
Part of the litigation process is discovery. During this process, both parties evaluate the critical facts, which can help move the settlement process along. Both sides ask each other questions in writing exchange documents and information under oath.
During and after discovery, many parties gain an understanding of the value of the case and reach an agreement.
Discovery is a critical part of the litigation process. It often provides additional evidence to support your case or identify weaknesses.
During the investigation and litigation phase, we often use experts. These are specialized professionals who can give opinions in court. We often use accident reconstructionists to help us determine the cause of accidents. Medical experts explain the nature and extent of injuries and how long limitations are expected to last.
The Kemmy Law Firm has a network of experts who specialize in many different aspects of personal injuries, including burn accidents. We will find someone who can provide an opinion about your specific situation and support your case.
Drafting and Filing Legal Documents
To begin a burn injury lawsuit, you will need to file a complaint to detail your accident and the theory of negligence against the at-fault party.
Pre-trial motions are an essential part of the personal injury lawsuit process. The Kemmy Law Firm has a team of legal professionals who have perfected their motions practice and write extremely persuasive legal documents. With pre-trial motions, it is possible to win a case before even going to court.
Appearing at Court Hearings and at Trial
The burn injury lawyers at The Kemmy Law Firm will appear on your behalf at all court conferences, hearings, and trials. You may be required to appear in some of these situations, but for the most part, a member of your legal team can represent you so that you can continue with your life.
The Kemmy Law Firm will keep you updated about your case at every stage. Communication between our legal team and clients is of the utmost importance. You can call or email us at any time, and we will respond as quickly as possible.