Many people do not realize that the skin is an organ. Not only that, but it is the largest organ of the body. Because it exists outside the body, where it is relatively unprotected, the skin is particularly prone to becoming injured. One of the most common and painful skin injuries is a burn. Another thing many people are not aware of is that there are different types of burns.
If you have suffered a burn due to someone else’s negligence, you can seek compensation for your injury’s economic and psychological costs through the personal injury claims process. An experienced Chicago burn injury attorney can tell you more about the services they can provide to assist you with your claim.
What Burn Injuries Can a Lawyer Help Me With?
According to Johns Hopkins, you can incur four burn injuries, including thermal, chemical, radiation, and electrical burns. A burn injury lawyer can help you recover compensation for all of them.
Here is a closer look at each burn type:
#1. Thermal Burns
As explained by the Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America, thermal burns occur from direct contact between the skin and hot water, steam, cooking grease, hot surfaces, or flames. Approximately 85 percent of all burn injuries that require medical attention are thermal burns.
Common negligence-based causes of thermal burns include:
- Motor vehicle accidents during which an individual’s skin comes in contact with hot surfaces or flames. Motorcycle accidents, in particular, commonly cause thermal burns due to a relatively unprotected gas tank on the vehicle that can rupture and start a fire during an accident.
- House fires or fires in hotels, restaurants, or stores resulting from faulty wiring or appliances or negligence involved with smoking or cooking.
- The handling and misuse of fireworks.
- Extremely hot beverages or other liquids served in stores or restaurants.
The medical treatment for thermal burns commonly involves procedures such as: cleaning the wound to remove any debris or bacteria; deriding the wound, which involves cutting away dead skin tissue to allow new tissue the best opportunity to grow; the administration of antibiotics to prevent infection of the wound; and IV fluids that are administered to the patient to alleviate fluid loss from the injury.
#2. Chemical Burns
A chemical burn, also known as a caustic burn, occurs when an individual’s skin comes in contact with dangerous chemicals.
- Metal cleaners
- Products used on the hair such as hair dye, permanent solution, or chemical hair relaxers
- Pool chlorinators
- Concrete mix
- Toilet bowl cleaners
- Products used to clean drains
- Battery acid
- Tooth whitening products
Regard all burns of this nature as medical emergencies necessitating evaluation and treatment by healthcare professionals.
The reasons include:
- Some substances do not mix well with water. For example, sulfuric acid causes the skin to get hot when mixed with water, worsening the injury. Lime can inflame the skin when combined with water.
- If left untreated, these burns can result in the chemical traveling through the skin, damaging internal structures.
- Ingestion or inhalation of chemicals can result in burns to the mouth, throat, or digestive tract. It can cause dangerous complications such as shortness of breath, swelling of the upper airway, low blood pressure, and nausea or vomiting. Chemicals in the eyes can result in permanent scarring and vision loss.
The most common sufferers of chemical burns include those who work with chemicals as a part of their job and young children who cannot understand the danger of the chemical. Chemical burns are also commonly experienced in motor vehicle accidents due to contact with any caustic chemicals used to make the vehicle run, including gasoline.
#3. Burns Caused by Radiation
Radiation can cause sunburn. While a mild sunburn doesn’t require medical treatment, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun can cause severe burns which may need treatment from a medical professional.
Radiation burns can also result from external beam radiation therapy used to treat cancer.
Burns caused by radiation therapy are a known side effect of the medical treatment. Generally, sufferers can continue to receive their treatment, and their medical provider can prescribe or recommend creams that will help alleviate symptoms such as itchiness.
Radiation burns carry a risk of infection, which requires immediate medical treatment. An infected radiation burn may smell foul or produce liquid oozing from a wound; wounds that look unusually red or become extremely red very quickly; or fever.
While radiation burns are a common side effect of radiation therapy, there are cases in which a doctor negligently failed to warn the patient of the risk of burns associated with therapy or failed to recognize and treat the symptoms of infection occurring from the injury. An experienced Chicago burn injury lawyer can help you determine if your injury could be the subject of a medical malpractice claim.
#4. Electrical Burns
Electrical burns occur when the body comes in contact with electricity. When an individual comes in contact with electricity, the current travels through the body, exiting somewhere else. Along its journey through the body, the electrical current can cause damage to internal organs. Because of this, like a chemical burn, an electrical burn should be evaluated by a healthcare professional, regardless of how serious the injury appears to be.
When an individual suffers an electrical burn that involves current running through the body, they commonly incur damage such as:
- An irregular heartbeat or an increased risk of suffering cardiac arrest.
- Kidney damage.
- Damage to the nervous system can cause an individual to pass out or lead to muscle weakness or impact their ability to see or hear.
- Damage to the muscles and bones. In some circumstances, damage caused by the electrical current can result in cells from the muscles leaking into the blood, resulting in a condition that causes further internal damage. Additionally, the burn can result in pressure build-up within the muscles.
