Burn injuries can be devastating. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of 1.1 million people are treated for burn injuries in the United States every year.
Around 50,000 of them have burns severe enough to require hospitalization, and 20,000 have major burns covering at least 25 percent of their body. Tragically, approximately 4,500 people die due to their burns every year, and up to 10,000 people die of burn-related infections.
Heater burn injuries result from coming into contact with the hot surfaces or parts of a heater. This can happen in many different situations, and may lead to very severe burn injuries or other types of injuries.
What is Strict Liability?
Strict liability is a legal doctrine that holds a party responsible for their actions or products, without the plaintiff having to prove negligence or fault. When someone partakes in ultrahazardous activities such as keeping wild animals, using explosives, or making defective products, then they may be held liable if someone else is injured.
Strict liability (product liability) means that manufacturers of some inherently dangerous defective products can be held liable for any injury their product causes. If a defective product is placed in the stream of commerce, there may be a claim for strict liability. Both the manufacturer and the seller of the product can be sued. A product liability case can arise if the product was poorly designed, or if it was designed well but the manufacture was faulty.
What are Defective Products?
In legal terms, a defective product is not fit for consumer use, contains inadequate instructions, or has a condition that makes it unreasonably dangerous for its intended purposes.
In general, there are three main types of product defects that a products liability claim can be categorized as:
- Design defects: Design defects arise in the original creation of a product. A product may have been designed in a manner that is inherently flawed
- Manufacturing defects: On the other hand, a manufacturing defect may have nothing to do with how a product was designed, but rather how it was manufactured. In other words, the design may be perfectly safe, but the way that the manufacturer assembled the product made it unsafe. A manufacturing defect can arise if there was an error in the manufacturing process and the manufacturer failed to notice or fix it
- Marketing or warning defects: Failing to warn users about the risks of using a product, not including proper instructions, or placing inadequate warning labels on a product are all kinds of product defects that could give rise to legal liability.
Regardless of how a defective product may have injured a person, that person has a right to file a claim against the entity who is responsible for their injuries and to be reimbursed by them if they can prove their case.
What is a Class Action Lawsuit?
If a product has harmed a large number of people, instead of having each person sue the manufacturer, employer or seller personally, a class action lawsuit can be initiated. A class action suit is a lawsuit that is filed by one or a few representative plaintiffs on behalf of a larger group of people who have the same or very similar claims.
Class action lawsuits can often help to reduce the costs of litigation and increase judicial efficiency. However, the process for initiating and litigating a class action lawsuit can sometimes be complicated.
In the event of a class action lawsuit, a single damage award will be made, and people who were injured by the product will share the award. Other remedies may include a product recall.
- At home when changing a heater or when dealing with a defective heating system
- At work or at the workplace. Most people are unaware of the dangers posed by thermal burn injury at the workplace. These types of burn injuries can occur in a variety of industries, but are particularly common in the construction, manufacturing, and automotive industries. In fact, thermal burn injuries are the leading cause of occupational mortality in the United States.
- In a small enclosed space where a space heater is being used. According to the U.S. Consumer Safety Commission, 6,000 burn injuries every year are associated with the improper use of portable space heaters.
What Legal Theories Support a Legal Claim Based on Burn Injuries?
In some cases, heater burn injuries may lead to an individual lawsuit or a class action suit, especially where many persons have been injured by a defective product.
There are two principal legal theories that can support a burn injury claim:
- Negligence: Someone acted carelessly and it caused someone else to get burned
- Strict liability (product liability): This is a case filed against a manufacturer when their product is dangerous, either because of poor design or poor manufacture
Parties that may be held liable for a heater burn may include:
- Manufacturers who have produced a defective heater product
- Retailers who sell products that have been recalled
- Employers or supervisors who have acted negligently (in which case, a workers compensation claim may be necessary)
- Homeowners or landlords
What is Negligence?
Negligence is the legal theory that allows injured persons to recover for the carelessness or recklessness of others. There are four requirements to prove a negligence case:
- Duty: The plaintiff must prove that there was a duty to act with “reasonable care.” What constitutes reasonable care will vary depending on the circumstances. An example would be an employer who failed to install safety measures around a piece of equipment that could cause a fire. The employer had a clear duty to protect the workers.
- Breach: The person or company failed to act with reasonable care. In this case, the failure to install the safety equipment would be the breach.
- Causation: The defendant’s behavior must be what caused the injury. In some cases both parties may have had part of the fault of causing the accident. That does not mean that the lawsuit cannot be won, but only that the plaintiff’s damages will be reduced by whatever part the judge or jury finds was their part.
- Damages: There must have been some damage that occurred. That could include medical bills, hospital bills, lost days of work, or more. In some cases, money may be awarded for the plaintiff’s pain and suffering. This is most common when the defendant was not just careless, but was reckless.
- If the defendant’s behavior was especially egregious, remedies may include an order to pay “punitive damages,” damages meant to penalize the defendant. Particularly when collected from a corporation, these damages can be quite high, often many times the cost of the out-of-pocket damages.
Do I Need a Lawyer for help with Heater Burn Injuries?
Recovering damages for heater burn injuries can sometimes be a complex task. You may have to deal with various state or federal laws, and will need to present evidence in your favor.
It is in your best interests to hire a qualified personal injury lawyer if you need help filing a lawsuit due to a burn injury. Your attorney can inform you of your rights and provide you with representation during the court hearings.