A serious burn is one of the most painful types of injuries. Burn injuries are sometimes the subject of personal injury lawsuits such as auto accidents or premises liability. This post will look at the potential settlement value of burn injuries in personal injury lawsuits.
The potential settlement value of a burn injury in a tort case will depend on severity of the burn injury. That will largely be based on where the burn is located, how big the burn is, and what degree the burn is classified as. Burns are generally classified into 4 degrees of severity with 4th degree being the most severe.
First Degree Burns
First degree burns are the least serious category of burns as they involve cell damage only to the outer, superficial layer of the skin. First degree burns are comparable to a sun burn and usually involve redness, dryness and sometimes swelling of the skin. The affected are may be painful to the touch but there are no blisters on the skin. Most first degree burns eventually heal completely.
Second Degree Burns
When the burn damage extends past the superficial outermost layer of the skin and goes deeper into the underneath layer of the skin called the dermis, it is classified as a second degree burn. Second degree burns result in bright red and swollen skin, that may have a wet or shiny appearance and blisters will also appear. Depending on how deep the damage is, some second degree burns may never fully heal. With a relatively shallow second degree burn, only the upper part of the dermis layer is damaged. This usually allows full recovery with no permanent scar tissue. With more severe second degree burns the damage extends deeper into the dermis layer and results in permanent scarring or skin discoloration.
Third Degree Burns
A third-degree burn occurs when both the outer and underneath (dermis) skin layers are completely damaged. A third degree burn will usually turn the damaged skin area black, brown or yellow. The damaged skin is dry to the touch and leathery in appearance. Third degree burns also destroy nerve endings in the area so the burn is typically not painful to the touch in the center. Third degree burns are very serious injuries that should be treated in a hospital immediately.
Fourth Degree Burns
Fourth degree burns are the most severe and harmful. To classify as a fourth degree burn the damage must go all the way down to the subcutaneous tissue. Some fourth degree burns even involve damage to the underlying muscles and bones. Affected skin areas are left black and charred in appearance. Fourth degree burns can be life threatening injuries, even when they are small because they can release deadly toxins into the bloodstream. Fourth degree burns on limbs or extremities will almost always require immediate amputation.
Settlement Value of Burn Injuries
If you were burned in an accident or as the direct result of someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your injury. Lawsuits involving burn injuries can arise out of a number of contexts such as workplace accidents; serious car accidents; etc. The amount of monetary compensation you may be entitled to will typically depend on the nature and severity of your burn injury.
Below is a summary of the estimated settlement value of burn injuries based on the severity of the burn (1st thru 4th degree).
Fist Degree Burn Settlements & Verdicts
A first degree burn is a fairly minor injury, so absent some type of extenuating circumstances a first degree burn will have minimal settlement value. The low settlement value means that there are not many reported settlements or verdicts based on first degree burns.
$10,000 Verdict (Pennsylvania 2020): The plaintiff sustained a concussion, elbow sprain and first degree burn to his right wrist during a car accident caused by the defendant. The jury awarded $10,000 which was all for pain and suffering and did not include any amount for past medical expenses.
$7,700 Verdict (Maryland 2013): The plaintiff claimed that deployment of the airbag during a car accident caused first degree burns to his hands. The jury awarded $7,700 in damages for the first degree burns.
Second Degree Burn Settlements & Verdicts
A second-degree burn is a much more serious injury than a first degree burn, so second degree burns come up in personal injury cases much more frequently.
$5,000 Settlement (New Jersey 2023): The plaintiff, a minor, reportedly was legally on the premises of defendant Barnes and Noble when a cup of hot tea was spilled on him, as the lid had been improperly fastened by an employee of the defendant. He suffered second degree burns to his right arm and chest.
$65,000 Settlement (New York 2023): Plaintiff, a minor, said he was playing in his bedroom at an apartment at premises owned and maintained by defendant New York City Housing Authority. The plaintiff reportedly came into contact with a defective bedroom heating radiator which was operating at an excessively high temperature. The plaintiff said he suffered a second degree burn to his left thigh and scarring measuring 4 cm.
$130,000 Verdict (New Jersey 2022): a 6-year-old girl, reportedly suffered a second-degree burn to her right knee and a first-degree burn to her left knee, both of which resulted in permanent scars, when a melting piece of glass fell onto her knees while she was visiting a glassblowing studio operated by the defendant.
