Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC represents people who have sustained life-altering burn injuries as a result of accidents caused by others’ negligence. Our Chicago burn injury attorneys have won cases for clients who were harmed by the negligent actions of property owners and by third parties in work-related accidents. We are here to answer any legal questions on this topic including how to receive monetary compensation if you were injured as a result of someone else's negligence. We invite you to contact our office for a free consultation so we can explain your legal rights.
Burn Victims Face Unique Challenges
As personal injuries go, burns are especially traumatic because they can leave both physical and emotional scars that impact the quality of victims’ lives forever. Should a burn be the result of a workplace accident, negligent property manager or poor product design, victims might be able to recover compensation for their injuries. Insurance companies generally dislike having to pay large claims on behalf of their policy holders, so it is not uncommon for burn victims to encounter resistance when seeking the compensation they rightfully deserve.
Contact us today to learn how our Chicago burn injury lawyers can help you with your burn injury claim so you can secure the maximum amount of compensation Illinois law will allow. By allowing us to investigate the details of your claim, you will soon find out whether or not you have the legal right to receive monetary damages for your injuries.
Types of Burn Injury Claims and Their Causes
The statistics are sobering to say the least. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), nearly half a million fires in 2017 occurred in building structures, with 72 percent of those taking place in residential buildings. There were a total of 3,400 civilian fire deaths, with 77 percent of those deaths occurring in the home.
However, our Chicago burn injury attorneys know that fires can happen just about anywhere, from an apartment complex to your workplace to your vehicle while traveling on the highway. If you have been burned from a fire or contact with a heated object, it is important to know if your accident was due to another person’s or a company's negligent actions.
The types of Chicago burn injury claims we handle can include the following:
- Fires in apartment complexes
- Fires resulting from car crashes
- Explosions due to trucking accidents
- Fires caused by poorly designed or manufactured products, such as Pam Cooking Spray
- Burns resulting from victims being unable to leave the premises because of locked fire exits
- Burns from scalding hot water or liquid
- Electrical burns
As you can see, burn injuries can happen a number of ways, so it is important to determine the cause of an accident that has resulted in a burn injury.
Types of Burn Injuries and Their Treatment
Because our skin contains a high density of nerves, burns are among the most painful of injuries and require specialized care. With advanced stage burns, the person may have to undergo treatments that cause additional pain such as skin grafts that require surgery. In situations where a burn results in scarring, cosmetic surgery may be necessary in order to minimize the appearance of scars.
According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, physicians and medical experts categorize burns in four different degrees:
Just about everyone has experienced this mild type of burn at one time or another. These burns are considered superficial and damage only the top layer of skin, known as the epidermis. They are typically characterized by redness in the affected area, occasionally peeling skin and moderate skin pain that subsides after 2 to 3 days.
Sunburns, intense friction burns, electrical burns, burns from hot liquids and non-blistering light burning on the skin are examples of common first-degree burn injuries. In most instances, these burns clear up on their own and do not cause long-term tissue damage, but they can still be quite painful and may require medical treatment, especially if they cover a large area.
However, most first-degree burns can be treated at home with over-the-counter skin ointments and lotions, and ibuprofen or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for pain.
This burn causes considerable damage to both the skin's top layer and the layer just underneath, known as the dermis. If the affected area is large, or the burn is on the delicate skin of the face, feet, hands, buttocks or groin, it requires immediate medical help.
Second-degree burns are classified as either partial or full thickness. Partial thickness burns often involve the presence of blisters and wounds that tend to be red or pink in color, extremely painful, and at times appear wet. Complete healing usually requires up to 21 days without the need for grafting, with minimal scarring. Full thickness burns tend to appear white or red, and dry. The area usually has diminished sensation and will often need skin grafting or excision to heal completely.
Burns three inches or less in diameter can be treated using over-the-counter products and cool running water. If the area is sterilized, bandaged, kept clean and monitored for signs of infection, most moderate burns will heal within a few weeks.
Third-degree burns cause significant deep tissue damage that usually requires surgical repair. It affects every layer of skin including the epidermis, dermis, and the hypodermis, which is the bottom-most layer. These severe burns can also cause significant injuries to blood vessels, nerve endings, muscle tissue and bones.
