Compensation for hot water burn
June 1, 2011 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Burn insurance settlement for child

My young child was burned by hot water at a children's facility. (Not a daycare centre, but a family fun center-type place.) The water was from a sink and burned instantly due to splashing. I don't want to provide identifying details here (in case the company finds this), but suffice it to say that this was not due to a lack of supervision on my part. My child was burned *immediately*. Small 1st degree burns on the face and a 2nd degree burn to the arm on a joint. It was very painful for my child. The facility was quite unhelpful at the time and when we kept trying to follow up (for fear about other children). I could provide more info here, but don't want to provide identifying case details.

We talked to lawyers and all said we should try to work this out on our own with the insurer because they felt we could work something out. But they couldn't speculate on amount.

I'm not trying to gouge the insurer, but my child did suffer painful burns that required an ER visit, a follow up doctor's visit, daily dressing changes, bandaging (which took a while to do and was upsetting and painful), ointment, pain medication, etc. My child is now scared of taps (understandably). I have no idea where to start with this.

The insurance company has asked to meet with us in person and has not requested any medical records or photos or anything since we were contacted by them, despite us offering them. They also want both parents present. My mom used to work in insurance and she said that she suspects that they have "good neighbour coverage" that they hope to use to avoid a lawsuit and publicity. She said it should be more than home insurance good neighbour coverage ($500 to $1000 range for that). She never worked in commercial insurance, so she has no idea what would make sense for this. I have no idea what to expect and have no idea what is reasonable. Obviously, no one wants a drawn out process. I am not suing out of spite or anything, but for the sake of my child, who was in pain for a number of weeks and may have permanent scarring - and who's still scared of the event.

This is in Canada. And, yes, I know it comes down to what we think is acceptable, but I prefer going into situations with at least some info. Also, if it's relevant, parents are not allowed to sign away a child's rights at facilities here.

posted by anonymous to Law & Government (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I get the impression they want to know how much money they should aim to be getting from the insurers.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:46 AM on June 1, 2011

I'm sorry this happened to you and your child.

Your child's fear does not have a price, and no amount of money will fix that; only time and love. So don't bother putting a price tag on that.

What's reasonable - in my opinion - is that the amount they offer you should cover whatever costs you incurred out-of-pocket for your child's medical care.
posted by DWRoelands at 7:56 AM on June 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

You need to hire a lawyer, yesterday. The ones you talked to aren't taking your case for whatever reason, but you need to find some other ones. A good lawyer would never, ever tell you to go up against a corporation's insurers (and lawyers) without professional representation.

Don't meet with their insurers without a lawyer present. Don't talk to their insurers anymore. If they want to convey something to you, tell them you want it in writing.

You son is entitled to have his medical issues paid for, plus medical care for his burns in the future. Burns can take a long time to heal, and if he has a burn on a joint, may require physical therapy. If he has a burn on his face, he may need plastic surgery. Their insurance will try to give you the minimum they can because that is their business model. Your role is to get the best possible care for your son, no matter the cost, to make him whole again.

It is not fair, generally, for a regular person to go up against a corporation, even in the case of insurance settlements. A lawyer - your lawyer, not theirs - needs to draw up terms of a settlement.
posted by juniperesque at 7:59 AM on June 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

Yeah, you need to find a lawyer. I went through something similar when I slipped on a spill at a supermarket and broke a bone in my leg. The first couple of lawyers I spoke to didn't want to take my case because it was too small for them, but by asking friends I eventually found a lawyer who worked smaller cases like this. He was an invaluable part of the year-long process which led to me getting a smallish but reasonable settlement.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:07 AM on June 1, 2011

I would ask for four things:

1. Cover all medical expenses related to incident.
2. Cover expenses related to an evaluation by a therapist to determine if your child needs counseling to overcome fear of taps.
3. An agreement that the business will change the setup of the tap and tap area so that this does not happen again.
4. Cover all other out of pocket expenses or get a lump sum ($1,000 - $3,000 range) to cover any future expenses.

In exchange for that I would agree to not publicize the incident (only if they agree to fix the setup) and to not seek further compensation other than actual additional documentable expenses.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:19 AM on June 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'm a lawyer. I defend these kinds of cases every day. But JohnnyGunn is giving legal advice, and that's kind of a no-no, either because he's not an attorney or because you aren't his client. So I'm not going to do that.

Here's the thing: if you get an attorney involved, they're going to take a third of whatever it is you get. So if you've talked to plaintiff's attorneys who have told you to try to work this out yourself, it may mean that the case is just too small for them to fool with.

But commercial establishments like this one generally have what's called "medical payments" coverage, i.e. a few thousand bucks available on a no-fault basis for anyone injured on the property. $5,000-10,000 is pretty common. Now they're not going to want to pay the full limit if they can avoid it, but if you can show medical expenses, you can probably get them paid without much fuss. This is probably what is meant by "good neighbor coverage," though I've never heard that term before and I don't think it does what your friend seems to think it does.

In any case, I think you should probably shop your claim around a bit more. Odds are decent you can get this thing worked out in a few weeks, but odds are also decent that getting a lawyer will pay for itself, i.e. they'll be able to get you enough so that you come out ahead even after their cut. Even if it goes slightly into their liability coverage, making this go away for a few grand is probably going to be easier for them than fighting it.
posted by valkyryn at 8:30 AM on June 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

FWIW, here in the US, 2-3X the total cost of medical bills is a very general guideline on what insurance will pay out on medical claims for auto accidents with minor injuries. I have no idea how that translates to Canada and your situation.

