Late last year there were a number of announcements about the interim, 60 day, banning of ethanol burners in Queensland, and across other States and Territories. The ban follows 38 incidents in Queensland and 117 total across Australia since 2010, in which many Australians suffered injuries – including a number of very serious burn injury cases.
The victims include a 28-year old Western Australian woman who suffered serious burns to her face and body when an ethanol burner exploded in her backyard. A similar incident in Queensland also left two others with serious, life-altering burn injuries.
Typically, the incidents occur when the burners are being refilled while they are still very hot or have a remaining flame that is hard to detect. It’s in these instances when the ethanol vapour can explode, resulting in burns and other injuries.
The ban sees the removal of ethanol burners from sale by all retailers and places hefty fines on those who don’t comply. Individuals who continue to sell (or resell) the burners will face penalties of up to $220,000 while corporations will face up to $1.1 million.
The ban can be extended or made permanent, however only time will tell if this will be the case. Given the number of incidents, we can only hope that the ban is made permanent across all States and Territories.
For the individuals who have suffered in these accidents, the aftermath can be life-altering – for more serious cases there are ongoing surgeries, compression wear and a sombre array of other life-long impacts.
Given the numerous ongoing medical expenses, as well as impacts upon working ability, victims can often face huge financial burdens – on top of the physical and mental trauma. Therefore, it’s only expected in these circumstances that the burn victims and their families often look to possible avenues for compensation.
What can be done?
In the majority of these cases there are multiple parties against whom the claim is brought. These can often include the retailer, importer and manufacturer. If the accident occurred while the victim was at someone else’s home, there is typically also a claim made against the insurer of that person’s property.
In these instances, as long as there is a home and contents policy in place, it is not the individual or host who the claim is made against, rather their home and contents insurer.
In the event that the ban is made permanent there may be some impact upon the claims process, with respect to the possibility of criminal charges and the impact of these upon home and contents insurances policies.
However in this respect, we will have to wait to see how this unfolds, should the ban be made permanent.
Whatever the potential future legal impacts, it’s a relief for many that this ban has been put in place. We can only hope that for the safety of all Australians, the ban is made permanent, nationally.