According to the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), over two million burn injuries occur in the U.S. each year, and of those two million, approximately eight to ten thousand result in death. Burn injuries can occur on the job, in the home, or during leisure activities. Burn injuries occur due to a number of causes and vary in severity.
Types of Burns
There are four main sources of burns:
- Thermal burns: caused by contact with flames, steam, hot water (or other hot liquids), and other sources of intense heat
- Light burns: caused by contact with sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet light
- Chemical burns: caused by contact with an acid or an alkali
- Radiation burns: caused by contact with nuclear radiation or ultraviolet light
Thermal burns often result from household (particularly kitchen) accidents, fires, and auto accidents. These types of burns are caused by contact with a hot substance, including flame, hot water, steam, dry heat, and heated objects. Exposure to these heat sources can cause blistering and scarring of the skin, inhalation injuries, and other damage.
A chemical burn results from a strong acid or base coming into contact with the skin. Common sources of acids and bases include bleach, ammonia, and other household cleaners (for example, toilet bowl, drain, swimming pool, oven, rust, and metal cleaners). The extent of the injury depends on how long the skin was in contact with the acid and which part of the body was affected.
Electrical burns are a common workplace injury, occurring in construction sites, offices, restaurants, agricultural sites, and other places of employment. Electrical burns occur when an electrical current comes into contact with the body; for example, when an appliance is dropped in water, when a child chews on an electrical cord, or when an object is inserted into an outlet or electrical appliance. The degree of injury depends on the type of current, the voltage, and the pathway the current takes through the body.
Prolonged exposure to radiation can cause burn damage. Sunburns are the most common type of radiation burn. Alternatively, X-rays and radiation therapy can also cause injury, in which case the patient may be eligible to file medical malpractice charges. Radiation burns can cause redness and, potentially, cancerous growths and internal damage.
Types of Burn Injuries
While the cause of a burn and whether it be thermal, chemical, or electrical, is important in determining how to treat the injury, it is also important to know the severity of the burn. The extent of damage depends on the surface area and depth of tissue affected. Burn injuries are categorized as first, second, and third-degree burns, with third-degree burns being the most severe.
First Degree Burns
First degree burns damage the outer layer of skin and will usually heal in a few days. These are the least painful, yet most common types of burns. Sunburns are the most frequent causes of first degree burns.
Second Degree Burns
In a second degree burn, the first layer of skin is burned through, and the second layer is affected but not completely destroyed. A second-degree burn is considered “minor” if less than 15 percent of the body is burned.
Third Degree Burns
Third-degree burns damage all layers of the skin, and sometimes the blood vessels and muscles as well, often leaving the skin charred black with white patches. These types of burns can be very painful, although, in severe cases, the nerve endings may be numbed.
Depending on the severity of the burn, the muscles, bones, nerves, blood vessels, and respiratory system may be damaged, harming the body’s fluid/electrolyte balance, body temperature, joint function, and dexterity. Burn injuries almost always leave visible scarring, which can cause a great emotional and psychological burden. Most individuals who survive a fire suffer inhalation injuries from breathing in heat, smoke, and toxic gasses.
Who Can File a Lawsuit?
Anyone who is burned as a direct result of another party’s negligence or intentional wrongdoing can file a burn injury lawsuit. However, while burn victims are entitled to compensatory damages for medical expenses, pain, and suffering, there are several things to consider when deciding whether or not to press charges. Charges must be filed within the statute of limitations, and the injured should make sure that he or she has a case before starting the legal process. An experienced burn injury lawyer can determine whether you have a case, and help you file your lawsuit before the filing deadline.
Hiring an Attorney
If you or a member of your family has suffered a severe burn injury as a result of another party's negligent or reckless actions, a personal injury attorney can help. It may be possible to recover compensation from the person responsible for the injury if it can be shown that he or she acted negligently or with a wanton disregard for the safety of others. It is important to seek legal counsel from an experienced and aggressive personal injury attorney if you have suffered a severe burn injury, as filing a lawsuit can be a trying and complicated process. A burn injury lawyer can provide you with invaluable leverage and the resources you need to obtain the full measure of compensation to which you are entitled.
How a Burn Injury Lawyer Can Help
Bringing a burn injury case to a successful resolution requires diligence and an intimate familiarity with personal injury law. A knowledgeable and skilled attorney can provide you with the tools that you need to obtain the compensation you deserve and help to ensure that your rights are upheld in court. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to compensation for medical costs, rehabilitation costs, inhibited earning capacity, loss of wages (including future wages), pain and suffering, and, if the defendant's actions were egregiously wrongful, punitive damages.
Burn Injury Statute of Limitations
A burn injury lawsuit must be filed within a certain amount of time after the injury occurred. Once this time limit, or statute of limitations, has passed, burn victims are ineligible for filing a lawsuit. Since the statute of limitations varies state to state, it is important to speak with an attorney as soon as possible after your injury to make sure you meet the deadline.
If you have suffered a burn injury, you have a limited amount of time to file a lawsuit. The time limit, or statute of limitations, depends on the type of claim you are filing; the time limit for a product defect claim may differ from that for a negligence claim. The particulars of your case may also bear upon the time frame in which you must file charges. Hiring an experienced burn injury attorney is generally the best way to make sure all these factors are accounted for.
If another party’s negligence caused the event that resulted in your burn injury, you can file a lawsuit against that party. The statute of limitations for negligence-related burn injury lawsuits varies state to state and can range anywhere from six months to two years.
Persons injured by a defective product can file charges against the parties responsible for creating, distributing, and selling the product. The statute of limitations for product liability burn injuries may be one year, less, or more, depending on state law. It may begin when the injury occurred, or when the plaintiff has knowledge of the injury and suspects wrongdoing.
For persons who suffer the tragic loss of a loved one because of burn injuries, there is a wrongful death statute of limitations that must be met. Depending on state laws, the statute may begin at the time of death, or at the time the injury occurred. The statute of limitations may also vary if the victim was a minor.
Proving Fault in Burn Injury Cases
A burn injury can occur as a result of workplace accidents, incidences of product malfunction, and accidents caused by unsafe premises. How and where the burn injury occurred will be important in determining and proving who was at fault for the injury. A talented burn injury lawyer can analyze the circumstances surrounding your case to determine whether you are eligible to press charges for negligence or product liability.
Factors Involved in Awarding Damages
The severity of the injuries and who was at fault for the accident will affect the amount of compensation a burn victim receives.
The Severity of the Burn Injury
Burn injury victims are entitled to compensation for their medical bills, pain, and suffering. Depending on the severity of the injuries, short- and long-term medical costs may include prolonged or ongoing medical treatment such as skin grafting, reconstructive surgery, infection control, rehabilitative therapy, and psychological counseling.
In the worst case scenario, a life is lost because of a burn injury. When this happens, the family of the deceased may be able to pursue a wrongful death case to obtain compensation for their financial losses.
Who Is at Fault for the Injury
A victim’s settlement depends largely on who was at fault for the burn injury. Another party may be completely liable, or the victim may be partially at fault. Responsibility for compensating the victim may be reduced or split among several parties accordingly.
Employees who sustain a work-related burn injury are entitled to workers’ compensation for their injuries. (Since some states also prohibit employees who receive workers’ compensation from pursuing additional recompense through any other legal action against the employer, it is best to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer before accepting this form of payment.)
In most states, this includes payment for:
- Medical expenses
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Death benefits and reasonable burial expenses, in cases of wrongful death
Speak to a Burn Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury due to someone else's negligence, you are encouraged to contact a burn injury attorney for more information.