Who Is Liable in a Burn Injury Accident?
If you’ve been the victim of a burn injury, it may be difficult to know who is responsible. Clearly, someone who attacks you with heat or fire is committing a criminal act, and they should be charged in a criminal court. You could also sue them for compensatory damages.
However, often a burn is the result of someone’s negligence rather than a direct attack. If you suffer an accidental burn, who can you hold responsible? The short answer is this: Liability in a burn injury depends on where and how the burn happened.
Where the Burn Happened
Depending on where you were when you sustained a burn injury, you may be able to file a premises liability claim. Premises liability refers to a property owner’s responsibility to keep you safe while visiting their property. If the owner was negligent in their duties, it is possible to sue them for your injury.
Business owners and managers are expected to take the utmost care of their customers. Legally, customers and browsers are known as “invitees”. Invitees are the very reason for the property’s existence, which is why they need to be protected. Imagine a store that has a hotplate exposed and unmarked. A customer, unaware of the hotplate, burns themselves on it. In this example, the store owner or manager can be held liable for this injury. By leaving a dangerous item in the open, they were negligent in protecting their customers against avoidable harm.
Social visitors of private residences are legally known as “licensees”. So, technically, when you spend the day at your friend’s house playing video games, you are a licensee of that property. In these scenarios, homeowners have less responsibility for their visitors than business owners do. A business owner must regularly inspect their property for anything that could be a potential danger. Homeowners do not have this obligation, but they should make you aware of anything dangerous in the home.
Imagine you are at a friend’s house, and they are making dinner for you. While they are cooking, you burn yourself on the stove. It would be difficult to successfully sue in this situation. You were aware that they were cooking and that the stove was on. The stove, however, could have been defective. If your friend did not make you aware that it heated too quickly and sometimes caused flames, you could be eligible to file a premises liability suit.
Similarly, you want to be aware of the nature of the business. If you have dinner at a hibachi restaurant, you are sitting close to a hot surface. While the business has every responsibility to make that environment as safe as possible, you are agreeing to take the risk of sitting next to the cooking area. It may be hard to sue the restaurant if you burn yourself, as the defendant may use an “assumed risk” defense. You agreed to sit there, so you agreed to take the risk of getting burned.
How the Burn Happened
If you were home alone when you were burned, it can be easy to assume that you have only yourself to blame. However, that may not be the case. You may have been harmed by a defective product. To successfully sue a company for a defective product, you must show the court that the product itself was the cause of your burns. You did not mishandle the product, and there was no way to avoid your injuries.
You can prove a product defect in a few ways. One is to show that there was a manufacturer error. Legally, this claim says that there was a mistake in making the product. Perhaps it has a faulty part. It could be a butane lighter, for example. Anyone using such a lighter has a reasonable expectation that the body of the lighter, the part you hold, will be safe. If the heat radiates downward into the body, and you burn your hand, then the product does not work as intended. This is an example of a manufacturer error.
Perhaps a product works exactly as intended, but it still burns its users. This could be an example of a design flaw. In the case of our butane lighter, the creators may have positioned the handle in such a way that you can’t hold the product without burning yourself. This is an error in its very design, and it is cause for a product defect lawsuit.
Finally, a product must be properly labeled. Imagine a butane lighter that has multiple settings, the highest of which spits a flame that is one foot long. Not knowing this, you go to light your cigar and burn your face. This may be a case of improper warning on a product. Companies are responsible for making the inherent dangers of their merchandise clear. Without proper labeling, an item can cause harm to many people, and the manufacturer can be sued.
Jurisdiction can be difficult to deduce in a defective product case. These days, the parts of an item come from several different sources. Sometimes a product is made by one company and sold by another. It will take the keen skills of a good lawyer to determine which company is responsible for which part of a product, holding the right people accountable for your injuries.