Fort Lauderdale Burn Injury Lawyers
One of the more painful injuries to suffer is a burn injury. Burns can result in life-altering complications, such as scarring and disfigurement, as well as life-threatening risks of infection and other damage. Numerous members of our Fort Lauderdale community are forced to deal with the consequences of a burn injury caused by someone else’s negligence or misconduct.
If you have suffered a burn injury, you can pursue compensation for economic losses and the impacts that your injury has had on your life. An experienced Fort Lauderdale burn injury attorney from The Levin Firm can help.
Since 2005, The Levin Firm has been helping those who have suffered burns and other injuries to obtain the compensation they need to help them endure the financial and emotional challenges that a serious injury can bring. Let us help you understand the process of recovering damages after a burn injury. For a free case evaluation, contact us now.
About Burn Injuries
A burn is an injury to the skin by flames, hot metal, steam, or caustic chemicals cause. While many burns do not require medical treatment and will heal on their own within a matter of days, others can cause life-altering complications and even result in death. The treatment for a burn injury depends not only on the severity of the burn, but how it was caused.
Burn injuries are the fourth leading cause of accidental death in U.S. children and adults. Those at the highest risk of suffering a burn injury include young children, older adults, and individuals with disabilities.
While not all burns require medical treatment, one should seek immediate attention for the injury if the following are present:
- A burn that covers the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint or large area of the body.
- Deep burns that affect all of the skin layers or even deeper tissues.
- Burns that result in a leather-like appearance to the skin.
- Burns that appear charred and have patches of black, brown, or white.
- Burns that chemicals or electricity cause.
- Burns that involve the airway or result in difficulty breathing.
Types of Burn Injuries
Burns can be caused by several different sources. The types of burn injuries a person can receive include:
- Thermal: Thermal burns are those caused by heat, including flames, hot metal or other surfaces, hot liquid, or even steam.
- Cold: Just as heat can result in a burn, extremely cold temperatures can as well. This type of burn is called frostbite.
- Radiation: A sunburn is an example of a radiation burn. However, other sources can also result in radiation burns, including tanning beds, X-rays, or radiation therapy for cancer.
- Chemical: Chemical burns are caused when the skin comes in contact with acids, solvents, or detergents.
- Electrical: Coming into contact with a source of electricity can result in an electrical burn.
- Friction: Friction burns are the result of the skin coming into contact with an abrasive surface. This type of burn is often experienced when motorcycle or bicycle riders crash and their skin makes contact with asphalt and sloughs off. This is known as road rash.
Levels of Burn Severity
Medical professionals refer to burn injuries in degrees of severity. The degrees of burns are as follows:
- First degree burns: These are the mildest of burn injuries, resulting in damage only to the top layer of skin, known as the epidermis. First degree burns generally produce symptoms of redness and pain, but rarely blister, leave a scar, or increase the risk of infection. First degree burns respond well to home care and usually heal on their own within 3-5 days.
- Second degree burns: Often referred to as partial thickness burns, second degree burns damage both the epidermis as well as the skin layer beneath it, which is known as the dermis. A second degree burn presents as painful, red, and swollen and can result in blistering to the skin. This severity level of burn rarely produces a scar, unless the wound becomes infected and the injury becomes deeper.
- Third degree burns: Also known as full thickness burns, third degree burns extend through the epidermis, the dermis, and the fatty layer beneath it. The injury can appear as charred and can be black, white, or red. The surface of the skin is often numb to the touch as a result of damage to nerve endings within the skin. A burn that is this severe often cannot heal on its own and scarring is likely. Often scarring caused by third degree burns requires skin graft surgeries to repair.
- Fourth degree burns: The most severe level of burn, a fourth degree burn will not only destroy the layers of skin and fat, but will also cause damage to the structures beneath, including muscles, tendons, and bone.
Evaluating the Burn
When an individual goes to the emergency department to seek treatment of a moderate or severe burn injury, medical professionals will evaluate the burn to determine how much of the total body surface area (TBSA) has been burned.
Often, providers use the “rule of nines” in calculating TBSA as follows:
- The head and neck are equal to 9 percent TBSA.
- Each arm is 9 percent of the TBSA.
- Each leg is 18 percent of the TBSA.
- The anterior trunk (front of the body) is 18 percent TBSA.
- The posterior trunk (back of the body) is 18 percent of the TBSA.
- A small burned area, such as the size of your palm, is 1 percent TBSA.
The rule of nines is only used when evaluating burns on an adult body. Children’s bodies are proportioned differently, rendering the formula inaccurate when used to determine how much of the total body surface area is burned on a child.
The burn evaluation will also include an ABCDE exam, which involves:
- Airways: Exposure to flames, smoke, or caustic chemicals can create blockages in the airway that can make it difficult to breathe.
