Corpus Christi Burn Injury Law Firm
Burns are a common occurrence. They can happen when you bite into a piece of pizza straight out of the oven or when you stay out in the sun a little too long. These types of burns may cause short-term pain, but overall, they’re nothing to worry about. This is not the case when it comes to serious burns. Third-degree burns, and sometimes second-degree burns, can have life-threatening consequences. They can cause significant pain and interfere with your day-to-day life.
When burns happen as a result of someone else’s negligence, it can be difficult to comprehend. When they are caused by someone we should trust to pay proper attention and exercise adequate care, like another motorist, it’s even harder to understand. If you recently suffered a burn injury, contact The Patel Firm PLLC, for information about your legal rights. A personal injury lawyer will help guide you through your specific legal process on the path to recovery.
How Do These Injuries Happen?
We often associate burns with fire, but these injuries can happen any time the skin comes in contact with a hot surface or corrosive substance. The rate of burn injuries is astonishingly high. According to the National Burn Association, unintentional fires or burns were the fifth leading cause of injury deaths in the United States in 2015. When it comes to young children, the rate is even higher. Common causes for burn injuries include:
- Motor vehicle accidents: In 2018 there were over 3,600 motor vehicle fatalities in Texas. Burns can occur when the accident causes a fire or a part of the body comes in contact with a hot surface. Nationwide, vehicle fires account for 13 percent of all fire-related deaths.
- Workplace accidents: According to OSHA, 8 percent of all burn injuries happen at the workplace. The most common types of on-the-job burns are thermal, electrical, and chemical burns.
- Foodservice-related burns: Restaurants and other foodservice businesses have a duty to serve hot foods at an appropriate temperature. But if the food or drink is too hot it can scald or injure the recipient.
- Apartment complex fires: House fires account for the majority of fires in the United States. This includes apartment complexes. While an apartment owner cannot predict whether a fire or accident will occur, they are responsible for ensuring that residents live in a safe home. If the electrical or fire system is not up to code or properly maintained, the complex owner may be responsible for any injuries.
- Product defects: Appliances, electronics, and even toys can cause serious injuries when they malfunction. In 2016, Samsung recalled millions of phones when users discovered that the phone’s battery could overheat and explode.
Understanding the Different Types of Burns
There’s a big difference between a burn that happens when you burn yourself on the curling iron and one that happens as the result of a fire. Doctors use a scale of degrees to classify the severity of a burn. Let’s take a closer look:
- First degree burns: First-degree burns are minor injuries. A first-degree burn results in red skin and pain to the touch. This type of burn usually does not require medical treatment and will heal within a few weeks.
- Second-degree burns: Second-degree burns affect the epidermis (the outer layer of skin) as well as the dermis (the inner layer of skin). These burns are more painful than first-degree burns and will usually result in blisters at the site of the burn. Depending on the severity and location of the burn, this type of burn may or may not require medical treatment.
- Third-degree burns: Third-degree burns are the most severe type of burns. In addition to affecting the dermis and epidermis, third-degree burns can affect the underlying bones or muscle tissue as well. Third-degree burns require immediate medical attention and will result in permanent scarring.
Aside from medical classifications, burns are also classified by their primary heat source. An electrical burn is not the same as a chemical burn. The most common types of burns include:
- Thermal: Thermal burns are the result of an external heat source. Most burns are thermal burns. This type of injury includes burns from fires, hot steam, hot surfaces, or hot liquids.
- Chemical: Chemical burns happen when the skin or eyes come in contact with a toxic substance. If ingested, the chemical can cause internal burns as well. Common chemicals that can cause burns include battery acid, bleach, fertilizer, and pool chemicals.
- Electrical: Electrical burns occur when the body comes in contact with an electrical current. This current may come from an electrical outlet, faulty wiring, a downed powerline, or lightning.
- Radiation: Radiation burns are caused by UV rays. The most common type of radiation burn is a sunburn. Radiation burns can also occur during cancer treatment. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America reports that 85 percent of cancer patients will experience radiation burns during their course of treatment.
Burn Injury Complications
Burns alone are serious and painful injuries. But serious burns can lead to additional medical complications. These complications can require long-term hospital stays or result in permanent disability. Common medical complications include:
- Scarring: Scars are the most common complication of a burn. To a burn victim, they can be a constant reminder of their injury. Most scars are permanent. In the case of a severe burn, a doctor may be able to reduce the size and appearance of scars through laser treatment or reconstructive surgery.
- Infection: The skin helps keep out bacteria and other dangerous substances. When the skin is burned, this protective barrier is damaged. A recent study found that invasive infection is the leading cause of death after a burn injury.
- Nerve damage: Our nerves send signals from one part of our body to another. They allow us to sense through touch, recognize pain, and move around. Third-degree burns can cause damage to the underlying nerves. When this happens, you may experience numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness.
- Mobility issues: Mobility issues can occur when the burn affects the bone or muscle. If this is the case, a doctor may suggest amputation or reconstructive surgery.
