Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Burn Victims May Be Entitled To Compensation

Burns are a very common injury in the United States. The American Burn Association (ABA) estimates that approximately a half-million people are treated for burn injuries each year [1]. Of those total injuries, almost 40,000 require the burn victim to be admitted to either a hospital or burn center [2].
Similarly, 3,275 people died from fire and/or smoke inhalation in the same annual period in 2015 [3]. This number includes 2,745 deaths from residential home fires, 310 from fires caused by automobile crashes, and 220 from other sources (non- residential or automobile).
This statistic may sound high, or it may sound low, but the per-hour figure is still quite startling. One death occurs from a civilian fire every 2 hours and 41 minutes. The odds of a U.S. resident dying from exposure to fire, flames or smoke is 1 in 1442. That makes dying from smoke inhalation twice as likely as choking to death; and almost 10 times more likely than dying from a dog attack [4].
Fire deaths and inhalation deaths are combined into one statistic because deaths from thermal fire burns cannot always be distinguished from deaths due to the inhalation of toxic smoke.
What are burns?
Burns are one of the most common household injuries, especially among children. The term burn references more than just the burning sensation that most people associate with the injury. Burns are actually a physical event that are characterized by severe skin damage causing the affected skin cells to die.
Most people recover from burns without serious lasting health issues, depending on the cause and severity of the injury. More serious burns require immediate emergency medical care to prevent complications, serious debilitation, and even death [5].
Degrees of Burns
Burns are classified into different levels in order for medical practitioners—and other institutions like courts and insurance companies—to discern the severity of the injury. For the most part, burn injury degrees reference the depth of the burn into the layers of skin, but can also help to understand pain level, appearance, healing time, and scarring.
>      1st degree: First degree burns are considered superficial and only extends into the top of the skin (more accurately called the epidermis).
o   Skin is usually red and quite painful
o   Think: minor sunburn without blisters
o   Usually dry in appearance
o   Hospitalization is usually just for pain and not damage
o   Healing occurs in 3-5 days, as old skin peals away to reveal new skin

>      2nd degree: Second degree burns go beneath the top layer of skin and into the second layer (called the dermis). Blisters form as fluid builds up underneath the dead layer of epidermis. Second degree burns are divided into two categories based on depth:
Partial thickness
o   Blisters are normally visible
o   Involves both the epidermis and the dermis
o   Wound will be pink to red in color
o   Usually quite painful and appears wet
o   Should heal in 1 to 3 weeks without grafting, scarring is usually minimal
Full Thickness
o   Red or white in appearance, but will appear dry.
o   Destroys the entire epidermis and most of the dermis
o   Patient may have some sensation, but it’s diminished
o   Most likely needs excision and skin grafting to heal

>      3rd degree: Third degree burns extend completely through the dermis (second layer). These burns appear and may or may not have blisters. A third degree burn needs specialized treatment by a burn specialist. These burns may require surgery.
o   All layers of the epidermis and dermis are destroyed
o   Extends into the tissue under the skin
o   Areas can appear white, brown, cherry red, or black and will be dry
o   Can appear leathery in texture
o   No pain (which may be counterintuitive, but all the nerves that feel pain have been destroyed)

>      4th degree: Fourth degree burns are rarely used by the non-medical public, but it is very much a real medical term. Fourth degree burns involve mutilation that extends into the muscle and bone.
Causes of Serious Burn Injuries
Individuals may sustain burn injuries for a variety of different reasons, from a multitude of different sources. These reasons can be the result of an accident, negligence, or a defective product. There are several different agents that cause burns, such as, fire, heat, chemicals, electricity, or friction. Some of the more common causes of burns include:
>      Fires in a home, like a devastating house fire or even a simple candle.
>      Vehicle fires, often caused by damaged or defective parts.
>      Household chemicals such as cleaning agents or acids
>      Electric burns, commonly caused by defective household products
>      Fireworks, from misuse or defective assembly
>      Radiation, most commonly from sun exposure or tanning beds
>      Boiling or very hot liquids causing scalding, like boiling water or coffee
The most common cause of burns is from a fire or an open flame. The ABA estimates that fires/flames account for 43 percent of all burns [7].
Receiving Compensation for Your Burns
Burns can range anywhere between: a minor inconvenience from spending a little too long in the sun; to severe, debilitating damage to the whole body that will cause a lifetime of suffering. Burn victims who sustain their injuries as a result of someone else's negligence or a defective product, may be able to receive compensation. Holding those who are responsible for the damage is a perfectly logical step in the rebuilding process. Some of the common damages for which burn victims may recover include:
>      Medical Expenses
Burn victims are often required to seek medical attention, depending upon the severity of the burn they suffer. Burns not only affect the layers of skin (epidermis and dermis), but also the nerves, muscles, and even bones. Hospitalization may be necessary in order to help care for the burns and any potential complications that may arise in the affected areas. Third degree burns are often most at risk for complications, such as infections, blood loss, and shock, which are often the symptoms that could lead to death  
Depending on the cause of the burn(s), the victim may suffer collateral injuries such as smoke inhalation or poisoning. The extent of damage caused by the burn may also require that a burn victim enter rehabilitation in order to regain mobility and strengthen the affected areas.
The severity of burns can also leave the victim with physical deformities and outward reminders of the trauma. Reconstruction procedures, such as cosmetic surgery and skin grafting, may be necessary to restore some “normalcy” to the victim’s appearance. This is also important in order to help quell any psychological issues, which may be the result of the physical deformities caused by the burns. These procedures, hospital stays, and rehabilitative services are not cheap, and can add up fast.
>      Loss of Income
Hospitalization is expensive, not only because of the high costs of the stay itself. The expense of hospitalization can also extend to an individual’s inability to earn income. Serious burn victims who require hospitalization, may lose income as a result of their inability to work, run a small business, or pursue new clients while hospitalized. The severity of the burn can also result in a permanent disability. This may impair the victim’s ability to work and earn the same, or comparable, amount of income as before the injury. Thus, it is important to consider the implications of both current and future loss of income, meaning what income you may lose while in recovery, and also the income you may lose from not being able to work in the same career field or for the same company after recovery.
>      Pain and Suffering
Burns are often both physically and psychologically painful. Although many recover from the pain of their burns, it is possible to continue to feel pain in the affected area(s) for extended periods of time. This is often a result of nerve damage that goes beyond the initial pain while the injury is fresh.
Additionally, many burn victims may find themselves dealing with the emotional trauma caused by the burn. If the burn is in a conspicuous place, like on the face or neck, hand or arms, or anywhere that is often visible, victims may suffer emotional and psychological pain from the embarrassment, constant reminder of the trauma, or social rejection.
>      Punitive Damages
Depending on the cause of the victim’s burn, a court may require the offending party to pay additional damages, called punitive damages. This additional payout is awarded to help discourage the offender and others from repeating the act which caused the victim’s burns. This money is used to both deter similar, future behavior and punish the person who caused the injury.  This may be the case if the burns are due to arson, a drunk driving accident, or defective products the company was aware of.
Contact an Attorney
If you have been burned in a way that could have been prevented or from someone else’s negligence, you should contact an attorney to evaluate your case. Burns are serious injuries that may cause long-lasting or permanent injuries. You may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. We at the Dolman Law Group in Clearwater, Florida work tirelessly and zealously to advocate on behalf of our clients. We will evaluate your case for free in order to ensure that we can aggressively pursue all available claims, so that you will recover every compensation you deserve. Call us today at 727-451-6900 and schedule a free consultation.


Sources:
2.     Ibid.