Workplace Burn Injury
Each year, over 400,000 people suffer a burn injury that requires medical treatment. These injuries not only cause considerable pain, but they can prevent people from returning to work and earning money. Around 40,000 people must be hospitalized to treat their burn injuries, which can put them out of commission for months.
Unfortunately, burns are a common workplace injury. It is very easy to become burned by electrocution, fire, or chemicals. If you have suffered a burn, you need immediate medical treatment. You might also qualify for certain workers’ compensation benefits. Reach out to Slappey & Sadd today. One of our Georgia workers’ compensation attorneys can meet with you to discuss your case. Please call 404.255.6677 or send us an online message.Who is at Risk?
Almost anyone can be burned at work, even office workers who reach down to pull out an extension cord only to get electrocuted because the cord is frayed or spliced. However, workers who spend hours around hot materials or chemicals face the biggest risk:
- Laboratory researchers
Employers should provide their staff with adequate training and protective equipment so that they can minimize the risk of burn injuries. Unfortunately, training is often inadequate in many workplaces, and many workers have no idea of the risks until they find themselves on the way to the hospital with a burn injury.How Are Burns Classified?
The severity of your burn can matter for workers’ compensation. Generally, doctors place burns into four categories:
- First-degree burns are the most superficial and only damage the outer layer of skin. These burns often can heal on their own and might only require over-the-counter pain medication. They typically do not leave any scars
- Second-degree burns damage the outer and under layers of skin. These burns can cause intense pain and might require prescription painkillers. These burns should eventually heal on their own if they are kept bandaged and clean, though they often result in blisters or scars.
- Third-degree burns damage both layers of skin and the tissue beneath the skin. These burns can damage the nerves and lead to intense pain. A victim often needs skin grafting to cover the wound.
- Fourth-degree burns are the most devastating, damaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and even bones. Fourth-degree burns often require amputations and can be fatal.
All burns are serious because any burn can become infected. You should pay careful attention to every burn and get immediate medical treatment if you notice any changes, such as pus draining from the burn or a burn that becomes more painful over time.Are Burns Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Yes. If you are burned, you should immediately notify your supervisor and then receive prompt medical care. Some superficial burns might not require more than a sterile bandage and ointment. But deeper burns could require skin grafts and a regimen of antibiotics to prevent infection.
To protect yourself, head to the hospital to have your burn checked out. If someone is seriously burned, then call an ambulance. Try not to remove burned clothing, which might have melted to the skin, but try to remove wedding rings and belts, since the burned limb will usually swell in size.
If you were burned on the job, then workers’ compensation should pay for all reasonable and necessary medical care. Remember that workers’ comp is no fault, so it does not matter if you were responsible for your own burn injury. So long as you were burned on the job, you should be covered by the insurance.
However, workers’ compensation will not cover emotional distress or pain and suffering—both of which can be considerable after an accident. Burn victims often report intensely negative emotions, such as depression, anxiety about the future, embarrassment, and fear. Burn victims and their families can benefit from individual or family therapy, as well as membership in a support group.Do Burns Qualify for a Catastrophic Designation?
They might. Georgia statute § 34-9-200.1(g) lists burns specifically as a type of catastrophic injury. The catastrophic injury designation is vital because it allows a worker to receive temporary total disability benefits much longer than they otherwise could. Without a catastrophic designation, a worker is limited to 400 weeks of benefits.
Burns can qualify as catastrophic injuries under the statute in several ways:
- If second- or third-degree burns cover 25% of the body, or third-degree burns cover 5% of the face or hands, then they are catastrophic under the statute. (O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.1(g)(4))
- If the burns cause blindness, then they qualify. (O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.1(g)(5))
- If the burns cause amputation of a foot or hand, they qualify. (O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.1(g)(2))
- If the burns are sufficiently serious that they prevent a worker from doing a job in any capacity, then they qualify. (O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200.1(g)(6))
By receiving a catastrophic designation, workers can also qualify for rehabilitation services and other benefits. If you have been burned, you should consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Georgia about whether the injury is sufficiently serious to warrant this important designation.
Most legal issues arise when the worker’s burn only qualifies under § 34-9-200.1(g)(6). In this case, if the physician releases the employee to return to work with restrictions, then there is a rebuttable presumption that after 130 weeks the worker is not suffering from a catastrophic injury. This means the worker can still present evidence that their burn is sufficiently severe that they cannot work, but they will need a lawyer’s help to do so.Contact a Georgia Workers Compensation Attorney for a Free Consultation
Slappey & Sadd is a leading Georgia workers’ compensation law firm, which has helped hundreds of workers obtain the benefits they need. If you have been burned at work, you should contact us immediately to discuss your options. Sometimes an employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will deny a perfectly valid claim, or they will misclassify your burn as not catastrophic.
To schedule a consultation, please call 404.255.6677. We proudly serve the entire state of Georgia, including Troup County and Lagrange.