- Breathing: The clinician will evaluate any breathing difficulties you have, including coughing, rasping, or wheezing. This part of the examination often involves the use of a stethoscope.
- Circulation: Both your heart rate and your blood pressure will be checked. Additionally, intravenous fluids can be given to protect the body from fluid loss after a burn injury.
- Disability: You will be checked for signs of brain damage, including tests to see how well you respond to verbal and physical stimulation.
- Exposure: The clinician will remove any remaining chemicals or burn-causing substances from the skin by flushing it with water. He or she will bandage the injury with sterile gauze. Your temperature will be taken regularly and you will be provided with fluids and warm blankets as needed.
Other factors that are assessed with burn injuries include:
- The location of the burn on the body. Some areas of the body are more prone to infection and other complications, such as the palms of the hands, the soles of the feet, and the groin.
- Whether the individual needs further treatment for inhalation burns on the lungs.
- Whether the individual has additional injuries, such as bone fractures.
- Whether the individual is dealing with other issues that could complicate recovery, such as diabetes or heart disease.
Complications Associated With Fort Lauderdale Burn Injuries
Many of the more serious implications of a burn injury aren’t from the injury itself but the high risk of complications associated with the injury.
Those complications can include:
- A bacterial infection that can spread throughout the body through the blood. This is known as sepsis.
- Fluid loss, including low blood volume. This is known as hypovolemia.
- A dangerously low body temperature, known as hypothermia.
- Breathing problems caused by the inhalation of hot air, steam, or smoke.
- Ridged areas in the skin caused by an overgrowth of scar tissue, known as keloids.
- Bone and joint problems resulting from contractures, which occur when scar tissue causes the shortening or tightening of the skin, muscles, or tendons.
The Types of Accidents That Result in Fort Lauderdale Burn Injuries
Just as there are multiple types of burns, there are many ways in which a burn can occur.
Some common accidents that result in burns include:
- Motor vehicle accidents in which an individual can come into contact with flames or hot surfaces that cause a thermal burn, receive chemical burns from gasoline and other vehicle fluids, or a friction burn from the skin coming in contact with asphalt.
- Premises liability accidents in which the owner of a private or commercial property fails to mitigate hazardous conditions that could result in injury to tenants or guests. Some of the hazardous property features that can result in burns include faulty appliances, problems with electrical wiring, and a lack of exits to escape a fire.
- Workplace accidents: Burns are relatively common in the construction industry, where workers are regularly around electricity, flammable or caustic chemicals, and power tools. In other industries, such as restaurants or hotels, burns can result from open fires, hot ovens, and other sources.
- Medical malpractice: The use of radiation in diagnostic tools and medical treatments can lead to burns, as can the use of caustic chemicals and oxygen near a source of ignition.
Seeking Compensation After a Fort Lauderdale Burn Injury
If you’ve suffered a burn injury in Fort Lauderdale, you can seek compensation for the expenses and impacts you have incurred as a result of your injury through a burn injury lawsuit. This is a legal claim filed in civil court that attempts to prove liability for the accident and shows the expenses and impacts for which the claimant is seeking relief.
Liability in a burn injury case is proven by showing:
- The at-fault party owed you a duty of care. A duty of care is defined as the way that a reasonable person would act in a given set of circumstances.
- There was a breach in the duty of care. The breach refers to the actions that the at-fault party took that were contrary to the duty of care that was owed.
- This breach in the duty of care resulted in the accident that caused the claimant’s injury and subsequent economic and emotional impacts.
In Fort Lauderdale, accident victims can seek both economic and non-economic damages in burn injury cases. The term “damages” refers to payment for harm. Economic damages are payments for specific out-of-pocket expenses that were incurred as a result of the injury.
The types of expenses that are commonly included in damage claims are:
- Medical treatment, including treatment at the scene of the accident or in the emergency department; transportation to the hospital by ambulance or aircraft; diagnostic testing; physician and surgical services; prescription medication; hospitalization; and physical therapy or rehabilitation.
- Property damage that you incurred in the accident, such as the cost of repairing or replacing a motorcycle that was damaged in the same accident that caused your burn injury.
- Lost wages, due to being too seriously injured to work or having to miss work to attend an injury-related medical appointment.
- Loss of future earning capacity if your injury results in a permanent disability and you are no longer able to work or to earn the same income as you did before the accident.
Non-economic damages refer to payment for the psychological or emotional toll that your burn injury has had on your life. Some impacts that are commonly included in burn injury claims include:
- Physical pain and suffering.
- Emotional distress.
- Scarring or disfigurement.
- Lost enjoyment of life.
