Employees who suffer a burn injury from a fire in the workplace have legal recourse to recover benefits. They may file a workers’ compensation claim that pays for their medical expenses and provides payments for lost wages and specific loss benefits as well.
Causes of Workplace Fires
Workplace fires are rarely intentional, but they are usually preventable if the employer and all employees use safe practices. Some of the most common causes of workplace fires may include errors in handling, storing, or using combustible materials, chemicals, and compressed gases. Other times, machinery errors or defects may lead to fires, as may electrical wiring complications. Human behaviors, like smoking, can also cause a workplace fire.
Burn Injuries from Workplace Fires
A number of injuries can occur during a workplace fire. Workers may suffer injuries attempting to leave the building, for example. Or workers may be injured by falling debris. Sometimes, severe injuries may result if an explosion occurs, including lacerations and amputations. The most common injury from a workplace fire, though, is a burn.
Burns caused by a fire are known as thermal burns. Medical professionals classify thermal burns as first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree. MedlinePlus explains that first-degree burns only cause damage to the outermost layer of skin; second-degree burns cause damage to the outermost layer and the layer directly under it; and third-degree burns destroy all levels of the skin, and could result in nerve destruction as well. Third-degree burns often result in permanent disfigurement and can even result in permanent loss of function.
Who’s liable for a workplace fire?
Most injuries from a workplace fire are covered under workers’ compensation insurance. The Pennsylvania State Workers’ Compensation Act allows payment for lost wages, death benefits, specific injury benefits, and medical care in the event of a workplace injury. Usually, a worker cannot file a civil action for damages against the employer in the event of a workplace fire. But in some cases, the injured worker may take legal action against another party.
If a third party is to blame for the fire, then the injured worker may file a claim for damages against the at-fault party. Keep in mind, however, that injured employees may not file a lawsuit if the employer or a co-worker started the fire. If you’re not sure which legal options you have after suffering a burn at work, talk to a lawyer.
Damages Recoverable in a Third-party Liability Claim
If a third-party liability claim for damages is appropriate, then the claimant will have to prove that the fire would not have occurred but for the actions of the at-fault party. For example, the worker may prove that a third-party subcontractor is to blame for its inappropriate use of a torch on a jobsite. The worker must also establish that injuries are the result of the fire.
The worker must file the claim within two years under Pennsylvania Law Section 5524. If successful, the worker may recover damages including medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, permanent disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.
What can an attorney do for me after a workplace burn?
One of the most important aspects of recovering benefits after a burn from a fire in the workplace is knowing which options are available. An attorney can help investigate to better understand how the fire started and can help you explore which options may be available to recover benefits or damages.
The attorneys at Cordisco & Saile LLC can help you recover workers’ compensation benefits as well as file a third-party liability claim if appropriate. For fair representation, call us today at 215-642-2335. You can also contact us online to set up your appointment.