Scalding Burn Injuries
What is a tap water burn?
A tap water burn is simply a burn (First, Second, Third, or Fourth degree) caused by exposure to hot water. The burn sustained from the exposure varies depending upon the temperature of the water and the length of the exposure. The age of the person exposed can also play a role in the type of burn sustained.
Toddlers and young children are at the highest risk of being scalded by hot water. It is easy to receive third degree burns from exposure to hot tap water, which comes from not only hot drinks and pots cooking on the stove, but from bath water. An approximate one-second exposure to 160° F water will result in third degree burns. Where the water is 130° F, an approximate half-minute exposure will result in third degree burns. This is the reason that the Consumer Product Safety Commission suggests that water heaters be set to a maximum temperature of 120° F, even though an approximate ten minute exposure to water heated to this temperature can still result in third degree burns.
What are the obstacles to obtaining remedies?
Burns caused by tap water, where not intentionally heated on a stove or other heat source, are often caused by incorrect settings on hot water heaters or broken thermostats on hot water heaters. Other factors include the lack of tempering valves and what is known as the layering effect. The layering effect is created where water is heated after a hot water draw is completed (i.e. – a shower is taken) and the newly heated water is at the top of the hot water heater to be used next. The result is the use of the quickly heated, often overheated water, first – increasing the chances of burns. It is often the case that these factors create liability on the part of the water heater manufacturer, the plumbing engineer, the plumbing contractor, the maintenance plumber, and the owner and leasing agent of rental property. However, these parties will defend themselves wherever possible, making recovery of damages less likely in some cases.
Another obstacle is the expense of litigation. It is the injured party’s decision whether or not to litigate. Talking with other persons, including an attorney, can help an injured party determine whether it is possible to recover compensation sufficient to cover the costs of litigation. Frankly, the injury may not be severe enough to justify the time and costs of litigation. However, it is not always about money, but a matter of conscience.
Tap water burn injuries and accidents are often caused by hot water heaters, which can be set to heat water to well above 150° F, because many people are not aware of how to set the thermometer or are unaware that its default temperature setting is too high for human contact.
It is important to you, the consumer, to know the right information necessary to protect yourself, as well as find legal representation of the highest quality when an injury does result due from the action of others. Whether the issue involves a complex lawsuit or a claim for benefits, the best interest of the clients always comes first. When approaching a case where someone has suffered burns from tap water, our attorneys who litigate cases in this area will thoroughly research the issues and discuss the options with you.
Our attorneys will determine as quickly and efficiently as possible the merits of the claim (whether it is actionable and the possibility for compensation). Being burned by tap water is a serious problem. It is possible for people to get third degree burns from contact with tap water in the home.
A safe temperature for hot water is 110° F, with prolonged exposure results in third degree burns. Even though this is a ‘relatively-safe’ temperature, exposure to water set at 110° F is painful; the human pain threshold is around 106-108° F. It is important to remember that 212° F is the boiling point of water, meaning that the temperatures at which exposure to water will result in burns is much less than the boiling point of water.
According to data from the National Safe Kids Campaign, 4000-5,000 children are scalded each year, most often in bathtubs. The average bathtub scald burn covers 12% of the body surface with a full thickness third degree burn. Statistics from the National Safe Kids Campaign indicate that the scald burn sources were 95% residential settings, 54% in apartment house, and 46% in single family homes.
How do I decide who should represent me in court with a tap water burn injury?
It is an important decision, which should be made only after discussing the situation with an attorney and determining whether the attorney can sufficiently protect your interests. Factors to help you make this decision include:
The expertise of the attorney with the subject area of the litigation.
The experience the attorney to be representing you has with similar malpractice cases.
The knowledge of the attorney, and whether the knowledge is current.
The resources of the attorney.
The attorney’s fee and the method of payment.
The reputation and experience of the experts which the attorney utilizes.
Attorneys do not take lightly the idea of retaining clients to sue others. Suing people is a laborious process, as well as an emotionally exhausting exercise, through which one party is going to be injured. Often, neither party wins in the end. Make sure that the attorney you choose to represent you has your best interests in mind. This does not mean that the attorney who will give you the best deal, when you first enter the office, is the attorney you should hire. The choice should be made deliberately and carefully. Make sure the attorney you choose is thorough and chooses to sue only after understanding the issues of the case.
Vernon J. Petri chaired the Tap Water Burn litigation section of the American Association for Justice since 1998. If you or a loved one has been injured from a scalding water burn please click here to contact our Scalding Burn Injury Lawyers
Defective Water Heater?
If you feel that you own a defective water heater, call the manufacturer and store where the water heater was purchased. If they do not act in a satisfactory manner, please contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)
CPSC regulates the safety of toys, appliances, household, and recreational products. Recalls are publicized through the media and on the Internet.
To report an unsafe consumer product or a product-related inquiry, call the CPSC toll-free Hotline at (800) 638-2772, (800) 638-8270 for the hearing and speech impaired, or (800) 492-8104 (toll-free, TDD in Maryland).
To request a free copy of our publication listing, write to us at U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Washington, D.C. 20207. For additional information, contact our nearest field office.