Electrical burns are a common injury in the construction industry, where workers are regularly in contact with electric-powered tools, electrical lines, and other sources of electricity. Additionally, electrical burns can occur due to product defects with kitchen appliances or electronics. Other causes of electrical burns include lightning and stun guns.
Degrees of Burns
Burns are also classified in degrees depending on how deep they penetrate the skin’s surface. Here’s a closer look at each degree type:
- First-degree burns, also called superficial burns, only affect the outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis. First-degree burns are considered minor.
- Second-degree burns, sometimes called partial thickness burns, penetrate through the epidermis and partially into the next layer of the skin, called the dermis. Most second-degree burns don’t require medical care beyond at-home burn treatment.
- Third-degree burns are also called full-thickness burns. Third-degree burns destroy the epidermis and the dermis. Third-degree burns can cause charred skin and pain and should be treated by a healthcare professional.
- Fourth-degree burns are injuries that also damage bones, muscle tissue, or tendons. However, these burns are generally classified as third-degree burns. A fourth-degree burn is considered life-threatening and can have life-altering consequences.
What About Friction Burns?
Friction burns refer to skin damage caused by contact with a rough or hard surface. Although this burn is categorized by the same severity degrees as other burns, the injury is a skin abrasion rather than a skin burn. Most friction burns are minor, first-degree burns that only affect the outer layer of skin.
Road rash is a friction burn that commonly occurs in accidents involving motorcycles or bicycles in which the rider’s skin makes contact with the asphalt. These skidding friction burns can produce a very high degree of heat energy, and cause severe burns including third-degree burns.
Road rash can occur on any part of the body but is most commonly experienced on hard, bony areas such as hands, forearms, elbows, knees, and shins.
The medical treatment for friction burns often includes:
- Thoroughly cleansing the area to ensure there are no foreign objects such as pebbles or glass trapped in the wound.
- Controlling bleeding. Friction burns occurring to the face or head often bleed a lot due to the ample blood supply in this part of the body.
- Applying a dressing over the wound to promote healing and reduce the likelihood of scarring.
- Administering antibiotics, either in IV, pill, liquid, or cream form, to prevent infection.
Are All Types of Burns Treated the Same?
All burns require thorough cleansing to remove debris and bacteria from the wound. Regardless of the type of burn, most burn victims will also receive antibiotics to prevent infection. An infection is one of the most severe injury complications a burn victim can suffer and can even result in death if not properly addressed.
Electric burns will usually result in more diagnostic tests and potentially more treatment. They can damage the internal organs due to an electrical current traveling through the body.
A chemical burn can require a different type of cleaning to avoid a dangerous reaction between the chemical and water. Additionally, a chemical burn that occurs to the eyes or due to ingestion or inhalation will require treatment to repair or reduce the damage incurred by internal or eye exposure to the chemical.
How do Burn Injury Victims Prove Their Injury Resulted from Negligence?
Depending on the circumstances that resulted in your burn injury, you may be able to seek compensation for the costs and impacts of your burn injury through a personal injury claim with the help of an experienced Chicago burn injury lawyer.
Burn injury claims require burn victims or their family members to prove that they were either burned intentionally, such as through assault or attempted murder or that someone’s negligence caused them to incur the injury.
To prove that a person’s negligence (defined as careless or reckless behavior) caused your injury and therefore entitles you to compensation, you must show:
- The defendant had a duty to take reasonable actions to prevent injuries or property damage to others in a given circumstance.
- The defendant breached this duty of care through reckless or careless actions or the failure to act when required.
- The breach in the duty of care caused your injuries and resulted in expenses and psychological impacts.
An experienced burn injury attorney can help you prove liability in your claim by:
- Investigating the circumstances of your injury to determine liability insurance resources and to develop a value to your claim.
- Gathering evidence and witness testimony to prove your claim. Evidence that can establish liability in a burn injury claim includes police reports, fire department investigations, reports from medical providers who treated the injury, and previous complaints from others injured by a defective appliance or other product
The Prognosis for Those Suffering Burn Injuries
Advances in medical technology have reduced infection and have improved the outcomes of burn patients. Despite that, individuals at the highest risk of dying from their injury suffer burns over a higher percentage of their body, particularly those who suffer burns to their esophagus or lungs by inhaling smoke, chemicals, or steam.
Burn injuries often result in significant scarring, which can often be reduced or repaired through skin graft surgery. If your burn results in scarring, the compensation you seek for your injury can also include skin grafts to reduce scarring.
Still, burn patients may face multiple surgeries or reconstructive surgery, which can require a long recovery. These patients often face mounting medical expenses that are only exacerbated by lost wages due to their inability to return to work.
Burn Injury Caused by Someone Else? A Chicago Burn Injury Attorney Can Help You
Serious burn injuries can cost thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat and leave burn patients with significant emotional impacts. If someone else caused your injury, a burn injury lawyer could help you seek compensation for these expenses, plus the pain and suffering, and mental distress resulting from your injury. For your free case evaluation, contact one of our experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys today.