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Were You Burned at Work? Are You Entitled to Compensation?
What is the first type of accident that comes to mind when you think of workplace-related injuries? Machine entanglement? Falling objects? These are undoubtedly common types of injuries that occur in the workplace. But, did you know that burns are a significant type of workplace injury? Under New Jersey law, as long as you were burned in the course of your employment, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
Just how many workplace accidents involve burns? According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration> approximately 5,000 workers are hospitalized each year due to burn injuries they suffered while on the job. Unfortunately, an average of 200 of burn victims dies as a result of their injuries.
All things considered, some professions are more in danger of sustaining burn injuries than others. Without question, even though firefighters wear protective gear, they are at risk. Meanwhile, chemical burns are common in many industries, including auto repair and manufacturing plants. Additionally, those involved in food preparation are also in jeopardy of hot substances causing serious burns.
Workplace Burn Injuries and Worker’s Compensation Claims
When determining whether an injury is compensable, the law applies a few tests. First, and foremost, is that the injury must have occurred during the course of employment. The language of specifically states that compensation is available when the accident was “arising out of and in the course of… employment.” Meanwhile, there is a caveat.
New Jersey workers’ compensation benefits can be denied if there is evidence that the employee was ‘willfully neglectful.” In many cases, this is a question for consideration to the court. After all, it would be quite unusual for someone to do something that could result in a burn injury. However, there is also the issue of one assuming a personal risk.
Consider this case that made it up all the way to the New Jersey Supreme Court. During an unpaid break, an employee lit a cigarette while still on the employer’s premises. The employee’s hair caught fire causing burn injuries to her scalp. After consideration of the facts, the Court ruled that smoking a cigarette on an unpaid break was unrelated to the victim’s work and a personal risk. Therefore, she was not awarded compensation.
As you might guess, this type of case is more the exception than the norm. In many cases, a burn may be related to a defective machine, or an electrical explosion or fire. Injuries can be small or devastating. There may be a need for lengthy hospitalizations and reconstructive surgery. Even still, deformation is a real possibility.
Workers’ compensation benefits work for burn injuries as they do for other workplace accidents. No doubt the first consideration is securing payment for medical bills. Next, is compensation for lost wages, also known as temporary disability benefits. Lastly, the injured worker may be entitled to either partial or total permanent disability payments.
Were You Burned at Work?
Workplace-related burn injuries aren’t just devastating at the time they occur. Burns can leave you with lasting nerve damage that can cause lifelong pain and discomfort. If you or a loved one received burns in a workplace-related accident, it is critical that you seek the counsel of an attorney immediately. An attorney with experience in worker’s compensation law can best advocate on your behalf. Contact the Law Offices of Berinato & Matrafaljo to schedule a complimentary consultation.