Burn injury lawsuits in Fort Lauderdale must generally be filed within four years of the date of the accident, unless the burn injury claim is being filed against a government agency, which uses a slightly different process and features a much shorter time frame. In some circumstances, such as when a minor child is injured and wishes to file a claim once he or she reaches adulthood, the statute of limitations can be extended, or “tolled.” Our attorneys can advise you as to whether there is a reason for the statute of limitations to be extended in your case.
Frequently Asked Questions About Fort Lauderdale Burn Injury Cases
Burn injuries can be extraordinarily painful to experience, as well as to treat. They can also result in missed work, permanent disabilities, and can alter your life. Here are answers to some of the questions that our Fort Lauderdale clients most frequently ask about burn injuries.
How long will it take to settle my Fort Lauderdale burn injury case?
Unfortunately, lawsuits can take quite a bit of time. Some of this is related to the availability of the court to hear the case promptly. A lot of it, however, is due to the time spent negotiating a settlement. Settlements can be negotiated at any time during the process—even after the trial has begun—as long as no judgment has been rendered in the case.
Patience is often required for those who refuse to accept a settlement far below what their case is valued at. This is because insurance companies will do what they can to avoid paying out the full amount of a claim for an injury that was caused by their insured.
One thing that insurance companies like even less than paying out on claims, however, is paying for expensive litigation with the possibility of paying out the full amount demanded by the claimant as well. Suffice it to say, while you will likely receive a settlement offer rather quickly, be prepared to wait for a fair settlement offer to come in.
My loved one died from burn injuries in Fort Lauderdale. Is there compensation available for me?
Yes, but you will use a process known as a wrongful death lawsuit. Like burn injury lawsuits, wrongful death claims are filed in civil court. The statute of limitations in wrongful death cases is two years from the date of the deceased’s death.
Florida law requires a personal representative of the estate—either named in the deceased’s will or estate plan or appointed by the court—to file the lawsuit on behalf of family members. The family members who are eligible to benefit from a wrongful death action include the deceased’s spouse, children, and grandchildren, as well as other blood relatives who were wholly or partially dependent on support and services provided by the deceased.
- The value of support and services that the deceased provided to his or her family members.
- Loss of companionship, guidance, and protection that the deceased gave to family members.
- The mental and emotional pain of losing a child.
- Medical expenses for the treatment of the deceased’s final injury.
- Funeral and burial or cremation expenses.
The estate can also recover the loss of wages, benefits, and the value of lost earnings that the deceased could have reasonably been expected to earn if he or she had survived, as well as medical and funeral expenses that were paid directly by the estate.
Who is liable for burn injuries resulting from a Fort Lauderdale apartment fire?
Depending on the facts of your case, some several individuals or entities could be liable, such as:
- The owner or manager of the apartment for failing to replace faulty wiring or other hazards that he or she should have known about.
- Another tenant in the building for recklessly causing a fire.
- The manufacturer of equipment used in the building, such as kitchen appliances, that caused a fire due to product defects.
My burn injury was the result of a Fort Lauderdale car accident. Will my PIP policy cover my expenses?
Your personal injury protection (PIP) policy that you were required to purchase when you registered your car in Fort Lauderdale is a good resource for some of the expenses surrounding your injury. PIP policies pay up to 80 percent of your medical expenses after an accident as well as a portion of your wage loss, up to the limits of your policy and regardless of fault. Unfortunately, many people find that their PIP coverage runs out long before the expenses of their injury do. They also have trouble getting their PIP policies to pay anything at all
If your injury meets the state’s serious injury threshold, you may file a burn injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver and can recover additional damages for non-economic impacts, as well as a broader number of economic damage categories. We can also assist you in getting the PIP benefits you deserve.
Burns following a Fort Lauderdale car accident: What is the “serious injury threshold,” and do burn injuries meet that threshold?
For the most part, Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to car insurance. What this means is that everyone who registers a vehicle in Fort Lauderdale is required to purchase a personal injury protection policy.
The no-fault scheme was built to create an easy pathway for car accident victims to be compensated for their injuries through their own insurance while at the same time relieving some of the burdens from the courts. However, the state has a “serious injury threshold” and if the severity of your injuries rises to this threshold, you can bypass the PIP process and file a burn injury lawsuit against the at-fault party.
The serious injury threshold includes:
- Significant, permanent loss of an important bodily function.
- Permanent injury to a reasonable degree of medical probability.
- Significant and permanent scarring or disfigurement.
Someone intentionally caused my Fort Lauderdale burn injury. Can I file a lawsuit if it wasn’t an accident?
Yes. Florida law recognizes the rights of an injured person to recover damages that resulted from intentional actions. This type of case, known as an intentional tort, is treated slightly differently than those involving accidental injuries. In a case involving intentional injuries, you must prove that the at-fault party committed the action that resulted in your injury and that the action was committed with the knowledge that it would cause harm to you. You must also show that there is a direct correlation between the actions of the defendant and your injuries.
