Catastrophic Burn Cases, the McDonald's Hot Coffee Case and a Maryland Personal Injury Lawyer's Perspective.

Everyone has an opinion about the McDonald's hot coffee burn case. There have been numerous articles written on the subject and even a documentary on HBO. The point of this post is not to rehash what has already been said on the subject, but rather to put forth an opinion from a personal injury lawyer’s perspective.  I’d also like to state at the outset, that this opinion is my own, and does not reflect that of my firm or other lawyers in this field.


It is my experience as a personal injury lawyer in Maryland and Virginia, that burn cases are among some of the worst I have ever seen. Burn injuries are incredibly painful and in many cases absolutely devastating to the victims.  Victims of these types of injuries are often left permanently traumatized, scarred, disfigured, and humiliated. What's worse, not only are the injured left scarred or disfigured, but they also face a huge uphill battle in seeking restitution.


Burn cases are often highly complicated, and causation of the burns is often a highly contested area of litigation. Especially among the hot coffee burn cases, where the general public seems to be of the opinion that the burned individual caused his or her own injuries regardless of the actual facts. Careless employees have negligently spilled 170-degree coffee on the groin areas of victims and juries routinely find in favor of the negligent Defendants. The victim gets blamed.


In Maryland and Virginia, these cases are especially difficult to win due to the fact that the States of Maryland and Virginia employ the doctrine of law known as contributory negligence. This doctrine essentially states that if the Plaintiff was in any way contributorily negligent in causing their own injuries, they are barred as a matter of law from recovering from the negligent party. This is true even if the negligent party is 99% negligent and the Plaintiff is only one percent negligent. I think the law needs to change in this regard in our local states to match a majority of the states in America. But that is not the point of this post.


Despite what the public at large thinks about hot coffee burn cases, my opinion is not swayed. I still think injuries caused in burn cases are some of the worst I have seen in my career. Even in the hot coffee genre of claims, I still believe in fighting and continuing to fight aggressively for my burn victim clients who have been traumatized by the negligence of other careless human beings or corporations.


Individuals who suffer more severe burn types (second and third degree burns)- usually suffer irreparably damaged skin and have to undergo numerous skin grafts, which are extremely painful procedures. Moreover, burn victims who have been injured through no fault of their own, are often labeled contributory negligent by the companies and individuals who caused their injuries, in order to evade responsibility. In these situations, the victims face steep uphill battles when seeking to be made whole. Indeed, many innocent victims probably fail to pursue such claims, or even lose at jury trials when they ought to prevail, simply because of the public bias against these types of claimants. These individuals face humiliation and hardship seeking restitution. Often times more so than any other claim type.


Look, everyone needs an advocate. Those who have been carelessly injured, desperately so. These victims need someone to fight for them more than ever, especially when the deck is stacked against them. Otherwise, these accidents will keep occurring and the innocent victims will be left holding the bag, with thousands of dollars in medical bills, a lifetime of pain, and other damages.


Bottom line: Burn victims should contact an experienced lawyer to discuss their options. Lawyers are there- who may be able to help you. It's the whole point of what we do. If you have a claim that has been wrongfully denied, or if another lawyer has turned you down - give us a call. We may be able to help you. You may be entitled to compensation past medical bills, pain and suffering, scarring, disfigurement, future medical expenses, including surgical costs, pain management, skin grafts, plastic surgery, and other types of corrective surgery. Contact an experienced burn injury lawyer to find out if the facts of your specific situation give rise to a legal claim for compensation.

Justin P. Katz
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Justin Katz is a personal injury lawyer who represents injury victims in Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC
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