Common causes of third-degree burns include fires and explosions; contact with scalding liquids, toxic chemicals or hot objects (such as radiators); and electrical sources. Nearly every third-degree burn is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment from skilled healthcare professionals to ensure that the body does not lose critical fluids. The most extreme burns often require hospitalization in a burn unit.
As a full thickness burn, third-degree burns often result in blackened (charred) or white skin, where nerve endings become numb. Swelling often occurs along with eventual yellowing or browning of the skin.
Third-degree burns can cause lifelong lasting injury and serious infection. Because the damage is so severe, the healing process is extensive and painfully slow. Victims often suffer considerable scarring and require skin grafting and reconstruction surgery due to contracture (permanent tightening of tissue), which typically prevents normal body movement.
It is uncommon for anyone to experience a fourth-degree burn, which is usually caused by an electrical accident. This type of burn damages skin, underlying tissue, bones, tendons and muscles.
Because serious burns can have such a devastating effect on your health and quality of life, it is important to consult a Chicago burn injury attorney to protect your legal rights and obtain the compensation you deserve.
Apartment Buildings are the Source of Common Fire Hazards
One of the risks of apartment living is that despite being perfectly responsible and taking all the precautions you can to avoid a fire, you may suffer consequences due to the actions of your landlord or neighbors. While apartment fires are often caused by tenant carelessness associated with cigarettes, stovetop cooking and space heaters, improperly maintained buildings are also a major cause.
According to NFPA, the great majority of home fires involving electrical malfunction can be traced to wiring issues and HVAC systems.
What is my Landlord Responsible for?
Building owners and managers in Chicago are responsible for taking the following fire-prevention measures:
- Ensuring that the property is wired according to building code, as poor electrical wiring can cause short circuits and fires that are difficult to contain.
- Providing adequate smoke detectors inside units and maintaining smoke detectors in common areas of the building so residents have adequate warning in the case of fire.
- Providing multiple exit paths that residents can use to reach safety in the event of a fire.
- Keeping fire escapes and stairways free of clutter or blockage.
- Providing and maintaining working fire extinguishers located in visible and accessible areas.
- Providing fire-resistant doors in common areas of small residential buildings to contain the spread of fires.
It is the duty of property owners and managers to take every reasonable action to reduce the risk of a fire for the safety of occupants and visitors. However, landlords often find it far more cost effective to cut corners and neglect some of these duties, which is illegal. Should a property owner fail to keep the building to code or provide a safe environment, anyone who is injured as a result of the negligent behavior has a right to recover compensation from the owner.
When landlords are in violation and a fire occurs, they may wish to avoid being financially exposed and will thus pressure or threaten injured victims into refraining from filing insurance claims in order to minimize their own financial liability.
Malfunctioning Smoke Detectors Consistently Responsible for Serious Burn Accidents
It is important that smoke detectors are not only installed in the correct locations, but are operating properly. NFPA recommends that all apartments be equipped with smoke detectors in each bedroom and just outside of bedrooms, as well as on each level of a multi-level home, and most local governments mandate at least one working smoke alarm in an apartment.
Unfortunately, many fires that start in the kitchen go unnoticed for too long because the smoke detector does not go off or is not located in the vicinity of the kitchen. Additionally, ionization smoke detectors—which are among the most commonly used— may not always detect smoke from slow-burning, smoldering fires until the fire has significantly progressed.
It is important to know where all the smoke alarms in your home are located and check them periodically to ensure they are operating.
Workplace Burn Injuries
The workplace is another very common place for burn injuries to occur, especially if workers are required to operate powerful machinery or work in proximity to flammable materials. OSHA reports that there are over 5,000 injuries every year resulting from explosions or fires on the job. While workers' compensation benefits provide for the payment of medical bills and lost wages, injured workers are often denied financial compensation for pain and suffering, diminished quality of life, or disfigurement.
In such cases, their workers’ comp benefits could be supplemented through a personal injury lawsuit against a third-party entity, the manufacturer of a defective product or a subcontractor who acted in a negligent manner.
