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Workers’ Compensation Burn Injuries

The American Burn Association estimates that there are approximately 486,000 burn injuries per year that require medical treatment.  Approximately 40,000 of those require hospitalization.  Many of these injuries occur at as a result of chemicals, fire, or heat.

What should I do if I am burned at work?

The Mayo Clinic has some good tips for what to do if you suffer a burn injury.  One important tip that I did not know was to remove rings or other tight items from burned areas because of the risk of swelling.  How the burn should be treated will depend on the severity of the burn.  Having a good knowledge of what to do could certainly help you or someone else.

If you are burned at work, there are two things you should definitely do:

  1. Notify your supervisor about your injury
  2. Get medical treatment

Burn injuries can be very serious.  If you do not get good medical treatment, you could develop an infection.  You could also increase your risk of scarring.  If the burns are severe enough, you could die.

With minor burn injuries, treatment will likely include medications and bandaging.  More serious burn injuries often require hospitalizations and surgery.  Many serious burn injury victims require skin grafts or other forms of plastic surgery.

Returning to work after a burn injury

If you are able to return to work after a severe injury, your employer might also have a duty to accommodate you under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Not all employers are covered by the ADA.  Also, only certain disabilities/injuries qualify as “disabilities” under the ADA.

The Job Accomodation Network has a page specifically devoted to burn injuries that talks about how an employer might accommodate an injured worker.  If you suffer from a burn injury and need accommodation to return to work, this page might give you some ideas on what could be done.

Catastrophic designation for serious burn injuries

Under Georgia’ workers’ compensation laws, severe burns may qualify for a catastrophic designation.  Burn injuries are one of the five specific types of injury listed in the catastrophic statute, O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g).  A burn injury can qualify as a catastrophic injury in several different ways.

  • If the burns satisfy the requirements of O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g)(4):  “Second or third degree burns over 25 percent of the body as a whole or third degree burns to 5 percent or more of the face or hands”.  A burn injury that satisfies these requirements is obviously quite severe.
  • If the burns prevent the injured worker from performing his or her prior work and any work available in substantial numbers in the national economy.  Any injury that limits an injured worker in this way should satisfy the requirements of O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g)(6) and be designated catastrophic.
  • If the burn injury satisfies one of the other specific injury types that qualify for a catastrophic designation under O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g).  The most likely types to be associated with a burn injury are blindness (O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g)(5) and amputation of a hand or a foot (O.C.G.A. 34-9-200.1(g)(2)

Getting a severe injury designated as catastrophic has always been important because it allowed injured workers to continuing drawing income replacement temporary total disability benefits if they are unable to return to work.  With recent changes in the law, it has become even more important if an injured worker will continue to need medical treatment.  Severe burn injuries often require continuing medical treatment.

There are also other benefits to having a case designated catastrophic.  If you suffer a serious injury that may qualify for a catastrophic designation, you should certainly check into getting your case designated catastrophic.

Be informed about your workers’ compensation rights

If you are burned at work, get good medical treatment quickly.  Once you do, be sure and know your workers’ compensation rights.  It is better to find out early on so that you can make the best decision for you about what to do.  Waiting too long can often lead to you losing some or all of your rights, so make sure you are informed.

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families. To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

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Jason Perkins

Workers' Compensation Attorney

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