Did you or a loved one suffer a second or third-degree burn on the job?
Our Macon, GA lawyers can help you recover financially from a workplace accident.
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The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that work-related fires and explosions in the U.S. account for more than 5,000 burn injuries each year. But other studies show a substantially higher number of burn injuries occurring in the workplace, ranging from 10 to 45 percent of all burns.
According to a 2-year study based on data taken from a couple of regional burn centers — one of which was the Joseph M. Still Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia — 2,510 adult patients with acute burns were admitted during this period, and 384 cases (15 percent) were work-related. Men were among the vast majority (90 percent) of burn injury victims, and the average age of the patient was 37 years old.
While shocking, these statistics are likely underrepresented since many work-related burns aren’t reported to healthcare providers.
Occupational burns are some of the most serious and common work-related injuries in the U.S. workforce. Burn injury victims are often faced with physical and emotional pain that is long-term or even permanent. The most serious burns cause deep tissue damage, leading to years of costly treatment and therapy that easily exceeds 6 figures. You may even lose your ability to ever work again. That’s the bad news.
In certain cases, you might also be able to receive additional compensation for pain and suffering through a third-party personal injury lawsuit.
At the law firm of Westmoreland, Patterson, Moseley & Hinson, our Macon workers’ compensation attorneys can help secure the maximum benefits available to you and your family. We have represented hundreds of injured workers throughout the state of Georgia for over 50 years. We can help you take the right steps and negotiate on your behalf. We have the experience, knowledge and commitment to see your claim through to the end and we’ll secure the best possible outcome.
Types of work-related burn injuries
Some burns are mild and heal on their own with time, while others cause permanent scarring, loss of mobility and severe pain. Doctors typically classify burns by their severity using the term “degrees.” There are 3 primary degrees of burn injuries:
As the mildest type of burn, first-degree burn injuries typically only affect the outermost layer of the skin (epidermis), resulting in some pain, tenderness, swelling and reddening.
Second-degree burns are moderate injuries that damage the epidermis and the dermis (lower layer of skin). These burns typically cause pain, reddening, swelling and blistering.
The most severe burn injuries are classified in this category. Third-degree burns cause damage to the epidermis, dermis and the underlying tissue. These injuries are often extremely painful and result in blistering, scarring and charring.
In addition to these classifications based on severity, there are different types of burns in the workplace based on what caused the injury. The type of burn you suffer (and how severe it is) will determine which type of treatment you require. Thermal, chemical and electrical burns are the most common types of burns that occur in the workplace.
Common examples of workplace burns include:
- Thermal burns. Thermal burns happen when you are exposed to something hot, such as an open flame or burning hot liquid. For mild thermal burns, a cold, wet compress should be applied to the affected area. Burn ointments and creams can also help ease the pain and help the injury heal. If the burn is severe, you should seek medical attention immediately to prevent infection.
- Chemical burns. Chemical burns occur when you come into contact with a toxic or acidic chemical irritant. These burns can be caused by a variety of dangerous substances, including bleach, ammonia, battery acid and chlorine. If you’ve suffered a chemical burn at work, immediately rinse the burned skin under running water for at least 10 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately if the burn is larger than 3 inches or has affected your face, hands, feet, groin or buttocks. Antibiotics, IV fluids and skin grafting may be necessary in severe cases.
- Electrical burns. A person suffers an electrical burn when they come into contact with an electrical current and the jolt enters their body. Depending on the strength of the current and how long you were in contact with the electrical charge, you may require emergency medical treatment for your internal organs and muscles.
- Friction burns. When a person’s skin repeatedly rubs against an abrasive surface, they can suffer a friction burn injury. Most friction burns are mild and result in small scrapes that heal on their own, but severe friction burns should be treated by a professional immediately.
- Scalding burns. A scald (or scalding burn) is one of the most common types of burns and it occurs when a person’s skin comes into contact with hot liquid or steam. Cooking is the most common activity where scalding burns happen, as hot oil and boiling water from an overturned pot can cause serious injury. A minor scald with a few blisters may be treated at home, but serious scalding burns often require professional medical treatment to avoid infection.
- Radiation burns. Cancer patients and individuals who work with hazardous materials may suffer radiation burns if exposed to high levels of radiation. If this happens to you, you may develop painful sores or ulcers, and recovery may take weeks or months.
Where do work-related burn injuries happen?
Industrial plant explosions accounted for the highest number of work-related burns and, relatively, a significant number of patients had chemical burns.