$20,000 Verdict (Washington 2022): The plaintiff suffered second degree burns to the groin and inner thigh area after a cup of scalding hot tea was spilled on him during beverage service of an Alaska Airlines flight. He sued the airline for negligence.
$200,000 Settlement (New York 2022): A 5-month-old baby was under the care of the defendant daycare facility when he suffered a second degree burn to his right thumb after touching a hot radiator. The size of this settlement seems large considering the burn was limited to the baby’s thumb only.
$150,000 Settlement (Georgia 2021): A child at the defendant daycare suffered first degree burns on her left check and partial thickness second degree burns to her chest when she poured hot coffee on herself. The parents sued the daycare for negligent supervision and the case settled for $150,000.
Third Degree Burn Settlements & Verdicts
A burn classified as third-degree is a very serious injury that will most likely involve permanent scarring and never fully heal. The difference between second and third degree burns in terms of severity, pain, and long-term outcomes is actually very significant. When third degree burn injuries come up in personal injury lawsuits they often result in big settlements and verdicts because of how terrible these injuries can often be.
$165,000 Settlement (New York 2023): An 11-year-old paraplegic boy with no movement in his legs suffered a third degree burn to his left foot, requiring a skin graft and hospital stay. They burn was caused by bath water in his apartment that was too hot. He sued the manager of the apartment complex for negligently keeping the water too hot.
$35,740,000 Verdict (Minnesota 2023): The plaintiff, a 25-year-old man, suffered third degree burns to 40 percent of his body, spent seven weeks in the hospital and underwent skin grafting procedures, when he was scalded by hot water while working at a brewery owned by third party defendant Summit Brewing Company. He filed a product liability lawsuit against the company that made the brewing equipment and a jury awarded $35 million.
$75,000 Settlement (New York 2022): The plaintiff was at the defendant’s restaurant when a bowl of hot soup was spilled on him. The plaintiff reportedly suffered second and third degree burns to his right forearm and left hand. The case settled for $75,000.
$903,000 Verdict (Georgia 2022): reportedly sustained a 3rd degree burn to his left shoulder blade area during a physical therapy treatment during which a heating pad was used at defendant Regional Medical Group Memorial. According to the plaintiff, the heating pad used required use of a heating pad covering or towel, was not to be placed directly on the skin, and for a maximum time period of twenty minutes, with constant monitoring by the therapist applying it. The plaintiff claimed the heating pad was placed directly on his skin for longer than a thirty-minute period, resulting in burns with permanent keloid scarring. (More: Georgia Personal Injury Verdicts)
$265,824 Verdict (Washington 2021): The plaintiff, a 52-year-old female, was operating her truck, backing out at a friend’s home when a lithium ion battery in her vape pen exploded in her jacket pocket. She suffered second and third degree burns to her hip and upper thigh. She sued the manufacturer of the battery and a jury in Spokane awarded $265k in damages.
Fourth-Degree Burn Settlements & Verdicts
Fourth degree burns are what most lawyers would consider a catastrophic injury. Even a small fourth degree burn can easily result in a life-threatening infection. Fourth degree burns also never fully heal and can frequently result in amputations and other complications. Fourth degree burn injuries are actually somewhat uncommon and they don’t often come up in personal injury cases. Part of the reason for this is that most people who suffer fourth degree burns die long before the burn injury can be classified.
$685,000 Settlement (New York 2016): A toddler who attended daycare suffered third and fourth degree burns on the back of his right thigh, followed by bleeding, blisters and skin loss from required medical treatment washing procedures and later permanent, thick keloid scarring in the burn area. Burns were caused by daycare employee who used hazardous chemicals on the toilet seat at the daycare.
$10,500,000 Verdict (New York 2014): Firefighter’s safety alert system was defective and the alarm failed to go off. As a result he suffered third and fourth degree burns to various parts of his body. The fourth degree burns necessitated amputation of his right arm. Jury awarded damages of $10.5 million.
$10,300,000 Verdict (Pennsylvania 2013): The plaintiff suffered multiple fractures and fourth degree burns when his plane crashed and caught fire. He filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the plane alleging that it crashed due to a design defect.
Contact Miller & Zois About You Burn Injury Case
If you or someone you know might have a lawsuit involving burn injuries, contact the personal injury attorneys at Miller Zois for a free case evaluation. Call us at 1.800.553.8082.