April 7, 2024 | Article by Matt Clark

Who can sue for a burn injury?

Anybody, child or adult, whose burn injury was caused by somebody else’s fault.

Who can be held responsible for a burn injury?

Any person whose negligent or intentional misconduct caused the injury can be held responsible to the injured plaintiff. This would include a large list of potential defendants from vehicle drivers, product manufacturers, construction site operators, owners of dangerous private or public property and others.

What if I was also at fault for the accident which caused my burn injury?

California is a comparative fault state. A person can sue for serious Burn Injury even if he or she are partially at fault, as long as he or she can prove that one or more other parties are also at fault. However, the amount of a plaintiff’s recovery will be reduced by the amount of his or her comparative fault.

Is it important to quickly investigate an accident that results in a burn injury?

Absolutely. Given the seriousness of the injury, you or your attorney will be doing yourselves a terrible disservice if the accident is not investigated quickly and thoroughly. A thorough investigation should include an examination of the scene, the instrumentalities involved in the accident, interviews with witnesses and the collection of reports from investigating agencies. Further, if at all possible, the instrumentalities causing the accident should be maintained in their post-accident condition, i.e., motor vehicles should not be repaired, malfunctioning machines should be preserved and not repaired, fire scenes should not be rebuilt until the cause of the fire and burn injury can be clearly established. The investigation will be important in order to establish fault on the most obviously culpable defendant; establish a lack of fault on the part of the plaintiff; and establish fault on wrongdoers other than the most clearly at fault defendant who may be in a better position to fully compensate the plaintiff for a serious burn injury.

Is the existence of insurance coverage important?

Yes. It is critical. It is usually unlikely that the person or entity that caused your burn injury will have the assets necessary to cover your enormous potential damages. Even a company with a relatively large insurance policy of $500,000 or $1,000,000, may not completely cover the damages in a clear liability case in which there is a serious burn injury. This is one of the reasons why an early investigation is so important; that is, to develop evidence against multiple wrongdoers who, in totality, may be able to cover your damages either through assets or insurance.

Will my attorney need to retain experts to prove liability and damages even though my injury is so obvious?

Almost always. Because of the seriousness of your injury, it is critical that liability, i.e., fault, is pinned down as soon as possible after an accident against at least one potential wrongdoer and hopefully more. Liability experts will help you do this. These experts include mechanical engineers, metallurgists, fire investigators, accident reconstruction and human factors experts who can address the liability factors in the accident. In addition, if there is any issue as to whether a defendant’s wrongdoing caused your injury, the retention of biomechanical engineers and biomedical engineers can be extremely helpful. With regard to damages, the answer is always yes. Although the fact that you are injured may be obvious, the consequences of the injury
will not necessarily be obvious and will usually be highly disputed by the defendants. At a minimum, you will need to retain at least one doctor to testify to the medical effects of your injury. You may need a vocational rehabilitation/life care need expert to testify to your loss of earning capacity and your need for future care and treatment. Finally, you may need an economist to testify to the amount of damages that are necessary to compensate you for all of your losses.

What damages am I entitled to recover in my burn injury case?

Under California law a plaintiff who has suffered a burn injury is entitled to recover all of his or her past and future medical care expenses; past and future loss of income/earning capacity; past and future pain, suffering and emotional distress and in cases in which the defendant’s conduct is particularly bad, punitive damages (damages which are awarded to punish the defendant).