Burns are among the most excruciatingly painful, disfiguring, and emotionally devastating of all types of injuries. Some fires and other causes of burns are entirely accidental, for example, fires caused by lightning strikes. But in many cases, fires and the injuries they cause, along with other types of accidental burns, are preventable, the result of negligence, carelessness, and sometimes even deliberate acts of arson.
Every year approximately 486,000 people seek medical treatment for burn injuries, and 3,275 people die from fire-related injuries, including smoke inhalation, according to the most recent figures from the American Burn Association. One fire death occurs every two hours and 41 minutes (excluding fire fighters and emergency personnel).
Not all burns are caused by fires; in fact, fires are responsible for only about 43 percent of all burn injuries. Other causes are scalding (34 percent), contact with a hot surface (9 percent), electricity (4 percent), chemical contact (3 percent), and various other causes (7 percent).
How Burns Are Classified
Burns are classified in several ways.
By degree or depth:
- First degree or superficial burns, which affect only the outer layer of skin, the epidermis
- Second-degree burns, which involve both the epidermis and the dermis, the second layer of skin
- Third degree or full thickness burns, which destroy the epidermis, the dermis, and underlying tissues such as muscles, tendons, and bones
By surface area affected:
- Minor burns affect less than 10 percent of the body in an adult or less than 5 percent of the body of a child or elderly person. A full thickness burn is classified as minor if it affects less than 2 percent of the body.
- Moderate burns affect 10 to 20 percent of an adult’s body or 5 to 10 percent of a child or elder’s body. Full thickness burns are considered moderate if they affect 2 to 5 percent of the body’s surface.
- Major burns are those that affect more than 20 percent of an adult’s body surface or more than 10 percent of a child or elderly person’s body. Any full thickness burn that affects 5 percent or more of the body’s surface is considered a major burn.
Burn Injury Complications Can Be Deadly
Serious burns may reduce blood flow to the affected area, which can cause life-threatening complications:
- Infection (the complication causing the most deaths), including staphylococcal and streptococcal bacterial infections, and sometimes, fungal infections
- Sepsis, which is a massive immune response to bacterial infection that has entered the bloodstream
- Organ failure (often the result of sepsis)
- Shock, which occurs when organs receive too little oxygen and waste products accumulate
- Respiratory difficulties, often resulting from smoke inhalation, including tracheitis, bronchitis, alveoli injury, and pneumonia
- Gangrene, which is death and decomposition of an area of body tissue as a result of infection or loss of blood circulation
Serious Burn Injuries Often Cause a Lifetime of Suffering
Many burn injury survivors face months and even years of painful treatment, including debridement, skin grafting, and other surgeries. In addition to burns, many patients also suffer respiratory problems caused by smoke inhalation. More than 60 percent of those hospitalized with burn injuries are treated at burn centers, as most hospitals are not equipped to provide the intensive and highly specialized care these injuries require. Although these centers are saving the lives of more burn victims than at any other time in history, the lives many victims face after discharge are often of a diminished quality. In addition to chronic pain, or as a complication of it, sleep and mood disturbances are common, as is social isolation when burn scars are on parts of the body that are visible to others.
Physical, occupational, and psychological therapy is often needed to help burn victims adjust to their limitations and altered appearance. Even with the most up-to-date specialized treatments, serious burn injuries almost invariably leave unsightly scars and skin contractures. These disfigurements can be emotionally traumatizing, especially when they occur on the face or any area of the body not usually covered by clothing. Burn scars on any part of the body may cause the victim to feel self-conscious and reluctant to participate in intimate relationships or other activities that would show the disfigurement―swimming for example. Furthermore, a burn victim may never be able to return to work, because of physical impairments and/or emotional problems.
Your Right to Recover Compensation
If you or a close family member suffered a serious burn injury that was caused by someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or deliberate act, you have the right to make a legal claim to recover money in compensation for your damages. In addition to the pain and damage to your appearance, serious burns often cause permanent disability. You may never be able to return to your job, may not be able to handle day-to-day tasks or participate in the activities that once made your life worth living, and you may find that you avoid social situations. Caring for yourself and your family may be a major challenge.
Although no amount of money will ever be enough to make up for what you’ve lost if your burns are extensive, it can help you afford the treatment you need, including surgeries to improve the appearance of scars and improve function, along with the rehabilitative therapies that can help you learn the skills that will allow you to go on with your life. And it can provide you with the ability to support yourself and your family if you are not able to resume employment. You are entitled to claim compensation for your economic damages, including medical costs; lost earnings, benefits, and future earning potential; rehabilitation; assistive devices, and other costs associated with the injury that can be documented by producing receipts, bills, credit card statements, and employment records.
You are also able to demand compensation for your non-economic damages, which can be even more devastating than the financial costs to a burn victim. These are damages related to your quality of life, which are harder to quantify in dollar amounts. They include pain, suffering, disfigurement, emotional anguish, disability, loss of consortium, loss of enjoyment of life, and others.
In a few cases where the act that resulted in your burn injury was so horrific, so egregious, and so blatantly lacking in concern for human life, health, and well-being, a jury may award punitive damages, an additional amount of money intended to punish the behavior that led to your injury and to discourage future occurrences.
Getting the Legal Help You Need
Serious and catastrophic burn cases are difficult, complex, and often emotionally draining. You will need to engage the services of a personal injury attorney with experience pursuing high-value settlements and verdicts and a track record of successful recoveries. In the Baltimore area, you will find the top quality legal help you need when you contact Randolph Rice Injury Lawyers today. Randolph Rice is a practiced negotiator who can often settle difficult cases out of court; but when insurance companies for defendants balk at the large payouts required when injuries are severe, he is a highly skilled trial lawyer who will be fully prepared to present a meticulously prepared and persuasive case to a jury on your behalf.
Call the Baltimore personal injury attorney team of the Law Offices of Randolph Rice today to schedule a free case consultation. You have no upfront costs or out-of-pocket expenses, and will only pay us after we win money for you.