- PTSD: Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health effect that occurs after a traumatic event. Victims may experience nightmares, anxiety, headaches, guilt, or other mental or physical symptoms.
Recovering From a Burn Injury
The course of treatment after a burn will depend on the type of burn and its location. Minor injuries can be treated with antibiotic ointment and pain medication. Serious injuries require a more extensive treatment plan. While the exact treatment will vary from case to case, common procedures for treating serious burns include:
- Skin grafts: During a skin graft procedure, the doctor will take a healthy piece of skin from one place on the victim’s body (usually their buttocks or thigh) and use it to replace the damaged skin. For full-thickness grafts, the procedure will require a larger donor area, such as the abdomen or forearm. Skin grafts typically take 3 to 4 weeks to heal.
- Plastic surgery: Plastic surgery can help reduce pain, improve appearance, and increase mobility. In addition to skin grafts, plastic surgeons perform scar removal treatment, nerve decompression, and reconstructive surgery.
- Breathing assistance: Burns that affect the face, throat, or chest can affect the victim’s ability to breathe. When this happens, the victim may need reconstructive surgery to open up their airways to allow them to breathe. The doctor may also insert a tube down their throat to make it easier to breathe.
- Physical therapy: There are many reasons why physical therapy may be necessary after a burn injury. When the burn affects the muscles and nerves, it may affect the victim’s ability to walk or lift objects. Even if the bone and muscle are not affected, tightened skin may make it difficult to move. A victim who is required to be on prolonged bed rest may notice diminished muscle function as well as physical stamina. Physical therapy can help increase mobility, while at the same time, making sure the victim doesn’t push their recovery too quickly.
- Psychiatric therapy: Burn injuries can cause severe mental distress. In addition to experiencing PTSD symptoms as a result of the injury, burn victims often find it difficult to cope with their new scars. This is especially true when the burns are on their face or another obvious location. A therapist may recommend regular therapy sessions and/or medication to assist the victim in managing these difficulties.
Serious burns can take months, and sometimes years to heal. They can require extended hospital stays, numerous surgeries, and painful rehabilitation. The cost of a burn injury can easily surpass $100,000. An experienced personal injury attorney can help a burn victim recover costs associated with their injury and recovery. Common damages recoverable in a burn injury case include:
Economic damages are those damages that come with a quantifiable dollar amount. In other words, these are damages for which the cost can be easily and definitively determined. This type of damages includes:
- Medical bills: Medical bills are often the most expensive cost in a personal injury case. Generally, your attorney will work with your doctors to defer your costs until the end of your case, at which point, your attorney will pay your costs out of your court award or settlement. Covered costs include medical transportation, doctor visits, surgeries, hospital stays, medication, rehabilitation, and other necessary medical treatment.
- Lost wages: If you are unable to return to work, lost wages can help you recover lost income. Eligible expenses include time missed as a direct result of your injury, including rehabilitation time. If you are unable to return to work or are only able to work in a limited capacity, you may have a claim for future earnings or lost earning capacity.
- Home modifications: Serious burns can limit your mobility. When this happens, you may need assistive devices or equipment to help you get around. In many cases, this will require making modifications to your home. Examples of covered costs include ramps, handrails, stairlifts, and other accessibility devices.
Non-economic damages are those that you can’t easily put a price on. They are costs that vary from person to person, based on an individual’s circumstances. Common damages include:
- Pain and suffering: Burns are painful. This pain can last for months and may have permanent lingering effects. It’s not easy to put a dollar amount on pain, but insurance adjusters or a jury will usually consider the severity of your pain as well as how long the pain is expected to last and how much it interferes with your life.
- Mental distress: It’s not uncommon to experience anxiety, depression, or other PTSD symptoms after an accident. When this happens, these symptoms can seriously affect your quality of life.
- Loss of consortium: Loss of consortium is a claim made by the victim’s family. The term refers to the victim’s inability to participate in their family relationships the way they were able to before the injury. This may include loss of companionship, loss of affection, or the loss of a sexual relationship.
- Wrongful death: Burn injuries are typically the result of serious accidents. While advances in medical technology have improved the survival rate for burn injuries in recent decades, serious burns and subsequent infections can lead to fatalities. A wrongful death claim will not bring back your loved one, but it can help you recover costs associated with their medical care, funeral and burial expenses, and lost wages.
The Patel Firm PLLC, Helping Victims and Their Families
At the Patel Firm PLLC, we understand that burn injuries are not just about the physical injury. These types of injuries can have a long-term effect on a victim and their family, emotionally, mentally, and financially. Recovering from an accident can be painful and confusing. This is a time where you want an experienced advocate who can stand up for your rights and make sure that you get the care you deserve. If you or a loved one has suffered a burn because of someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible for compensation. To learn more about your legal rights, contact The Patel Firm PLLC at (361) 400-2036 for a free case evaluation.