Burns can be among the most severe and painful injuries a person can experience. Unlike a number of other injuries, burns will almost always leave heavy scar tissue that doesn’t go away with time. Burns can result from direct flames, high heat, harsh chemicals, or even extreme cold. Any of these conditions can result in damage to the layers of the skin, whether first-, second-, or third-degree burns. When burns are caused by the actions or carelessness of another, the law may provide a remedy to the burn victim. This remedy is in the form of monetary damages to compensate for medical bills, lost income, and pain suffered from the injury. Below is a short overview of these legal claims.
Claims For Burns Caused By Car AccidentsMost burns that are ultimately attributable to the carelessness of others result from car accidents. When cars collide, extreme flammable fluids—notably gasoline and oil—can be exposed to sparks or excessive heat. This results in fire and possibly explosions, both of which can cause severe harm to those involved. A driver is responsible for these injuries when four things are shown. First, the defendant must have a legal duty. This is generally simply the duty to drive carefully on the road in order to avoid accidents. Second, the driver must act careless in some way, violating the legal duty. Third, this careless act must cause the plaintiff’s injury. Finally, the plaintiff must demonstrate injury caused by the accident, e.g., the burns plaintiff suffers.
Under Kansas law, a defendant is liable for harm caused so long as that harm is foreseeable. For example, a careless driver is responsible for injuries that result from a traffic accident, because those are the injuries that are foreseeable based upon the driver’s careless actions. However, the driver is responsible even when the extent of these injuries is extremely severe. This means that burns caused by leaking fluids and explosions are covered by negligence claims, even though these types of injuries are less common than broken bones or soft tissue injuries.
Claims For Burns Caused By Fuel And ExplosivesWhen burns are caused by shipping gasoline, dynamite, or other inherently dangerous products, the law makes recovery easier for burn victims. Rather than showing negligence, as in a car wreck, the law imposes strict liability upon the company or individual engaged in the inherently dangerous activity. In Williams v. Amoco Production Co., the Kansas Supreme Court reiterated how a plaintiff can recovery under this theory. The victim must simply show that the defendant was engaged in an activity that is inherently dangerous and the harm resulted from what makes the activity so dangerous. For example, when an individual is harmed by dynamite exploding, the company transporting the dynamite is strictly liable—the law doesn’t care that the company “exercised the utmost care to prevent the harm.” In contrast, when a truck is transporting dynamite and hits a pedestrian, strict liability will not attach. Even though the truck was engaged in the inherently dangerous business, what harmed the plaintiff was the truck itself, not the explosive nature of the cargo. One important note, however, can be seen in Pullen v. West: when the plaintiff him- or herself is engaged in the ultra-hazardous activity, strict liability does not apply. Thus, an employee that is using dynamite or a consumer pumping gasoline cannot recover under this theory. Instead, negligence—meaning showing carelessness by the defendant—is needed to recover.
Claims For Burns Caused By ProductsKansas law recognizes that a consumer injured by a product should be able to easily recover for his or her injuries. Based on this idea, the law imposes strict liability for injuries caused by defective products, regardless of how careful the manufacturer of the product is. To be clear, there is no requirement that the product be ultra-dangerous or that the harm that results be of any special type. The justification for strict liability here is simply making sure that a product manufacturer doesn’t reap all the benefits of producing its merchandise and bear none of the consequences. Based on this logic, the law allows an injured plaintiff to recover from any member of the manufacturing chain, including the seller of the product.
Under Kansas law, a product can be defective in three ways. First, the product can lack adequate warnings. The product must contain warnings of non-obvious dangers, but there is no need to warn of obvious threats. This means that the fact that gasoline is flammable does not need to be warned: the entire useful purpose of gasoline is that it combusts, so that danger is obvious. However, the fact that gasoline fumes can combust in an enclosed space even without fire touching the liquid is less known, and thus this fact must be warned of. Second, a product can be defectively designed. When a product poses a danger beyond what a reasonable person would expect, the product is dangerously designed. However, if the product cannot be any safer without reducing (or destroying) its usefulness, the design may be appropriate despite the danger. Again, gasoline provides a good example: gasoline can’t be made less flammable without destroying its intended uses. Finally, a product can be defectively manufactured. This occurs when the design is fine, but the specific product deviates from that design. For example, a lighter that contains a cracked housing for its fuel that causes burns to a user’s hands would be defectively manufactured.
Burns can be severe, life-changing injuries. When a burn results from an accident or a dangerous product, the law offers a means of legal redress for the victim. These monetary damages can help the injured individual get back to his or her life, as well as compensate for the changes in life that are brought on by those injuries. However, to achieve this recovery, a plaintiff must have capable legal counsel. Contacting an attorney familiar with severe personal injury claims is essential to ensure a plaintiff’s injuries are fairly compensated.