When a fire occurs, it often leaves a trail of ashes and devastation, including serious burn injuries to its victims. Burn victims suffer painful, scarring, and disfiguring injuries, as well as the loss of property. Fire injuries are often emotional due to losses that include the home that was lived in, irreplaceable family photos and other memorabilia, heirlooms, beloved pets, and personal and important documents.
Bodily injuries resulting from a fire include burns that may be significant and deadly. These injuries may be caused by various types of fires, including thermal, chemical, radiation or electrical fires. In addition, a car accident, defective product or construction accident can cause these incidents as well.
A thermal burn is caused by a heat source. Thermal fires may be due to steam, hot metal, or scalding liquid and contact with any of these may cause a person to suffer from a serious, disfiguring, deadly burn. The high temperature of the thermal heat source is able to damage and kill skin cells.
Radiation burns are the result of exposure to radiation, including exposure to the ultraviolet rays of the sun or X-rays. A personal injury lawsuit may sometimes be filed when severe burns are the result of tanning in a salon.
The skin may be chemically burned when skin comes in contact with any of a number of sources, including acids, alkaline substances, solvents, or detergents. Electrical burns may be the result of contact with an electrical source, such as an alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).
Severity of Burns
Burns range in seriousness from first-degree to fourth-degree. A first-degree burn is known as a superficial burn. Superficial burns cause the skin to appear red and leave skin feeling painful and dry. First-degree burns do not cause blisters. Some common examples of first-degree burns include sunburns or burns from touching a hot pot on a stove.
Second-degree burns are known as “partial thickness” burns and are more severe than first-degree burns. Second-degree burns may lead to blisters or leave the skin appearing wet. These types of burns damage both the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of the skin, and the dermis, which is the layer beneath the epidermis. Second-degree burns may lead to scarring; first-degree burns typically do not cause scarring.
Third-degree burns are the most severe type of burn and are also known as “full thickness” burns. In a third-degree burn, both the epidermis and dermis skin layers are destroyed, causing the skin to look dry, leathery, white, or charred. Patients suffering from a third-degree burn will feel numb at the burn site because the nerve endings are destroyed. In some cases, the bones, muscles, and tendons beneath the dermis may be burned. When this occurs the damage is referred to as a fourth-degree burn.
Burns to be Treated at a Specialized Burn Unit
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) defines a burn as tissue damage that is caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, sunlight, or nuclear radiation. The most common burns are those caused by scalds, building fires, flammable liquids, and flammable gases. According to the American Burn Association (ABA), the following burn injuries must be treated at a specialized burn unit:
- All full-thickness burns
- Burns in patients who have a pre-existing medical condition that may make recovery difficult and burns in patients who require special care
- Burns with trauma injuries, including broken bones, and in which the burn injury is the most serious
- Burns to the face, hands, feet, groin, genital area, or major joints
- Chemical burns
- Children with burn injuries who are in hospitals that are not equipped to treat burns
- Electrical burns; one example, burns due to being struck by lightening
- Inhalation injuries
- Partial-thickness burns that cover 10 percent or more of the total body surface area (TBSA)
Damages in Negligence Claim
Injuries resulting from a fire may lead to substantial medical costs, including ambulance, hospital costs, doctor’s visits, surgery, and medication. In some cases, the injured may require physical rehabilitation. Some injuries may leave the injured so immobilized that a home nursing aide is required. These are the types of costs that may be recovered in a personal injury lawsuit.
Damages may also be sought for past and future lost wages if an injury occurs that causes the individual to be unable to continue working at his or her career. These damages are classified as economic damages as they reflect actual financial losses that may be calculated directly.
Pain and suffering is an example of non-economic damages, which are subjective. Non-economic damages include physical pain and suffering such as if the injury continues to cause physical pain for years following the accident. An injured victim may also seek damages for psychological damage, including mental anguish and emotional pain and suffering such as leading to loss of enjoyment in life. Lawsuits may, when available, also seek punitive damages, which are awarded to punish the defendant for egregious conduct.
Filing a Fire and Burn Injury
If you or someone you know was injured due to a fire or burn, please contact one of our personal injury attorneys today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, please call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).
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