It is no secret that burn injuries can be dangerous, painful, and costly. With the ability to permanently alter an individual’s physical and mental health, it is imperative that individuals, employers, and business owners recognize the precautions necessary to prevent burn injuries. While some burn injuries result from disasters beyond anyone’s control, many are a consequence of negligence or irresponsibility.
The good news is that burn injury victims, depending on the circumstances, may not have to bear such a drastic financial burden on their own. Read on to learn more about burn injuries as well as associated costs, prevention, liability information, and legal options to explore.
What Is a Burn Injury?
A burn injury is a type of injury that causes damage to one or more layers of the skin. Severe burn injuries may even damage other body parts such as muscle or bone. There are four classifications of burn injuries:
- First-degree burns: These are the least catastrophic type of burn injury, as they only affect the outermost layer of the skin. People generally heal easily from these burns. The burn site may appear red or itchy, with no blisters. An example of a first-degree burn is the average sunburn. First-degree burns can be soothed with aloe and pain medication.
- Second-degree burns: In addition to impacting the outermost layer of the skin, second-degree burns affect a lower layer of the skin. Second-degree burns, such as severe sunburns, appear red, swollen, and blistered. A general practitioner may prescribe medicine or cream to soothe the pain.
- Third-degree burns: Third-degree burns damage the outermost layer and the lower layer of the skin beyond repair. Third-degree burns sometimes affect the innermost layer of the skin. Extensive treatments, such as skin grafts, are needed to repair third-degree and fourth-degree burns.
- Fourth-degree burns: These burns go through all layers of the skin and sometimes deeper tissue. Victims of fourth-degree burns do not have feeling in the area of their burn due to severe nerve damage.
Long-Term Effects of Burn Injuries
Burn injuries have been described as some of the most painful injuries people can endure. Damage from burn injuries can be extensive and varies based on the type of burn injury. In addition to damaging the skin and potentially causing scarring, burn injuries can cause lifelong effects on other areas of the body. Survivors of severe burn injuries could potentially face organ damage, muscle damage, and infection.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health, burn injuries are associated with pain and suffering conditions including chronic stress, depression, suicidal thoughts, and PTSD. Sadly, due to the urgency to treat the physical damage sustained from the burns, emotional concerns are oftentimes ignored or not treated adequately.
Financial Damage: What Is the Average Cost of a Burn Injury?
The average cost of a burn injury depends on a variety of factors, most importantly the severity of the burn and whether or not there are additional complications. The average price for a severe burn without complications is over $1.6 million dollars. Additional and common complications such as disfigurement, scarring, or infection add additional costs, anywhere from $16 thousand to $120 thousand, depending on the complication.
Preventing Burn Injuries: 5 Main Causes of Fire Accidents
Most burn injuries are caused by fires, and most fires occur in households. Sometimes the occurrence of a household fire is completely random, but sometimes one or more parties can be blamed. Everyone must do their part in order to prevent fires and make an effort to understand proactive measures to take against their most common causes. According to Safety Management, common causes of household fires include:
- Appliances and Technology: Common household devices such as stoves, heaters, drying machines, and even laptop computers are common culprits for house fires. In order to prevent certain appliances from catching fire, never leave kitchen appliances unattended while cooking, change the lint from your dryer with each use, and ensure that your equipment is up-to-date and running smoothly.
- Candles: Forgotten about or unattended candles are a leading cause of fire in households. Never leave a candle unattended or burning for an extended period of time.
- Holiday Decor: Holiday lights in particular are another main cause of household fires. Families who celebrate Christmas should remember to regularly water their Christmas trees to prevent them from drying out and catching fire from any lights.
- Electrical systems: It is recommended to have your home checked by a qualified electrician who can confirm that your home meets the requirements of the National Electric Code. Common signs of an electrical problem in your home include dim or flickering lights and buzzing from electrical outlets. Avoid overloading electrical outlets and only use extension cords temporarily.
- Smoking: Failing to properly dispose of cigarettes or ashes is a common cause of house fires. Before disposing of these, it is crucial to ensure that they are not lit. Falling asleep while smoking, and subsequently igniting furniture or clothing, is also a major concern.
Though household fires are extremely common, fires also frequently occur outside of the home. Other common locations in which burn injuries are commonly sustained include workplaces, automobile accidents on the road, and public areas such as nightclubs. Other types of common burns include chemical and electrical burns, as well as burns caused by scalding liquids.
Can I Sue For My Burn Injury?
It depends. Determining the source of fire accidents can often be complex, and determining culpability often requires help from certified experts and professionals. Types of entities who may be found at least partially responsible for burn injuries include third-parties related to an employer, businesses that have sold a defective product, and at-fault individuals such as negligent motorists and homeowners whose actions resulted in a fire. Here is more information about what could constitute a claim for each type of entity:
Employers and Third-party Lawsuits
- Employers: Generally, burn injuries sustained in California workplaces will result in workers’ compensation claims (no matter who was at fault) instead of personal injury claims against the employer. Certain exceptions to this rule may apply; for instance, if a workplace does not have Workers’ Compensation Insurance. For burn injuries sustained in the workplace, it is important to seek out a personal injury attorney skilled with workers’ compensation cases who will fight to see clients receive the maximum compensation.
- Third-party lawsuits: Although burn injury victims generally cannot file a lawsuit against their employer, they may seek claims against another person or corporation responsible for injuries sustained at work. This could include the manufacturer of a faulty product used in the workplace that contributed to the fire.
- Product manufacturers: Defective products can be extremely unsafe and prone to start fires. Examples of product liability cases involving burn injuries or fires include, but are not limited to, companies manufacturing automobile parts, clothing, space heaters, and toys.
- Restaurants and food service establishments: Foods or beverages served at a temperature above the required limit have been known to cause burn injuries. One jury awarded a woman almost $3 million after she suffered third-degree burns, subsequent skin grafts, and costly medical treatment after spilling McDonald’s hot coffee on her lap.
- Contracting businesses: If a home catches fire due to an issue such as faulty wiring, the contractor can be held responsible.
- Apartment complexes: A landlord’s failure to comply with fire safety regulations or address a known problem that resulted in a fire and subsequent burn injuries is grounds for a claim. Some landlords may suggest that they are not liable due to language in the lease, so it is important to contact a personal injury attorney to help you understand your rights.
Select Individuals (Motorists, Homeowners, etc.)
- Motorists: If you suffered a burn injury as a result of a car accident and the other driver was at fault, this person could be held liable for your burn injury.
- Homeowners: In order to make a sufficient premises liability claim, the Plaintiff must be able to prove that the homeowner could potentially foresee the accident occurring. If the accident could be expected and the homeowner does not warn guests, this makes for a stronger claim.
- General Negligence: Any act committed by a person that directly results in a burn injury can be grounds for a claim. For example, an individual who falls asleep while smoking a cigarette and causes a fire that results in the burn injury of another person can be held liable for that injury.
Choosing the Right Burn Injury Attorney
An experienced burn injury law firm can help victims during this difficult time. Individuals who have sustained serious burns as a result of another party’s negligence or irresponsibility deserve justice. Many victims are already overwhelmed from extreme emotional and physical distress before even considering the financial realities.
It can be difficult to prove liability for an accident resulting in a burn injury. A knowledgeable burn injury attorney can help you handle your case and reach the compensation you deserve. For over 30 years, we have advocated tirelessly for our clients, including victims of burn injuries. Contact us for a free consultation.