Burn Injuries Caused by Defective Products
If the origin of the fire that caused your burn injuries was a faulty product such as a cooking, heating or other electrical item, then you might be able to bring a products liability case against the maker, distributor or retailer. In products liability cases, you can sue anyone on the "chain of distribution." This means any person or entity that played a part in its design, creation or sale from the very beginning until when the product came into your possession.
Products liability actions generally have two claims:
- The design or manufacture of the product was defective and that caused your injuries.
- The warnings or instructions that came with your product were defective and that caused your injuries.
Product liability cases with burn injuries are very dependent on the specific facts of the individual case. They examine the design or creation of commercial goods, and therefore require expert evidence or testimony, which can be expensive.
No matter what kind of product liability action you bring for your burn injuries, you must allege and prove the following elements:
- The product or product warning was defective
- You were using the product in a reasonable manner for the purpose for which it was intended
- You were injured while using the product
- The injury was caused by the product defect
Our Chicago burn injury attorneys can evaluate your case and help determine whether the facts support bringing a legal action for product defects.
What Compensation can I Receive for my Burn Injuries?
If you’ve suffered burn injuries because of another’s misconduct, you can recover compensation for the medical costs, lost wages, damaged property, anguish and incapacity that results.
Here is an overview of the compensation available to you in a burn case:
- Medical Bills: The responsible party must pay all of your medical bills including, but not limited to, surgeries, doctors’ charges, medications, medical equipment and long-term rehabilitative care.
- Loss of Income: If your ability to work has been partially or completely diminished because of your burn injuries, then defendants must pay you an amount equal to what you would be earning if you could work.
- Property Damage: If the fire that burned you also damaged any of your property, then the wrongdoer is responsible for reimbursing these losses as well, including any damage to your home, personal property or equipment.
- Pain and Suffering: Like many other accidents, those that leave you with burn injuries often also impart significant mental anguish and general pain and suffering. This is an intangible kind of harm but no less real to victims.
- Disfigurement and Disability: One of the more immediate and visibly apparent consequences of burn injuries is the scarring, which fundamentally changes a person’s appearance and damages their self-esteem and self-image as much as it does their skin. For this injury, and for any disability that accompanies it, defendants must pay and you should recover.
How long it will take you to win your case and recover depends greatly on the kinds of damages you intend to pursue. These can draw the case out because they require you to obtain witnesses, prep for trial and make your case. Most burn injury cases typically take between one and two years to be resolved, owing to their general complexity and the complicated Illinois court system. However, agreeing to settle the lawsuit can reduce the duration of a dispute by as much as a year.
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC vigorously works to ensure that accident victims receive the greatest compensation possible under the law. Call our offices today to see what you can recover from a burn injury lawsuit.
How Long do I Have to File an Illinois Burn Injury Lawsuit?
Illinois gives victims of personal injury, including burns, two years to file their claims. (See 735 ILCS 5/13-202) This means that if you sustain a serious burn through the fault of another party, you have only two years to decide to sue. Illinois law extends the filing deadline for minors injured in burn cases. The two-year window does not begin until you realize you have a case, but it still takes a lot of work to get a suit ready regardless of when the clock starts. Therefore, it is critically important that you consult an attorney as soon as possible after an accident that burns you so that he or she can protect your future recovery should you decide to file an action. A lawyer will be able to tell you how the law applies to your circumstances.
What are Some Sample Illinois Burn Accident Settlements and Verdicts?
$18.2 MILLION SETTLEMENT
St. Clair County, IL
A 29-year-old woman was killed and her husband severely burned when they were driving a tractor-trailer on I-64 in Clinton County that was struck by a vehicle that crossed the median, causing their truck to roll over and burst into flames. The 29-year-old husband suffered second and third-degree burns over nearly half of his body. He was in a coma for three months and scarring left him with limited ability to work or walk. He suffered depression and PTSD. His past medical bills totaled $2.2 million, with an estimated $1.3 million more in future medical expenses. The at-fault driver, who was killed in the crash, was in a rental car for work but was not acting in the course of his employment. In a consolidated case, a St. Clair County judge awarded $37.5 million against the driver and a “men’s” club that allegedly served him alcohol. A settlement was reached in which Travelers paid $18 million on the employer’s insurance policies; Geico paid $50,000 on behalf of the driver’s estate; and Colony paid $194,131 for the men’s club.