But you really, really need a lawyer. People in the US that get the 2-3X payout have a lawyer. People without a lawyer get screwed.
posted by COD at 8:36 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

As I'm almost totally ignorant of how Canadian health care works, it might be useful to know how much of the "ER visit, a follow up doctor's visit, daily dressing changes, bandaging, ... ointment, pain medication, etc." was paid for by Medicare. If you had little to no out of pocket expenses, your recovery might be minimal, because what would your damages be? (The insurer probably doesn't care, monetarily, about your child's suffering, since it's not like you'll ever really take this to a jury, right?)

And even the full price of those things might be too small for a contingency-fee lawyer to make it worth his while (as opposed to, say, a car accident that causes many broken bones and years of physical therapy). The advice to get a lawyer is usually good, for the reasons given above, but I'm not surprised you've had trouble retaining one given the financial considerations.

One outside the box method that often gets the wheels moving is a call (or threat to call) to local media. Probably want to be sure your legal options are exhausted first, but if you're really getting nowhere, this sounds like a typical story for the 6 o'clock news -- and the people you're dealing with know that. If you're concerned more about future children being victimized by this, that may be one way to help.
posted by SuperNova at 8:45 AM on June 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Don't sign anything. If you must meet without a lawyer I suggest having only one parent there so you can say "I need my spouse to look at this first. " Then take whatever they give you to a lawyer, or at least think about it for a few days. I suspect that there is a reason beneficial to them to have both of you there but I am neither a lawyer or a Canadian.

I assume the damages here won't be as significant as they would be in no-insurance US so getting a lawyer might be tough.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:09 AM on June 1, 2011

Anonymous, please stop reading the advice here which, while well-meaning, is really not appropriate for your situation. You need to speak with more lawyers if the ones you spoke to already aren't taking the case. If they say no, find out why: is it because they're worried about liability or they think the damages are too low to bother? Do they just not want to take on XYZ Co. because they hear their lawyers are difficult? If you give which city in Canada you're in, someone will have names to refer you to.

People saying that there's no pain and suffering owed, or that you should just recoup your medical expenses (which are much, much less due to MSP than if you were in the USA) are purely speculating. Have a look at some cases on and browse around for similar injuries and their respective awards.

At the very least, get a lawyer to advise you about the limitation date so that you know how much time you have to play with. For example, if this was a municipality there may be shorter than usual notice periods.

DO NOT RUSH SETTLEMENT. Your kid could have psychological injuries that need time to tease out. Getting you out the door quickly helps only the insurance company.
posted by Pomo at 9:13 AM on June 1, 2011

If you're in or near Toronto, MeMail me if you want a recommendation for a person-injury lawyer.
posted by Dasein at 9:17 AM on June 1, 2011

Part of the reason you want to be careful is that settlements tend to be final. Once you settle the matter, you're probably not getting to be able to get more if additional factors come to light in the future. (IANAL, TINLA, YMMV, etc...) I sincerely hope your child is doing better now and this will be the last of the matter, but if your son or daughter does need additional medical attention, counseling, physical therapy, or the like as a result of this injury, you don't want to hear "sorry; too late: you already settled."
posted by zachlipton at 9:48 AM on June 1, 2011

To clarify for people reading this, in Canada, all of the above were probably covered by our universal medical system. So using that for a multiple likely wouldn't help.
posted by acoutu at 11:12 AM on June 1, 2011

I definitely agree that if you feel you should be compensated in some way for your co-payments or other expenses, or if you are looking for compensation because you are frustrated with the way the childcare facility responded to your complaints (I'm really not sure from your post what specifically you feel you are due), an experienced lawyer would be the way to go.

Also, I don't know how the legal system works in Canada, but if you are sincerely worried about the potential of harm to other children, many institutions (like hotels) and even homes have preset water heaters with thermostats that will not heat the water above 120 degrees F, thus significantly reducing injuries from scalding water. Seems like this would be easy enough for the place in question to put in place.

I am not suing out of spite or anything, but for the sake of my child, who was in pain for a number of weeks and may have permanent scarring - and who's still scared of the event.

Burns of any kind are very painful, and of course your child was scared. First degree burns on the face should not leave any scars and first degree burns, and usually second degree burns require only minor treatment. The second degree burn on the joint of the arm really is only an issue if it is over an area larger than 3 in or so. It seems like you have done all you possibly could to take care of your child afterward and really the injuries are relatively minor. So you can relax a bit, since your child will likely be just fine once the burns have fully healed. Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for sometimes.
posted by misha at 11:56 AM on June 1, 2011

In case this information helps: I know someone here in Ontario who fell on commercial property due to an corrected flooring issue and needed surgery to repair the damage. All medical costs/therapy/drugs were covered by OHIP and free employer benefits, so there was no out-of-pocket costs for the person. They arranged a layer on contingency (not sure if it was for one-half or one-third of the final settlement). It was settled out of court by the insurer for somewhere between $40,0000-160,000. (I can't remember...)
posted by saucysault at 4:17 PM on June 1, 2011

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