Every year, there are around two million reported burn victims in the United States. Of these, about 300,000 will suffer a serious injury, and many burn victims will die of their burn wounds or complications associated with their injuries, such as infection. For those burn victims who survive, the physical and emotional damage can be crippling. In many cases, the injuries sustained by burn victims occurred because of the fault or neglect of another party, or because of a malfunctioning product (such as a space heater or electric blanket). Burn victims and their families may be entitled to financial compensation for losses including medical bills, lost wages, and mental anguish.
Burn Injuries to the Skin
The most common (and probably most well-known) types of burn injuries are skin burns. Ranging in severity from mild first-degree burns such as sunburns to the more serious third-degree burns, skin burns can lead to discomfort, infection, shock, scarring, and even death. The source of skin burns can be thermal, electrical, or chemical; with thermal the most frequently reported cause of burn injuries to the skin. Depending upon the severity and extent of their skin burns, victims may require long-term medical care, rehabilitation, multiple surgeries, and psychological treatment. People suffering from skin burns that occur through the fault or negligence of another should be able to hold the negligent party responsible for the costs of treating the burns.
Skin burns are rated according to the extent of the damage done to the skin tissue:
- First degree – usually affects only the outer layer of skin (epidermis). First-degree skin burns tend to be moist, red in color, and very painful. There are usually no blisters and they often heal within seven days. The most common type of first-degree skin burn is sunburn.
- Second-degree – skin burns classified as second-degree burns are either superficial (involving the outermost layer of the dermis-the skin tissue just below the epidermis) or deep (skin burns penetrating more deeply into the dermis). Superficial second-degree skin burns are moist and pinkish in color and produce red blanches when pressed. These burns should heal spontaneously within a week or two. Deep second-degree skin burns are dry and whitish in color, and will not produce red blanches with pressure. These skin burns will usually take three or four weeks on average to heal and may leave thick scars.
- Third-degree – these are the most serious types of skin burns, destroying the epidermal and dermal layers of skin and extending into subcutaneous tissue. These types of skin burns appear charred and leather-like. Ironically, third-degree burns are often less physically painful, due to extensive nerve damage.
In the case of the most serious type of skin burns, third-degree burns, the burn victims often lose a lot of fluids, may experience shock, and are very vulnerable to infection. Treatment of third-degree skin burns can require debridement, or scrubbing out of dead tissue, to prevent infection, frequent changes of dressings, skin grafts, and pressure bandages. The pressure bandages help prevent excessive or thick scarring, encouraging the tissue to grow over skin burns more or less evenly, without becoming lumpy or restricting mobility of the joints.
Skin burns require vigilance to prevent infections, minimize scarring and optimize healing. The level of care needed for people suffering from skin burns can require a full team of medical professionals, long-term stays in hospital centers specializing in the treatment of skin burns, and rehabilitation through physical therapy and psychological counseling. All of this adds up very quickly-serious skin burns are among the most expensive injuries to treat, especially over the long term. Persons suffering from severe skin burns are also usually unable to perform job-related tasks, at least for a period of time.
If another party or individual is responsible for causing or contributing to the skin burns, then that party can generally be held financially liable for the associated costs, including medical bills, lost wages, and mental anguish. In cases of skin burns resulting from gross negligence or malice, juries may award punitive damages to discourage irresponsible behavior in others. If you or someone you love has suffered skin burns due to the fault of another, contact an attorney who has experience representing victims of skin burns to present the facts of your case.
Medical professionals agreed that burn victims suffer some of the greatest pain of any injured parties, due to the nature of the injuries and the way in which the wounds must be treated. Burn victims must have their wounds scrubbed out once or twice a day to prevent infection, a process most finds excruciatingly painful. Depending upon the severity of their burns, burn victims may also require surgical skin grafts, where either artificial skin or tissue from cadavers is used to replace severely damaged or missing tissue. Young burn victims may undergo several of these processes over the years because skin grafts are not able to grow and so must be replaced with larger grafts as the child grows up. Some of the injuries sustained by burn victims are very difficult to treat, such as respiratory damage or other internal injuries, and many can lead to chronic problems.
Treatment Burn Victims
It takes an enormous amount of time and money to treat burn victims who have serious injuries. Additionally, the families and loved ones of burn victims may have to aid in the care and recuperation of the injured parties, in many cases, taking time off from or quitting work to assist in rehabilitation. For burn victims whose injuries are found to be the fault of another, compensation is due from the party responsible for the damages. Funds that can be recovered by burn victims include lost wages (their own and those of loved ones who have had to quit work to help in their care), cost of medical care and hospitalization, physical therapy, etc., both past and as projected for the future care of the burn victims, compensation for mental anguish and pain and suffering, and in many cases, punitive damages.
Cost of Burn Injuries
Since Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, death by fire was a way to punish one’s worst enemies. All of us know the pain involved from only minor first-degree burns, such as touching a hot pipe on a lawnmower or spilling hot chocolate. But when the burns are not simple first-degree burns, the complications and emotional suffering often radically alter a victim’s life and the economic consequences for expensive medical care are huge.
We have represented burn victims and their families in wrongful death cases, from explosions, apartment and house fires, electrocutions, fires from auto accidents (against auto manufacturers and others), scalding from hot water, and chemical burns. In the instances where our victim survived, we have seen the costs of burn treatment such as skin grafts run from seventy thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Often the emotional trauma alone that comes with very bad burns requires years of expensive treatment. In some cases, a life care planner is used to forecast the future costs of medical care for the burn victim.
Burn victims and their loved ones are entitled to attempt recovery of funds associated with their injuries. A burn injury attorney who has experience representing burn victims can offer invaluable advice and help you to make important legal decisions that will secure the future of yourself and those you love. If you or a loved one is a burn victim and seeking options for medical care, seek legal advice from a burn injury attorney.