Approximately 200,000 people suffer from burns each year in Australia. Burns are also estimated to be the sixth most common cause of hospitalisation in Australia. Those most commonly affected are children, young males and the elderly.
You may be able to claim compensation for a burn injury if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings.
If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:
If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.
Note however that, weekly WorkCover payments operate under a separate ‘no fault’ scheme, meaning that you can receive weekly payments to cover lost income even if your injury was not because of your employer’s negligence.
Examples: Jeff sustains serious burns while working in a commercial kitchen when hot oil is spilled from a pot which topples off the stove top. His employer is aware that the metal rack on the gas burner is un-stable but fails to have it replaced. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries.
Rick sustains flash burns to his eyes and skin while welding at work. He is supplied with long gloves and a mask, however, he fails to use them. Rick would not be able to claim compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.
Jobs at higher risk for burn injuries include: firefighters, electricians, welders, laboratory staff, farm workers, transport industry workers, riggers, hospitality staff and trades people.
See also: WorkCover claims
If you sustain burns as a result of a road accident and the collision was totally or partially due to the fault of another driver or vehicle owner you can claim compensation from the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident through their Compulsory Third Party insurer.
Examples: Jeff suffers burns when his vehicle catches on fire after a collision with a truck transporting a flammable liquid. The truck failed to stop at a red light due to issues with its brakes as they were not properly maintained. Jeff can claim compensation from the owner of the delivery truck through its CTP insurer.
Rick suffers burns when his fuel tank explodes after he collides with a truck. The collision occurred because Rick did not look properly before pulling out onto a main road. Rick is unable to claim compensation for his injuries because the accident was totally his fault (although exceptions may apply for catastrophic accidents). If the accident occurred after July 1, 2016 he may be able to seek necessary and reasonable medical and rehabilitation services through the National Injury Insurance Scheme of Queensland (NIISQ).
See Also: Road and car accident injury claims
Occupiers (including owners of private property and public authorities) have a duty of care toward people coming onto their land. They must take reasonable care to make sure entrants are not exposed to risks that are likely to cause injury. This means if there is something that is potentially dangerous on their property they must rectify it or warn people of the danger.
Common scenarios include someone slipping on a floor surface or tripping over an unexpected obstacle on the ground, falling into an unmarked hole in the pavement, or being hit by falling debris from a building site.
Examples: Jeff sustains chemical burns to his hands and back when he slips in his hotel bathroom and lands in a puddle of caustic drain clearing chemical left on the floor. Jeff is able to claim compensation for his injuries.
Rachel is sheltering from a storm under a tree in council parkland when a lightening strike hits the tree she is touching and causes burns to her hand and arm. Rachel has no grounds to claim compensation since there is nothing the council could have done to prevent the injury.
In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury. Therefore, someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.
The amount of compensation payable for an injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your burn injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.
For example, a burn injury resulting in extreme facial scarring is rated 21 to 45 corresponding to a monetary range of $38,770 to $113,100 whereas burns to the scalp or hair are rated 4 to 10 with a monetary range of $5,560 to $15,350.
To diagnose and treat a burn injury you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain scans, take pain medications use special medical apparatus such as a wheelchair. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Burn injuries may require surgery. Surgical or hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitating after a burn injury may involve intensive therapies as well as home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
If you sustain a burn injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for this lost income.
If your burn injury prevents you from working in the future to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation, and other skills
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Serious burn injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.
In Queensland, there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation
Interest can generally be claimed on compensation for any out of pocket expenses that are incurred before your claim is resolved.
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For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation.
However, depending on where your injury occurred or who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply. Pre-court procedures have their own time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim.
A burn injury occurs when some or all layers of skin cells are destroyed either by a hot liquid, solid or flame. Burns may also be caused by exposure to welding flashes, ultraviolet or infrared radiation, radioactivity, electricity, or caustic chemicals.
A burn may be relatively minor or it may result in life threatening complications depending on its extent and severity. Burns are rated as first, second or third degree burns, third being the most serious and penetrating the full thickness of the skin as well as underlying tissue, muscle, bone and organs.
The most common burn injuries include:
Burn injuries commonly arise in the following situations:
Serious burns often require lengthy hospital stays of weeks or months. Surgery and other intensive medical treatment may be required. The healing process is often slow and painful.
Once scar tissue forms, the injuries are stabilised however permanent symptoms may remain. Where scar tissue forms over the burned areas, sweating is often inhibited due to damaged sweat glands, the skin is prone to drying out and sensations may be lost.
The psychological impact of any visible disfigurement, particularly due to scaring on the hands or face can also be significant.
Depending on the nature of your burn injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.
Smith's Lawyers are Queensland injury compensation experts and run all claims on a 100% risk-free basis, 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch.®'. This means no upfront costs or risks. Call us anytime on 1800 266 801, start a live chat or request a callback below. Our Principal lawyer Greg Smith will explain your rights and can arrange a no-obligation home visit if it sounds like we can help.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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