Children under the age of 5 along with seniors age 65 and over are more susceptible to Burn injuries than any other age group. While house fires are a major cause of burns and respiratory problems from smoke inhalation, spilled hot liquids account for a large number as well. To bring awareness of the dangers hot liquids pose to young children to the general public, the city of Weymouth rolled out Fire Awareness Week.
Fire Awareness Week is actually a national event that seeks to educate and remind adults to take special precautions when handling hot liquids such as coffee or tea or when a hot stove or boiling water is in the presence of small children. According to the Massachusetts Burn Injury Reporting System, 25% of all Burn Injuries are suffered by children age 5 and under. Nearly 90% of toddlers who sustained burn injuries received them from hot liquids, including hot bath water. Other statistics indicate that about 40,000 children under the age of 4 suffer burns each year that are serious enough to warrant medical attention.
Children have thinner skin than adults so that a hot liquid will cause more extensive tissue damage from a burn. Their small size means that a burn will cover a larger percentage of their skin.
Causes of Burn Injuries
Burns can come from a number of factors:
- Spilled hot liquids from a coffee or tea drink
- Contact with caustic chemicals
- Overheated food and liquids from a microwave
- Spilled boiling water from a stove
- Contact with an overheated metal spoon or spatula
- Contact with a hot lamp
Burns can lead to the following injuries:
- Nerve damage
- Loss of a limb
- Damage to organs
Treatment for serious burns can be extremely painful and require extensive surgery.
Recommendations on Burn Prevention
The Massachusetts Fire Marshall has made a number of recommendations for preventing scald or burn injuries to small children:
- Never hold a hot beverage when holding a child
- When cooking, use the back burners
- Place drinks and hot liquids in the center of the table
- Never leave a toddler alone in the bathtub and be sure their backs are to the faucet
- When preparing a bath, turn on cold water first and then the hot water
- Train your children to stay at least 3 feet away from the oven or stove at all times
State law requires that hot water heaters be kept between 110 and 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Bath water and water from household faucets may not exceed 112 degrees Fahrenheit. If you think your water is too hot, use a thermometer to test it.
Liability For Burns
- Childcare workers and baby sitters
When a child is burned, there may be legal liability on the part of a caretaker or babysitter who have a duty of reasonable care towards the child. This includes closely monitoring the child and keeping the child safe from hazards, including hot liquids. By failing to keep the child away from a hot stove or hot liquids, a child care worker may be considered negligent and liable for damages. A child care worker who spills their hot coffee on a child also risks being legally responsible for the child’s injuries.
While a baby sitter may lack the personal resources to pay for a child’s medical expenses and pain and suffering, the sitter may have been retained from a agency that may also be vicariously liable. A daycare center must be insured or at least bonded so that it can pay for damages caused by the negligence of its workers.
- Restaurants and Coffee Shops
A restaurant that serves coffee or tea that is unreasonably hot and is spilled and burns a child or other patron may be liable since it is foreseeable that any hot drink it serves may be spilled. Coffee heated to 170 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, temperatures at which establishments typically serve their hot drinks, is unreasonably hot and will cause burns when it contacts a child or an adult’s skin. Under principles of product liability law, a seller is required to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to its customers where it is foreseeable that an unreasonably hot substance would contact a customer including children. Also, manufacturers have a duty to design and produce products that are safe and do not pose an unreasonable risk of a burn injury or at least to warn consumers that its hot liquids pose a burn hazard to small children.
Likewise, property owners, either of private property or commercial property, have a legal duty under the rules of premises liability law to keep safe their business invitees and guests who are lawfully on their property. These rules require property owners to remove unreasonably dangerous hazards such as the risk that a child could be burned by a hot liquid or appliance or to post warnings on cups or within the business establishment that the premises has liquids that are heated to such degrees that they can cause serious burns to children and others.
Your burn injury lawyer can explain how these property owners and manufacturers may be legally responsible for your or your loved one’s burn injuries.
Similarly, a neighbor who agrees to watch over or supervise a child stands to be civilly liable if the child is burned because of negligent supervision or careless handling of hot liquids. Homeowner’s insurance should cover such incidents.
Consult Burn Injury Lawyer Tim Houten
If your child suffered serious burns because of the negligence of a daycare worker, babysitter, restaurant worker or neighbor, consult burn injury lawyer Tim Houten to explore your legal options. Your child may be compensated for:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Loss of future income
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological trauma
- Diminution in quality of life
- Parental claim for loss of consortium
Call his office for a free, in-depth analysis of your case. Mr. Houten takes injury cases on a contingency basis so that he is paid only if you receive compensation.
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