Scald compensation claims

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Jenny Jones

Panel Senior Litigator

A guide to making a No Win No Fee scald claim

Recognised by the Courts as a burn injury, scalds are caused specifically by hot liquids or steams. According to a report by the British Burns Association, burns injuries are experienced by around 250,000 people in the UK each year. Of these, the majority are thermal injuries, with the largest proportion being scalds.

Scalds are an extremely common result of accidents in the home. These injuries are unlikely to lead to a claim unless caused by a defective product.

When scalds occur in other situations, such as an accident at work or as a result of hospital negligence - where responsibility for a person's safety lies in the hands of another - it may be possible to claim compensation.

Identifying scald injuries

Although scalds are distinguishable from burns by cause, the symptoms are the same - although they vary depending on the severity of the injury. Common scald symptoms recognised in compensation claims include:

  • Redness
  • Peeling skin
  • Blisters
  • Swelling
  • White or charred skin

Most scalds are considered first degree burns - affecting the top layer of the skin - or second degree burns - which damage the deep layers of the epidermis and the dermis.

More severe scalds, affecting a large surface area, can also occur causing permanent scarring and nerve damage. Steam presents a significant risk because of the high latent heat of evaporation.

Treatment varies depending on the severity and location of the scald. During the claims process, the cost of any necessary private treatment and rehabilitation will be factored into the total amount claimed.

Scald claims in the workplace

Workers who use machinery which heats liquids and chemicals to high temperatures are at high risk, as are those involved in transporting hot liquids. Industrial accidents producing superheated steam from burst or failing pipes can also result in severe scalds.

Another high risk industry is commercial kitchens. This is due to the regular exposure of workers to hot cooking oil, boiling water and steam. Even in seemingly low risk industries, such as schools, offices and hairdressers, there is a risk of scalding from kettle steam, hot drinks, and water heated to above the recommend safe temperature (44 degrees Celsius).

Scald injuries in health and social care settings

According to the HSE, health and social care settings also present high risks of scalding amongst their vulnerable users. This includes hospitals, care homes, social services premises and special schools.

Many of these settings have higher water temperatures (above 44 degrees Celsius) to satisfy hot water demand, for efficient running of the boiler and for controlling the risk from Legionella bacteria. Numerous accidents have occurred as the result of bathing and showering in circumstances where appropriate health and safety precautions are not observed.

Assessing who is responsible

For scalds that occur as a result of an accident in the workplace, the employer could be held liable if their actions were deemed negligent.

All employers have a legal responsibility to protect their staff, ensuring they are kept safe from harm. This responsibility is set out in a range of legislation, but primarily the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work 1999.

Employers are required to carry out a full risk assessment of the work environment, identifying potential hazards and putting measures in to remove or control them.

Claims have been made for scald injuries in a range of situations, including:

For scalds that occur in health and social care settings, liability would lie with the relevant authority or owner/manager. Like employers, these parties have a legal responsibility to prevent harm, but their duty is owed to patients and service users.

Duty-owing parties are also required to carry out full risk assessments, identify those at risk and put in measures to control potential hazards, such as identifying hot water temperature.

How can negligence be proven?

If either an employer or a local authority or owner/manager fails to manage the risks, and a worker suffers a scald injury as a result, a successful claim will rely on proving that their actions were negligent. To do this, a case will rely heavily on evidence. Examples which a solicitor will use include:

  • Medical reports and photographs of the scald injury
  • Accident books - noting the details of the scald and when and how it occurred
  • Company health and safety records
  • Any witnesses to the accident or procedures
  • Photos, such as of leaking equipment or poor signage

If liability is admitted by the defendant, they should have insurance in place to settle the claim. If it is denied, or contributory negligence is argued, the case may go to the Courts.

How does No Win, No Fee work for scald injury compensation claims?

No Win, No Fee agreements, or CFAs (Conditional Fee Agreements), are a crucial part of most injury claims.

The CFA explains the service the solicitor provides in addition to a "success fee" to be deducted from the compensation when they win the claim.

Selecting a Quittance injury-specialist solicitor, you will have peace of mind with the knowledge that that there is nothing whatsoever to pay at the outset.

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