Every year in the U.S., thousands of people are injured due to a fire at their workplace. Some are injured so severely that they will never return to work. Life, as they knew it before the accident, will never be the same. They will suffer physical and emotional scars that will stay with them forever.
Types of Workplace Burn Injuries
There are four types of burn injuries that are most commonly seen in workplaces in New York:
- Electrical burns. When workers come in direct contact with electrical current, like touching a live wire, coming in contact with high-voltage areas and machinery, or contact water while working with electricity, the current travels through the body and is met with resistance by the tissues, resulting in burns, both external and internal.
- Chemical burns. This is exactly what it sounds like. A burn suffered due to contact with a chemical substance such as an acid, alkaloid, or any caustic or corrosive material.
- Thermal burns. These are commonly caused by coming in contact with a hot liquid (a scalding burn) or any hot object. It is often due to a fire or explosion.
- Sun exposure. These differ from thermal buns in that they occur in employees who work outside under harsh direct sun.
Some burns are so minor, no time off of work is needed. Others are life-changing. Burn severity is rated according to degrees.
- First degree. This is the least severe burn. There is very little damage to just the top layer of skin, which turns red and appears dry. The burn is painful, but there is no blister.
- Second degree. The burn goes a bit below the top layer of skin. The skin may blister and become very painful.
- Third degree. The epidermis and dermis layers of the skin are destroyed and deeper tissue may also be damaged. The burn appears white and charred. These are extremely painful and can destroy nerves and leave scars.
- Fourth degree. The burn is so severe it can damage nerves, tendons, muscles, and even the bones. These burns are often fatal.
Compensation for Burn Injuries
If your burn occurred at your workplace, or while you were working on behalf of your employer, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This means payment for your medical bills and a percentage of your lost wages. You also deserve compensation for your out-of-pocket expenses, like for medication and bandages.
You may have permanent damage that will prevent you from ever returning to any work at all, or prevent you from returning to the same type of work you were doing when you were injured. Workers’ compensation should pay for your rehabilitation and job retraining.
If you suffered any type of burn at work, it is imperative that you seek medical attention. Do not try to be a hero. You may think you received only a minor electrical shock, yet the electricity charging through your body could have caused internal damage. Even what may seem like a minor grease burn can turn serious, with blistering, swelling, and even an infection.
Workers’ compensation insurance companies are known for trying to avoid paying claims. The failure to seek medical treatment gives them a reason to minimize the seriousness of your injury. It also gives them an excuse to try and claim your injury did not occur at work.
Compensation Outside of Workers’ Compensation: Third-Party Lawsuits
Although workers’ compensation laws prevent you from filing a lawsuit for damages against your employer, you can file a lawsuit against any third-party who negligence contributed to, or was totally responsible for, your burn injury. For example, if your burn was the result of malfunctioning equipment, you can file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment. If you were burned in a car accident while driving for work, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Damages in a third-party lawsuit include pain and suffering, loss of your full income, not just a percentage of it, including future earnings. These damages are not benefits you receive from workers’ compensation.
Returning to Work After a Burn Injury
When a doctor sends a notice to your employer that you can return to work, no matter how you feel, or how much you disagree with your doctor’s advice, you must return to work. If you fail to show up, you will lose your workers’ compensation benefits.
In the case of a burn injury, worker’s compensation can be complicated. At the office of Paul Giannetti, Attorney at Law, we know how to work with the insurance company in order to maximize your benefits and be sure that you are not required to return to work until you are absolutely ready. We also file third-party lawsuits when our investigation indicates one is warranted. Contact us as soon as possible for a free consultation.