Here’s what you should know about worker’s compensation benefits when you’ve suffered a burn at work.
Despite safety rules and regulations in all industries, burns continue to be a health risk for American workers.
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), each year more than 5,000 people are hospitalized after getting burned at work. ¹
Burn injuries at work can be very serious, requiring surgery, physical therapy, and extensive rehabilitation. Burn injury victims can be left with physical and emotional scars that may never heal.
If you’ve been burned in a workplace accident, you’re entitled to full workers’ comp benefits. In some cases, you may be eligible for additional compensation outside of the workers’ comp system.
Types of Workplace Burn Injuries
Depending on the type and severity, burns at work can result in extensive skin damage, internal injuries, and complications including shock, infection, and cardiac arrest.
There are three main types of workplace burn injuries:
- Chemical Burns: A chemical burn occurs when a synthetic, corrosive substance contacts soft tissue. Soft tissues include the skin, eyes, ears, and lungs. The main types of corrosive compounds are acids, bases, oxidizers, solvents, thinning agents, and alkylating agents.
- Electrical Burns: An electrical burn is a result of contact with either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). Electrical burns occur from touching a functioning electrical socket or wire, falling into electrified water, or being struck by lightning.
- Thermal Burns: A thermal or heat burn is caused by contact with a flame, steam, or boiling liquids like water or grease. Thermal burns can also occur from touching hot, solid objects such as pipes, tools, engines, and motors.
Burn Ratings by Degree
Chemical, electrical, and thermal burns are rated according to their severity. The higher the number of degrees, the more severe the burn.
The amount of worker’s compensation you can get may depend on how badly you’ve been burned, calculated by the severity of the burns, how much of the body is affected, and the body location of the burns.
- First-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis. This is the least serious burn and generally results in redness, pain, and general discomfort.
- Second-degree burns are similar but more serious than a first-degree burn. It affects both the epidermis and the second layer of skin (dermis) and causes redness, pain, and general discomfort. This type of burn often results in blisters and possibly some scarring.
- Third-degree burns extend into the fatty layer beneath the dermis. Third-degree burns can penetrate deep enough to destroy nerves. They often result in waxy, white, or leathery skin. These burns can be extremely painful.
- Fourth-degree burns are the most serious of all burn injuries. This type of burn penetrates deeply beneath the skin, causing nerve damage and charred muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Fourth-degree burns are often fatal.
Workers’ Comp for Burns at Work
Employees burned at work are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This includes payment of medical and therapy bills, out-of-pocket expenses (medications, bandages, etc.), and about two-thirds of lost wages.
If you’re burned on the job, get immediate medical attention and report the injury to your employer.
Minor Burn Injuries at Work
Don’t wait, and don’t try to be tough. Some kinds of burns, like electric shocks, can cause internal damage.
Even what seems like a minor burn, like a grease spatter on your hand, can lead to blistering, swelling, and potential infection that keeps you off the job for days or weeks.
It’s always a mistake to delay medical treatment for a workplace injury. The workers’ comp insurance company will jump at the excuse to deny your claim, arguing that the injury happened away from work.
Serious Burn Injuries at Work
Workplace burn injury victims often suffer severe damage that requires years of treatment and rehabilitation. Many badly burned workers are permanently disabled by their injuries.
Severe burn injuries are complicated, high-dollar claims. You can’t trust the insurance company to make sure you get the full compensation you deserve.
If you or a family member has been seriously burned at work, contact a skilled workers’ compensation attorney to help protect your financial future.
The workers’ comp rules are different for each state when it comes to calculating the financial value of severe injuries.
Workplace burns can cause a loss of fingers or other body parts, lung damage, severe scarring, mobility issues and a host of other factors that should be included in compensation calculations. You’ll need an experienced attorney to make sure nothing is left out.
Compensation Outside of Workers’ Comp
Unless your employer is outrageously negligent, you probably can’t sue your employer if you’re burned at work. In most states, that’s the trade-off for requiring employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
However, if your severe burn injuries are caused by a third-party (meaning an individual or business other than your employer), you have the right to file a third-party lawsuit to recover your damages.
For example, third-parties who may have contributed to the circumstances that led to your burn injury at work could include:
- Manufacturer of defective machinery or equipment
- Negligent party other than your employer, like a vendor or sub-contractor
- The at-fault driver if you were burned in a work-related vehicle accident
Unlike workers comp, in a third-party lawsuit you can pursue all of your lost income, all of your lost future earnings, consortium claims from your spouse and family, a money value for your pain and suffering, and in some cases, punitive damages.
If you’ve been badly burned at work, there’s too much to lose by trying to handle your injury claim alone. It won’t cost you anything to find out how a personal injury attorney can help you get all the compensation you’re entitled to for your injuries.
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