You recently suffered a second-degree burn after a restaurant employee spilled some hot liquids on you. You experienced a good deal of pain and some scarring.
Is there an average amount that you should settle your personal injury case for?
It is quite difficult to provide an average settlement value in burn injury cases. This is because compensation amounts will vary widely depending on:
- the severity of the burn,
- the size of the burn,
- whether the burn accident resulted in any disfigurement or permanent scarring, and
- whether you can receive punitive damages.
1. Does the severity of a burn affect settlement amounts?
Most often, yes. The general rule is that more severe burns will generate higher compensation values in burn injury claims than less severe burns.1
Medicine generally recognizes three different degrees of burns, from first to third. First-degree burns are the mildest while third-degree burns are the most severe.
The following are some of the characteristics associated with each type of burn:
- first-degree burns: these involve damage to only the outer layer of the skin (an example is sunburn). First-degree burns often involve redness and sometimes swelling.2
- second-degree burns: these cause damage to both the outer and second layer of the skin. Second-degree burns are usually associated with swelling, splotchy skin, and some scarring.3
- third-degree burns: these extend to the fatty area beneath your skin. Burned areas can appear black, brown, or white and may involve nerve and/or muscle damage.4
Injury victims can suffer burns from any of the following:
- sunlight or tanning beds,
- hot or scalding liquids,
- workplace accidents (which usually lead to workers’ compensation claims),
- radiation, and
- electrical currents.
2. Does the size of a burn impact your compensation?
Most often, yes. Burn victims will generally receive more compensation for burns of a larger size.
Note that a moderate burn of a large size can lead to a higher settlement figure than a severe burn of a very small size.
Example: Joe suffers a moderate burn injury in a car accident. The burn covers his neck, shoulder, and extends to the middle of his arm. He consults with a personal injury lawyer and files an injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Lisa suffers a severe burn at work. The burn, though, only covers a small part of her ankle. The injured worker files a products liability lawsuit.
It is likely that Joe’s case will generate more compensation than Lisa’s case. This is largely because his burn is of such a greater size than the one on Lisa’s ankle.
3. What happens if a burn results in scaring or disfigurement?
Burns causing scaring and/or disfigurement will often settle for more than cases that do not involve scars or disfigurement.
You will likely receive more compensation as well for cases involving blisters or skin grafts.
Note that a successful verdict will result in compensatory damages. This includes compensation for both:
- economic damages (for example, medical expenses), and
- non-economic damages (for example, pain and suffering).
Non-economic damages do include specific compensation for any type of disfigurement or scaring that results from an injury.
This means burn victims will generally collect more with a scar or disfigurement because of this extra compensation.
4. Will you receive more if punitive damages are awarded?
Generally, yes. Some burn injury cases will result in compensation for punitive damages.
In the context of a burn case, punitive damages are awarded if the person or entity that caused the burn did so intentionally or by means of gross negligence.
Punitive damages are given in addition to any compensatory damages awarded. Note that punitive damages are meant to:
- punish the at-fault party, and
- deter that person’s conduct.
Since these damages represent an extra source of money, burn cases with punitive damages often settle for more than those cases without them.
Punitive damages can be difficult to receive. If you believe you may be entitled to them, you should seek legal advice from a law firm or burn injury lawyer.
- The logic here is that more severe burns typically require more medical treatment and higher medical bills than less severe burns. Severe burns will likely also result in lost income and pain and suffering. All of this means that cases with serious injuries are generally worth more than cases involving mild or moderate burn injuries.
- See Mayo Clinic website, “Burns.”
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