Burn Survivors Legal Rights

By: Robert Brenner, Esquire

I was excited to receive an invitation by Michael Appleman, CEO of Burn Survivors Throughout The World, Inc., to write several articles to help the burn survivor community understand their legal rights.


In my 33 years of practice I have seen many different types of fact patterns leading to incidents involving serious burn injuries, thus it is almost impossible to categorize the way an accident or incident takes place that leads to a serious burn injury. To give a few examples, I have seen burn injuries arise out of explosions, fires, chemical burns, scalds, flammable liquids, structure fires, gas leaks and a multitude of others, to name a few. The common thread throughout all of these incidents is that they are generally speaking never what I would call "a pure accident". There is usually a reason that cause the injury, which could have been prevented. Generally speaking, finding the cause of the incident is the key to determining what legal rights, if any, exist which will allow the injured person to receive compensation.

Since this is the first of what I hope to be several installments of articles on burn survivors and their legal rights, I have decided to give a general overview in this first installment and perhaps in other installments give more specific information on specific incidents.

Following an accident involving serious burn injuries, the injured person and his family are generally most immediately concerned with the well being of the injured person and how to make it through the immediate future from a medical and financial standpoint. The time frame immediately following an incident giving rise to this type of injury is, however, generally the most important time period within which to determine what your legal rights may be and what your rights to compensation for your damages may be. This is the time to begin investigation of the facts surrounding the cause of the accident and preserve evidence.


Civil law exists to compensate an individual for injuries and losses which were caused by someone's negligence, a defective product, or some other form of misconduct or failure to act. These laws exist for the benefit of the injured person and his/her family and for the protection of the public in general.

Persons who are injured in accidents causing serious injuries, as well as family members, are often hesitant about contacting an attorney to learn what their rights may be because they believe the accident or injury was in some way caused by the injured individual. This may not be the case, and even if the injured individual is partially at fault, it is still possible that more than one person or entity may have contributed to causing that accident or injury and the injured person may have legal rights that may allow for a substantial monetary recovery.

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Burn Survivors May Endure ...

1. Physical and emotional trauma;
2. An injury that leaves one in pain;
3. Disfigurement;
4. Organ damage;
5. Body chemistry damage.

Your Legal Rights To Compensation May Include:

1. Payment of Medical Bills: A burn survivor who has suffered serious second and third degree burns with multiple surgeries will have usually incurred very large medical bills. A burn survivor may be entitled to have his medical expenses, past and future, paid as part of the compensation received as a result of their claim. These expenses would include hospitalization, surgical procedures, ongoing medical care, counseling, scar revision/cosmetic surgery, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

2. Compensation for Loss of Income: Because of the extensive hospitalization and rehabilitation, a burn survivor will usually be unable to work for a substantial period of time and may not even be able to go back to work in their usual occupation. A burn survivor may be entitled to have lost wages for past and future income loses paid.

3. Vocational Rehabilitation (Job Retraining): If because of the injuries you receive you are unable to return to work in your same occupation, you may be entitled to compensation to be retrained into a new job or occupation.

4. Compensation for Pain and Suffering: Arguably, a burn injury is one of the most painful injuries the body can endure, and a burn survivor may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering they have endured and may continue to endure in the future as a result of their injury. This area of compensation may be the largest component of a burn survivor's claim for damages.

5. Loss of Consortium: The spouse of a burn survivor may be entitled to compensation when an injury is so severe that it interferes with the injured party's spousal relations. The effected family member may suffer a very real detriment. Many courts recognize the right of the injured party's spouse to recover in an appropriate case for a loss of support, services, love, companionship, society, affection, sexual relations and solace in the form of a loss of consortium action. Loss of consortium is a claim separate from the injured victim's claim. It is unique to the injured party's spouse and is compensable by a separate damages recovery.

The above has been a short general information article, which will be expanded upon in upcoming articles. In the next article submitted, we will talk more specifically about the various types of legal rights available to burn survivors, such as claims for the negligence of others punitive damages and workers' compensation claims.

About The Author:

Robert A. Brenner, Esq. limits his practice to the representation of persons who are catastrophically injured. Mr. Brenner tries to restore economic dignity to people who have had their lives yanked out from under them. Mr. Brenner received his Bachelor of Science degree in 1968 from the University of Southern California and his Juris Doctor degree from Whittier College, Beverly School of Law in 1975. Mr. Brenner is a member of the American Trial Lawyers Association, the Consumer Attorney's Association of California and the Million Dollar Advocate's Forum, as well as Super Lawyers for the years 2006 and 2007. "The Burn Injury Law Group of Robert A. Brenner" provides legal representation to accident victims who have suffered serious burn injuries.