Burn Injury Accident Law
Everything you as a victim need to know...
According to estimates from the American Burn Association, 486,000 people seek treatment for burn injuries each year in the United States. Burn injuries can range from small to catastrophic, but all burn injuries are extremely painful and typically require medical treatment.
DEGREES OF BURN INJURIES
First Degree Burns
These burns are usually superficial and affect only the epidermis, or the top layer of skin. The burn is usually red and painful but does not blister.
Second Degree Burns
These burns are more serious and involve part of the middle layer of skin, the dermis. The burn site may blister and is usually swollen and very painful.
Third Degree Burns
These burns are very serious and destroy both the epidermis and the dermis. These burns usually result in permanent scarring.
TREATMENT FOR BURN INJURIES
Burn injuries require specialized treatment, and someone who suffers severe burns will usually be transferred to a burn unit or a medical center that specializes in burn injuries. Depending on the severity of the burn, rehabilitation may take months to years. Numerous doctors and other medical professionals are often necessary to treat burns, including infectious disease doctors, plastic surgeons, psychiatrists, and physical and occupational therapists.
Some burn victims will require skin grafts. A skin graft is a surgical procedure where skin is taken from another source and then placed over the burn. There are several types of skin grafts. Some grafts use cadaver skin while other grafts use skin taken from another part of the burn victim’s body.
A keloid is a thick, raised scar that develops during the healing process. Keloid scars tighten the skin and can restrict movement. Keloid scar tissue can be surgically removed. Doctors also use steroids or silicone sheets to flatten the scar.
Infections and Sepsis
A burn victim often develops complications from infections, including sepsis. Sepsis is one of the major causes of death following a severe burn. Sepsis occurs when an infection triggers a chain reaction in the body, which then becomes a life-threatening emergency. According to the CDC, 270,000 Americans die each year as a result of sepsis, and 1/3 of the patients who die in a hospital have sepsis. With burn victims, sepsis can develop long after the burn itself occurs, as burn victims often require central lines, urinary catheters, and tracheal intubation, all of which put the patient at risk for developing sepsis.
Debridement is the removal of necrotic, or dead, skin. It can also be used to remove infected skin tissue. Removing this dead skin helps the wound heal faster.
DAMAGES FOR BURN INJURIES
Economic damages are ascertainable monetary amounts, including lost wages and medical bills. A burn victim often will not be able to return to work and therefore may be entitled to the loss of future wage-earning capacity for the remainder of the anticipated life expectancy. In addition, burn victims usually require medical treatment for the rest of their lives. To calculate the amount that this long-term care will cost, our firm may retain a specialist to prepare what is known as a “life care plan,” which is a plan that sets out medical and medically related care that will be needed over the remainder of the burn victim’s life.
Non-economic damages include items such as emotional distress, mental pain and suffering, physical pain and suffering, disfigurement, and humiliation. A burn injury can be life altering and traumatizing, and the law therefore permits a burn victim to recover for more than just medical bills and lost wages.
In some situations, a burn can result in death. In such a case, the deceased’s family members, or wrongful death beneficiaries, may be entitled to recover the medical bills as well as the funeral and burial costs. The deceased’s loved ones can also recover for their own damages due to the loss of love and society of the deceased person.
Punitive damages are damages that are meant to punish the wrongdoer as opposed to compensating the victim. Punitive damages are available only if it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant engaged in conduct with malice, oppression, or fraud.
CLAIMS FOR BURN INJURIES
A burn victim may be entitled to damages regardless of the underlying basis of a claim. Here are some examples of claims that attorneys at our firm have handled that resulted in severe burn injuries:
- Severe road rash to motorcycle driver after being hit by automobile on freeway
- Third degree burns and degloving injuries when skateboarder dragged underneath truck after being hit.
- Gas explosion in kitchen of home due to faulty installation
- Welding torch fire due to defect in torch
- Flammable children’s clothing ignited by candle
- Chemical burns to scalp and face from hairdresser’s improper use of hair dye
- Fireworks explosion due to inadequate supervision
- Failure to install smoke detectors at apartment complex
- Failure to have sufficient means to exit a building during a fire
TIME LIMITS FOR FILING CLAIMS FOR BURN INJURIES
In California, the statute of limitations for filing most claims is two (2) years from the date of the injury. If, however, the claim is against a state or local governmental entity, the deadline to provide notice of your claim may be as little as six (6) months. For this reason, if you believe you or someone close to you may have a claim for damages, you should contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
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