Other job-related activities that are more likely to result in work-related burn injuries, according to the 2-year study, include food preparation (restaurant/fast food/pizzeria), working in electrical companies and stores, and working in automotive servicing shops or due to motor-vehicle accidents.
Studies show that burn injuries sustained in manufacturing industries and paper mills tend to be more severe, while restaurant workers were more likely to sustain more minor burns.
- Restaurant and food industry
- Electrical appliance companies
- Chemical plants
- Paper mills
Can you sue for a work-related burn injury?
The workers’ compensation system is an “exclusive remedy,” meaning you generally cannot sue your employer if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are certain situations when a burn injury victim may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against an at-fault third party to recover additional damages that aren’t covered by workers’ compensation, such as pain and suffering.
A third-party injury lawsuit may be possible if:
- Defective machinery or equipment is responsible for your injury (you can sue the manufacturer)
- A negligent party other than your employer, such as a vendor or sub-contractor, is responsible for your injury
- Another driver caused your injury in a work-related vehicle accident
Burn safety in the workplace
There are many possible reasons why a burn injury can happen at work. Common factors that may contribute to a burn might include inexperience, failure to enforce safety regulations, inadequate training of employees with regard to handling biohazardous materials and employee non-compliance.
The following basic burn prevention tips can help both employers and employees develop adequate safety measures to avoid work-related burn injuries from happening:
- Wear the recommended PPE when handling dangerous material.
- Properly train employees on safety procedures.
- Wear flame-resistant gloves and clothing when exposed to fire.
- Don’t reach over hot surfaces, liquids or materials.
- Set up nearby first aid, eyewash stations and fire extinguishers.
- Clearly post color codes, posters, labels and signs to warn employees of potential hazards.
- Pay attention at all times!
It’s important to note that Georgia workers’ compensation benefits apply regardless of fault or negligence. This means that even if an employee failed to follow a company’s safety guidelines and was burned as a result, they are still eligible for workers’ compensation in Georgia — as long as they weren’t intoxicated, under the influence of drugs, or engaging in horseplay or reckless behavior while on the job.
What to do after getting burned on the job
If you are burned by fire, your immediate first reaction should be to “stop, drop and roll.” You or a coworker may also use a blanket, jacket or other nearby material to smother the flames. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) also recommend that the burn injury victim quickly remove all jewelry and burned clothing before swelling begins. If clothing sticks to the body, cut around it — don’t tear the skin.
Call 911 and seek medical attention as soon as possible after the accident. The sooner you can receive treatment, the better your chances of making a full or partial recovery — both physically and financially. Be sure to follow all instructions given to you by the doctor and attend every appointment.
Notify your employer as soon as possible after the accident, preferably in writing so that there is a record. Your employer should give you a list of pre-approved doctors (known as the “panel of physicians”) that you are allowed to treat with. In Georgia, you must tell your boss within 30 days from the accident, but the sooner the better. The longer you wait, the greater the likelihood that the workers’ compensation insurance provider will call your claim into question.
Next, it’s important to consult with an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney near you to discuss your legal options and get help filing your work injury claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. At Westmoreland Law, we’ll make sure that all the necessary information is filled out and submitted, and we’ll negotiate with the insurance company to secure the maximum settlement possible in your case.
“Great staff. Very professional and knowledgeable. Staff went out of their way to accommodate us in every way possible. Made the whole process less painful. They made sure we understood everything that was going on and would answer any questions a hundred times over if needed.”
The resources needed to win
Unlike some work injury attorneys who settle all of their cases, we are not afraid to appeal a denied claim if needed. Our firm has the resources needed to thoroughly prepare, try and win complicated cases.
We are dedicated to doing everything legally and ethically possible to obtain the best results for our injured clients. Hard work and dedication have allowed us to recover millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients in workers’ compensation and personal injury claims.
Get experienced legal help after a workplace burn injury
If you were seriously injured at work, reach out to our Macon attorneys immediately to learn what to do next and how to protect your rights before it’s too late. We can help you file a work injury claim and secure the maximum benefits owed to you. If your benefits were unfairly denied, we’ll fight to appeal the decision and help hold any negligent third party accountable for your pain and suffering.
If you have questions, give us a call or contact us online for your free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced lawyer. From offices in Macon, Albany and Warner Robins, we help injured workers throughout Georgia. Don’t settle for less, get more.