The US National Institutes of Health defines burn injuries as “under-appreciated injuries that can lead to substantial morbidity and mortality”. While these injuries require medical attention, burn injuries also affect the mental health of the burn victim and his loved ones. The NIH even goes as far as saying that, “even when the wounds have healed, burn victims cannot be considered as recovered”. Burns can cause lost wages and a poorer quality of life.
What are the Types of Burn Injuries?
Burn injuries can have many causes, including chemical and electrical sources, radiation, heat (fire), and even cold. The cause of the injury determines the treatment, but classifying the burn injury in terms of depth and size is also necessary.
- First-degree burns involve the most superficial layer of the skin. Although the injury only involves the outer layer, the skin still becomes red and painful, albeit to a lesser degree.
- On the other hand, second-degree burns are divided into superficial partial, and deep partial-thickness wounds. The former does not require surgery, but is still painful and is occasionally weeping; the latter, ironically, are less painful (due to nerve damage) and require surgery.
- Third-degree burns or full-thickness burns extend to the dermis, a deeper layer of skin. These injuries are also painless and require surgery.
- Fourth-degree burns reach all the way to bone and muscle, oftentimes causing loss of the affected area. This type of injury usually involves the application of a skin graft.
Burn injuries can also be classified based on the amount of area involved: a minor burn involves less than 10% of the total body surface area (TBSA), while major burns involve more than 10%. The specific body part involved is also taken into account, with the face and genitalia accounting for more serious burn injury.
What are the Common Causes of Burn Injuries?
- Smoke inhalation is an under-recognized but potentially serious cause of personal injury. Breathing in harmful gases, particulate matter, and vapors contained in smoke can cause thermal burns, chemical burns, and even multisystemic involvement. Present in up to one-third of flame burn victims, smoke inhalation is the most common cause of death at the scene.
- Thermal burns are the most common burn injury in the workplace. This happens when the employee comes into contact with fire, steam, hot liquid, and super-heated objects.
- Chemical burns are common in industries that involve handling caustic substances. When a dangerous chemical like gasoline, lye, or acid comes into contact with the skin, redness and sensitivity of the area ensued. However, more debilitating personal injury can occur especially if sensitive areas (like the eyes) are involved. This would require medical treatment as soon as possible.
- Electrical burns can be very deceiving in that the injuries only manifest internally. These are caused by accidental contact with exposed parts of electrical appliances, wirings, and lightning strikes. Utility workers, electricians, and occupations that involve being outside during thunderstorms are at the highest risk for this burn injury. While other burn injuries manifest immediately, electrical burns may present as dizziness, vomiting, or headache; seizures, low blood pressure, and cardiac arrest may occur in more serious cases.
The survivors of extensive burns, or burn accidents involving electrocution or explosion, face many challenges on their path to recovery. Extended stays in intensive care, extreme pain compounded by constant discomfort from itching and hypersensitivity, sequential surgeries, and the prospect of scarring and disfigurement are all problems characteristic of severe burn injuries. The period of treatment and recovery can last for years, especially when the burn victims are children. Severe psychological consequences must also be addressed in most cases, especially those involving burns to the face.
What to do if you suffered a burn injury at work:
Depending on the severity of your injury, you may need long-term medical treatment and a period of recovery before returning to work, which means lost wages. Aside from thinking about medical bills, you may have to face the mental anguish of your injuries, as well as the pain and suffering for your loved ones.
If your employer failed to follow OSHA guidelines, you are entitled to file for an injury settlement. Injury claims can cover medical treatment including visits to the doctor, rehabilitation, and physical therapy. A lawsuit can also help you seek compensation if your burn was caused by defective products.
Shea & Shea – A Professional Law Corporation of San Jose personal injury attorneys are here to help you recover compensation after a burn injury. Fill out our free case evaluation form or call us at (408) 292-2434 to schedule a consultation at our office. Just as burn cases present special demands on the courage and endurance of the victims and their families, they can present extraordinary difficulties for lawyers as well. Even where there is little question as to the liability of one or more defendants, the victim’s insurance might not be sufficient to cover basic medical expenses, some of which can last for years. In some cases, the plaintiff is too quick to accept what appears to be a generous early settlement offer, only to later discover that the amount accepted is insufficient to address the full range of treatment and rehabilitative needs in the years to come.
A Complex Legal Process
A successful burn injury lawsuit has three elements. First, you have to demonstrate that an entity (such as your employer) owed a “duty of care” – or was responsible for your well-being in some way. Secondly, you must prove that the negligent party breached this duty. Finally, you need to show that their negligence is directly responsible for your injury.
The legal process for proving a burn injury case might seem complicated, but in reality, burn injuries can happen anywhere. If your employer fails to provide protective welding gear, for example, your employer is responsible for any injury you suffer on the job. If you were in a severe car accident and suffered burns, the other driver or vehicle manufacturer could be at fault.
We Can Help As You Seek Maximum Compensation
At Shea & Shea – A Professional Law Corporation, we are committed to protecting you from the risk of:
- An underestimated claim
- Underdocumented future treatment needs
- Other overlooked elements of your total damages
We commit the resources necessary to make an accurate evaluation of your case and to identify your current and continuing needs as comprehensively as possible.
Our catastrophic injury attorneys represent burn injury victims in cases involving truck accidents, electrocution, construction site mishaps, unsafe consumer products, helicopter or plane crashes, and dangerous property conditions.
Start Taking Action — Call Our Firm Today
To schedule a free consultation about our approach to client service in severe burn injury litigation, call us today at (408) 292-2434. You can also contact our firm via email to arrange for an appointment.