$2 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Cook County, IL
A 33-year-old woman was taking a shower at her Arlington Heights condo when she was blasted with 152-degree water, causing fatal burns. She was survived by a husband and daughter who brought a wrongful death suit. Allegedly, the water heater had been set at dangerously high temperatures and had been improperly inspected. The settlement was paid by Travelers Insurance for the condo association and management company.
$12.9 MILLION SETTLEMENT
Cook County, IL
Three laborers working at an apartment complex in Willowbrook were severely burned when vapors from a mastic remover they were using to loosen carpet glue allegedly were ignited by the pilot light of an older model A.O. Smith gas water heater, which did not have a flame arrest device. One of the laborers died from his burns 10 days after the accident, survived by 4 children; a second suffered second and third-degree burns over 75 percent of his body and face, which caused severe disfigurement and necessitated multiple surgeries and left him unable to return to work; and the third sustained second and third-degree burns over 21 percent of his body and face, causing continued neuropathic pain in his extremities and PTSD, but resumed working with limitations.
Plaintiffs claimed that A.O. Smith was aware of the fire hazard and that the water heater was unreasonably dangerous because a safe, feasible alternative design was available at the time of manufacture in the early 2000s. Also, the property owner and manager allegedly failed to have the natural gas turned off to the apartment that was being worked on, and did not elevate the water heater on 18-inch stands to reduce the risk of flammable vapors reaching the pilot light. A.O. Smith and insurers for Laramar Communities and Laramar Management paid a combined $12.5 million to the injured plaintiffs and the estate of the deceased worker, while the distributor of the mastic remover contributed $450,000. The plaintiffs had previously settled with the manufacturer of the mastic remover for a total of $2.7 million.
$580,000 JURY AWARD
Cook County, IL
A 55-year-old woman sued a cosmetic laser clinic for burns she sustained after a laser procedure to remove age and sun spots on her hands and forearms. She contended the operator of the intense pulsed light machine failed to apply any gel between the hand-held device and her skin while performing the removal procedure, causing her to sustain 56 separate burns to her hands and forearms. Most of the burns were first-degree, but there were several second-degree burns which left permanent scars. The clinic’s employee denied she failed to use gel during the spot removals, but the plaintiff introduced evidence that the employee altered the signed consent form, lost the photographs taken before the spot removal procedure, and that many of the burns were in the shape of the hand-held device. The jury deliberated approximately one hour and returned a verdict of $280,000 for past pain and suffering and $300,000 for past and future disfigurement.
$928,568 JURY AWARD
Cook County, IL
A 30-year-old attorney who suffered second- and third-degree burns attempting to get out of a tanning booth at a tanning salon sued the salon for failing to properly install and set up the booth. A jury returned a verdict of $928,568 as compensation for medical bills, disfigurement, loss of normal life and pain and suffering. The award was reduced to $687,140, as required by Illinois law, because the woman was found to be 26 percent at fault for her injuries.
Where are the Leading Chicago Burn Injury Treatment Centers?
Chicago has some leading hospitals and doctors that specialize in treating patients with burns. The primary Chicagoland burn treatment facilities include:
The University of Chicago Medical Center
Burn & Complex Wound Center
5841 S. Maryland Ave.
Chicago, IL 60637
2160 S. First Ave.
Maywood, IL 60153
Cook County Hospital
Trauma & Burn Unit
1900 W. Polk St. Rm 1300
Chicago, IL 60612
Lurie Children's Hospital
225 E. Chicago Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Put Our Chicago Burn Injury Lawyers to Work for You
If you have been burned in a fire, workplace accident or any other accident caused by the reckless actions of another person, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC may be able to help you. We have assisted thousands of people in the past and are confident we can secure the compensation you need to pay for your medical bills, recover lost wages, account for out of pocket expenses and more.
Contact us today to arrange a free consultation with one of our experienced Chicago burn injury attorneys so we can investigate your claim and discuss your legal rights and options in greater detail. If we are unable to recover the compensation you are entitled to on your behalf, you are assured that our services will be free of charge.