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According to the American Burn Association (ABA), approximately 450,000 people received medical treatment as a result of burns in 2011. An estimated 45,000 victims who received treatment had to be hospitalized, and 3,500 died as a result of their burns or related injuries.
When a person suffers a burn injury because of someone else’s negligence, they need to hire a lawyer with significant experience in representing burn victims.
People generally assume that if the prosecutor’s office or the insurance company is investigating the cause of a fire that they will arrive at the cause of the fire. This is not necessarily true.
The prosecutor’s office may investigate any given fire, especially if there are fatalities. However, their interest is not in finding the definitive cause but rather to determine whether or not a crime was committed that requires a person or corporation to be charged with a crime.
Likewise, an insurance company’s main goal is to investigate coverage and to determine and minimize the payment of the loss.
If required by law, the fire department may investigate where they think the fire originated.
Both a prosecutor and the insurance company can arrive at the same conclusion that it was a heater or power overload that started the fire. Although helpful, their investigation does not prove negligence.
A skilled burn liability expert will take possession of the heater and have a forensic lab examine the heater or failed device components to see what went wrong, causing a fire. Not only the manufacturer of the heater may be responsible, but the following people or companies may have contributed to this catastrophic burn injury:
The property owner for no smoke alarm
Electrician performing poor work
Manufacturer of the electrical devices
Manufaturer of a device component part(s)
Installers and sellers of defective products
Tenants or business for locking and/or blocking safety exits
For car and truck fires and explosions, a whole different set of forensics engineers need to be consulted and retained. The vehicles involved need to be preserved and examined, and engineers need to carefully study the defective automobile design defect.
Most lawyers evaluate burn injury by the residual scars left behind without fully appreciating the extent and complexity of treating a burn victim.
Few injuries, if any, are more painful than burn injuries. These injuries often require extensive hospitalization, skin grafts and careful monitoring to avoid potentially fatal infections.
The cost of treatment may be ongoing, requiring skilled plastic surgeons experienced in treating serious burn injuries. Even after a burn victim is discharged from the hospital, they may require dozens of revision surgeries to improve the appearance of the scars and disfigurement.
Often, the trauma burn physician, plastic surgeon and other doctors will be called upon to serve as witnesses to tell the story about the burn victim’s injuries, pain and treatment.
Often, doctors such as psychiatrists and psychologists may be called upon to testify about self-esteem issues, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
If a person lost his or her life in a fire, a lawyer skilled in representing families in wrongful death claims as well as fatal fire investigation is needed to get the job done.
Law firms representing burn victims need the financial resources to hire, retain and pay for these often expensive experts to help prove a case. Not all experts have the necessary credentials to testify in court about burn cases. For example, a burn plastic surgeon may not be able to discuss the fine details about a psychological claim in the cause and origin of a fire.
Medical economic experts are often required to determine the future financial loss of the burn victim as well as the estimated cost of future medical care.
Contact JEFFREY KIM, P.C. at (718) 428-4949 for a free consultation.