Burn injury lawsuits that result from intentional acts often have the availability of punitive damages, which are awarded based not on the expenses and impacts suffered by the claimant as a result of the injury but on the egregiousness of the defendant’s behavior. These damages aren’t generally available in other types of burn injury cases, and can substantially increase the amount of your settlement or award.
My burn injury was caused at work. Should I sue my employer?
In all likelihood, your workplace burn injury will result in a workers’ compensation claim, not a personal injury case. Workers’ compensation is an insurance policy that most employers in Fort Lauderdale are required to purchase for their employees. These policies cover the cost of medical treatment and wage loss after an injury until the individual is medically released to return to full work duties. Most workplace injuries, regardless of fault, are covered by workers’ compensation if they occurred during the normal scope of the worker’s employment. Call us for help in filing your workers’ comp claim.
There is an exception, however. If your burn injury was the result of the careless and reckless actions of a third party (not your employer or co-workers), you are permitted to file a burn injury claim. An example of the type of accident that could fall under this exception would be if you were employed as a delivery driver and were injured in a car accident that was caused by an unaffiliated motorist during the normal scope of your work duties.
How much is the average Fort Lauderdale burn injury settlement?
Because each case is valued on its own facts, there really isn’t an “average” burn injury settlement.
However, these factors can affect the value of your case:
- Whether the at-fault party has insurance. Insurance is how most burn injury settlements and awards are paid. While you technically can sue an uninsured person and even go to court and get a judgment in your favor, collecting your award will be next to impossible as most individuals cannot pay for burn-related medical expenses out-of-pocket.
- How much money you make. If you are in the midst of a successful career and your injuries result in a lot of missed work or even a disability that prevents you from returning to work, your case will likely carry a higher value than that of someone with equally severe injuries who is too young to have a career or who has reached retirement age and is no longer earning an income.
- Your patience. The best settlement offers often don’t come until shortly before the trial begins or even after it has begun but before a judgment is rendered.
I was already offered a settlement in my Fort Lauderdale burn injury case. Should I accept it?
Not without speaking to an experienced burn injury lawyer first. Insurance companies will often offer to settle third party claims quickly. Unfortunately, these offers are generally far lower than the value of the case. The problem is that settlements are a one-time deal: if you agree to the amount that is offered and then later realize that it wasn’t enough to cover your expenses, you are not permitted to go back to the at-fault party’s insurance carrier and ask for more money.
An experienced attorney will determine a value to your case that considers all of your expenses and the psychological impacts that your injury has caused.
Are Fort Lauderdale burn injury settlements taxable?
According to the Internal Revenue Service, burn injury settlements and awards are not considered to be income and are not subject to tax. However, there is an exception in regards to punitive damages. Punitive damages are sometimes awarded in cases in which the defendant exercised particularly reckless behavior. The damages are not tied to a personal expense or impact from the injury, and therefore can be taxed as income.
Additionally, if you claimed your medical expenses as a deduction on your tax returns before you received a settlement or award that included damages for medical expenses, you will need to repay the amount that you deducted.
An accountant can help answer all of your questions about state and federal taxes you might owe after a settlement or judgment.
Do I need an attorney for my Fort Lauderdale burn injury case? Wouldn’t it be cheaper to handle it myself?
Yes and no, respectively.
Burn injury cases are complex for those who do not have experience in the legal process or experience with the types of expenses these injuries generally incur. Most burn injury lawyers offer two special services for their clients to ensure that anyone who needs an attorney can afford one.
Those services include:
- A free consultation, which is time for you to get the legal questions you have about your specific case answered, learn more about the burn injury claims process, and determine whether the attorney is who you’d like to have working on your case.
- Contingent-fee payments, which mean that you will not have to pay for your lawyer’s services until there is a successful outcome in your case.
Other services that your burn injury lawyer can provide include:
- A valuation of your case.
- Determination of all sources of liability and all insurance resources that are available to compensate you.
- Timely filing of all court-required paperwork in the proper jurisdiction.
- Attendance at all court-required pre-trial hearings and conferences.
- Skilled negotiation with the at-fault party’s insurance carrier in an attempt to get a fair settlement offer on your behalf.
- Gathering and organizing evidence and witness testimony that can strengthen your case.
- Guidance as to the pros and cons of accepting a settlement offer.
- Litigation, including making opening and closing statements, examining witnesses, and presenting evidence.
- Help collecting your settlement or award.
Call Our Fort Lauderdale Burn Injury Attorneys Now
Let our Fort Lauderdale burn injury lawyers help you understand the process of recovering damages in a burn injury lawsuit. Our goal is to get you fully compensated for all of your harms and losses. For your free case evaluation, contact The Levin Firm online or by calling (954) 715-3260.