An experienced personal injury lawyer will tell you that burn injuries are often the most devastating injuries for families. Complications of burning include smoke inhalation, infection, shock, scarring, pain syndromes, and emotional distress.
Burn injuries occur in a number of limited contexts, including house fires, car fires after an automobile or truck crash, chemical burns, explosions and work-related burns. There are also a number of scenarios in the hospital setting where burns can occur. The use of electrocautery can cause burns when a surgeon is careless with the placement of the electrocautery instrument. Likewise, flash fires can occur in the hospital setting when oxygen is ignited. Finally, gas canisters can inflict an ice burn that results in damage similar to a heat-related wound.
Motor vehicle fires are less common today due to design improvements in fuel tanks and the overall crashworthiness of vehicles. However, with increased speed limits, distracted driving, increased alcohol consumption and increased traffic from massive semi-tractor trailer rigs, the possibility remains.
Most burns are thermal burns that happen as a result of fire, steam, hot water or other heated liquid. Thermal burns damage the exterior first. But some burns occur as a result of an electrical source. These can result in exit wounds, loss of limb and/or serious damage to internal organs. Likewise, chemical burns can result in significant damage to exterior skin, but also the lungs when inhaled or the eyes resulting in blindness.
Burn severity is rated in degrees from first to the sixth degree. First-degree burns are superficial. Fifth and sixth-degree burns result in death. Fourth-degree burns result in significant organ damage, often resulting in amputation. The total burn surface area (TBSA) categorizes the body into nine parts to determine the percentage of the body that suffered a burn.
These injuries are not only physically disfiguring and disabling, but the emotional trauma from burns can be disabling as well. Unfortunately, many states have caps on damages put into place by legislators favoring big-money special interests. In those cases, the compensation that is available for pain, suffering and emotional anguish may be capped. When a burn injury happens in the workplace, the injured worker may be barred by the applicable State’s workers’ compensation laws from pursuing a personal injury claim. There are a number of exceptions to this rule that must be explored.
Due to caps on noneconomic damages, it is important to capture all of the economic damages caused by burn injuries, including loss of earning capacity, loss of benefits, loss of household services, future costs of medical and hospital care and the cost of modifying physical environments to accommodate the disabled burn victim. It is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer in Cleveland, OH if you experience such a tragic injury.
Thanks to Mishkind & Kulwicki for their insight into personal injury claims and burn injuries.