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The Legal Process for Burn Injury Claims: What to Expect In California

Barbara Parson | June 07, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: The legal process for burn injury claims involves seeking medical attention immediately, consulting with an experienced burn injury attorney, investigating the burn injury claim, filing your claim, discovery, negotiating a settlement, and trial.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a fire, you know how devastating it can be. The physical and emotional scars may last a lifetime. That's why it's so important to have a burn injury attorney on your side. A good lawyer will fight for your rights and make sure you get the compensation you need and deserve.

The last thing you want to worry about, especially when you’re recuperating, is negotiating an insurance claim. That’s why you want to contact an attorney.

A lawyer will handle all the paperwork and negotiations so you can focus on healing and recovery.

If you've been injured in a fire or burned in another mishap then, don't try to go it alone.

An experienced burn injury lawyer regularly handles cases like yours and will know how to get you the maximum compensation possible. They'll also make sure your rights are protected every step of the way.

With an attorney’s help you can get total compensation for economic and non-economic damages, including medical costs, loss of income, and pain and suffering.

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The burn injury claim process involves these steps

The following steps of the process will give you a better idea of what you should know and what to expect when submitting a burn injury claim.

Step 1: Seek medical attention right away

The first and most important step in any burn injury case is to seek immediate medical attention. Proper treatment is essential for healing and minimizing the long-term effects of your injuries.

Additionally, having detailed medical records of your burn injuries is necessary for calculating damages and receiving an equitable settlement.

Burn categories

There are different categories of burns, including:

  • Thermal Burns: A thermal burn happens when a heat source raises the skin’s temperature and causes cell death of the skin’s tissues or charing. These burns result from steam, flames, or scalding liquids.
  • Radiation Burns: Radiation burns result from prolonged exposure to the sun or sources of radiation, such as x-rays.
  • Chemical Burns: Chemical burns are triggered from strong chemicals that come into contact with the eyes or skin.
  • Electrical Burns: Electrical burns come from an electrical current from faulty wiring.

A medical evaluation is necessary to assess the type of burn and its severity.

Burn severity

With respect to severity, burns are labeled as first-degree to fourth-degree burns.

First-degree burns are superficial. That means they only affect the patient’s outer layer of skin, or the epidermis. The burn site is painful, red, and dry but does show blistering.

Second-degree burns involve the outer layer (epidermis) and dermis layers of the patient’s skin. These burns appear blistered, red, or swollen, and usually are painful.

Third-degree burns damage both the epidermis and dermis layers. They may also extend to the bones, tendons, and muscles. If these areas are burned, the burn injury is diagnosed as a fourth-degree burn.

Severe third-degree or fourth-degree bones often appear charred or white. The patient does not have feeling at the burn site as the nerve endings have been destroyed.

The age of the burn patient and the amount of the body that has been burned are both used to prognose burn injury cases.

Special Burn Care

Some patients must be treated at burn injury centers.

If they have at least second-degree (partial-thickness)burns over 10% or more of their total body surface area (TBSA), they will need special care.

Some burn patients who have burns on their face, feet, groin, genital area, or hands will need treatment at a burn injury facility. Patients may also receive special care if their burns are accompanied by an injury that affects their lungs or airways. Chemical and electrical burns require special care needs as well.

Attorneys also consider the costs of care for burn patients with chronic conditions, such as hypertension, diabetes, MS, or heart disease.

Step 2: Consult with an experienced burn injury attorney

After receiving medical care, it's essential to consult with an attorney who specializes in burn injury cases.

Because burn injuries are a niche specialty, a legal professional can navigate the laws that surround these personal injury claims and determine if your case has merit.

They will also guide you through each stage of the legal process, ensuring that your rights are protected as you prove your case and establish negligence.

Establish negligence

Establishing negligence includes the following elements:

  • The defendant or negligent part owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached their duty of care.
  • The defendant’s breach of their duty of care led to the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • As a result, the plaintiff suffered damages from the accident.

You have to meet all of the above elements to show negligence.

Understand the statute of limitations in burn injury claims

You have two years from the accident to file a burn injury personal injury claim in California, so time is of the essence in these cases. Other states have different statutes of limitations.

The sooner you talk to an attorney, the sooner you can file your case and get the compensation you need now and in the future.

Step 3: Investigation of the burn injury claim

Your attorney will begin by investigating the circumstances surrounding your burn injury case. This may involve examining incident reports, interviewing witnesses, reviewing medical records, and consulting with experts in fire-related fields.

Experts may be requested to give testimony that involves engineering or safety regulations or compliance.

The goal of an investigation is to establish liability for your injuries and gather evidence supporting your claim.

By investigating the circumstances surrounding your accident, an attorney can also calculate the damages. There is no cap on damages for personal injury lawsuits in California. Nor are punitive damages capped in California.

Punitive damages are awarded above basic compensation to punish the defendant for notably reckless behavior.

Step 4: File your claim

Once your attorney believes that you have a strong case, they will proceed to file a burn injury claim on your behalf.

This typically involves drafting a document called a Complaint that outlines how the defendant(s) caused your injuries due to their negligence and the compensation you believe you are owed.

Step 5: Discovery

The discovery process involves an activity where both sides exchange evidence and information about the burn injury case. This may entail answering written questions, providing documentation related to your injuries, and participating in depositions.

The discovery process can be lengthy and complex, but it is a necessary step in properly building your case.

Step 6: Negotiating a Settlement

In many instances, burn injury claims are often resolved through settlement negotiations without going to trial.

Your attorney will negotiate with the other party's legal representative(s) to reach an agreement on compensation - a monetary award that adequately reflects your pain, suffering, medical expenses, and other damages related to your injuries.

Step 7: Trial

If a fair settlement isn’t reached, your case may proceed to trial. During the trial, both sides will present their arguments and evidence to a jury.

The jury will then determine liability and award damages based on the severity of your burn injuries and the applicable laws.

Final thoughts on filing a burn injury claim

This article provides a glimpse into what you might expect when filing a burn injury claim in California.

By working with an experienced attorney and understanding what to expect, you can go through the legal process of filing a burn injury claim with renewed confidence.

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