The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that between 2001 and 2006, scald burns or “scalds” accounted for 33 to 58 percent of all patients hospitalized for burns in the U.S. The American Burn Association notes that vulnerable populations like children, the elderly, and those with disabilities are most at risk from this type of injury. The CDC adds that adults over the age of 65 have a worse prognosis than younger patients, and are more at risk for health complications.
The Burn Foundation states that over 500,000 scald burns occur every year in the United States, and are the number-one cause of injury to children under the age of four. Hot water can cause serious, third-degree burns that may require skin grafting for treatment. Hot liquid and steam can also cause damaging injuries in restaurant workers and customers, maintenance company employees, nursing home residents, and more.
Depending on the severity of the burn, the victim may recover with time, or may suffer lifelong disability and other health complications. The personal injury lawyers at Chaffin Luhana encourage victims of scald burns to call for a complementary consultation. In many cases, the burn could have been prevented, and a negligent third party may be held liable for damages.
What Causes Scald Burns?
A scald burn occurs when hot liquid or steam comes in contact with skin, damaging one or more layers. Sources may include hot water, hot beverages, hot food, or steam. Older individuals are especially at risk because their skin is typically thinner than that of younger people, and they have a reduced ability to move quickly to get away from the source of the burn. Their skin also takes longer to heal, and the shock of the experience can lead to other complications.
Scald burns range from mild to severe based on the following factors:
- Temperature: How hot was the liquid or steam? This can greatly affect the severity of the burn. A temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, can cause a scald burn in a healthy adult in one second, where as a temperature of 120 degrees takes five minutes of contact to cause a burn.
- Length of contact: How long is the skin exposed to the hot substance? This can greatly affect the severity of the burn. One second will most likely cause less damage than 10 seconds, for example.
- Nature of the substance: Hot water will cause a less severe burn, all other factors considered equal, than will a sticky substance that adheres to skin, thereby increasing contact time.
- Extent of body burned: A small, penny-sized burn will cause far fewer complications than, say, a burn that extends over both thighs (from a hot beverage, for example). Larger burns can create serious complications, particularly for the elderly.
Burns typically range in severity from first degree to fourth degree:
- First degree: Affects only the top layer of skin. Similar to a sunburn.
- Second degree: Penetrates to the second layer of skin, causing redness, pain, and blisters.
- Third degree: Full penetration of the skin to the tissues underneath. Can cause nerve damage and may require skin grafts for treatment.
- Fourth degree: Deep burns that penetrate through to muscle and possibly bone. Treatment may require amputation.
Who May Be Liable in a Scald Burn Accident?
Most scald burns could have been prevented. A number of parties may have been negligent in causing the accident. These include the following:
- Landlord: Landlords are responsible for regular inspection and maintenance of water heaters. If they fail to live up to this responsibility and a tenant is scalded by tap water, the landlord may be held liable.
- Hotel or other business owner: Similar to landlords, owners of hotels, gyms, and other public facilities are responsible for making sure the hot water is at a safe temperature, and that other equipment (such as coffee makers, microwaves, etc.) are in good working order to prevent scald injuries.
- Water heater manufacturer: In some cases, the water heater malfunctions, causing a spike in hot water temperature that can cause a scald burn.
- Plumbing company contractor: Did the contractor make a mistake when maintaining the water systems? Perhaps he failed to replace faulty or corroded thermostats.
- Restaurant owner: If a customer is scalded while eating or taking food from a restaurant, that place of business may be held liable, particularly if they failed to follow typical safety procedures.
- Nursing home: If a nursing home resident is injured by a scald burn, the facility may be held liable. Mistakes may include failing to maintain hot water systems, failing to install safety equipment, or failing to check on the qualifications of caretakers.
- Nanny: Should a child suffer a scald burn while under the supervision of a nanny or other child caretaker, that individual may be held liable for failing to take the proper steps to avoid the injury.
- Hospitals: Patients who suffer scald burns in hospitals may be able to file a claim against that hospital. Nurses, technicians, and the hospital itself are all responsible for making sure such accidents do not happen.
- Employer: If an employee suffers a scald burn while on the job, he or she can likely file a workers’ compensation claim. If it is determined that a piece of equipment was faulty, the manufacturer of that piece of equipment may also be held liable.
Your Scald Burn Lawyer Can Help
If you or a loved one suffered a scald burn, the personal injury lawyers at Chaffin Luhana can help you evaluate your case to see if there were any other responsible parties. We understand what is needed in these types of cases to recover damages, and will put our experience to work for you. To find out how we can help you, contact us today.
We represent individuals in the Ohio Valley in West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio.