An estimated 450,000 burn injuries occur each year in the U.S. that require medical treatment, including 40,000 that involve hospitalization, according to the American Burn Association. In many of these cases, the victims’ burn injuries resulted from the negligent or reckless conduct of another. Contact our Albany personal injury law firm today.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, our burn injury attorneys understand how a serious burn injury can drastically alter the life of a victim and his or her family. Since 1987, our law firm has been committed to doing all we can to help burn injury victims in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and New York State to recover and move on in their lives.
If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury due to another’s wrongful conduct, we invite you to contact our firm for a review of your case. We believe it’s important for you to have a full understanding of your legal rights and the options that may be available to you for seeking just compensation.
- 1 Why Do Burn Injuries Occur?
- 2 Degrees of Burn Injury
- 3 What Are the Consequences of Burn Injuries?
- 4 Types of Burn Injuries
- 5 Treatment and Costs of Burn Injuries
- 6 Contact Our Albany Burn Injury Lawyer
Why Do Burn Injuries Occur?
Burns can be caused by contact with thermal, electrical, radiant and chemical sources. These injuries commonly result from:
- Residential fires – An individual may carelessly leave on a stove or neglect a lit item such as a candle or cigarette, leading to a fire in a home or apartment. In some cases, a fire may be caused by faulty electrical wiring. Smoke alarms and escape routes should be provided by landlords. Those involved in residential fires may also be harmed by smoke inhalation.
- Motor vehicle accidents – Motorists may suffer burns from fires caused by the impact of a crash. In some vehicles, a flawed design may trigger a gas tank explosion. Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians may suffer friction burns in a collision with a car or truck.
- Workplace accidents – Those who work in manufacturing or construction face an increased risk of suffering burn injuries due to exposure to flames, chemicals, electricity or radiation. New York employees who suffer burn injuries in workplace accidents are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. If someone other than an employer or co-worker is responsible, the employee may also pursue a personal injury claim. New York labor law provides an additional option for recovery if the burn happened to a worker at a construction site.
- Medical malpractice – Patients and hospital staff may suffer burns due to improperly used medical equipment, including electrical stimulation devices or radiation equipment. Doctors, nurses, hospital staff or the medical facility may be held responsible. The mistreatment of a burn injury patient may also constitute medical malpractice.
- Defective products – Defectively designed or manufactured products can cause individuals to suffer burn injuries, including defective household appliances, propane gas grills, space heaters and motor vehicles. In some cases, a product may be defective because it easily catches fire or is not flame-resistant as advertised. The manufacturer and others in the distribution chain may be held liable for the harm caused.
When reviewing your case, an attorney from Powers & Santola, LLP, can look to police accident reports, fire department investigation results, work accident reports, medical records and other sources to determine the cause of your burn injury and whether someone should be held responsible for your losses. It will also be important for our firm to conduct an independent investigation and consult with our highly qualified fire and burn injury experts.
Degrees of Burn Injury
A burn injury may lead to extensive medical treatment and prevent one from being able to work for a prolonged period – if at all. The injury may also cause significant pain and suffering as well as emotional distress.
The extent of physical, mental and financial harm will depend on the severity, or degree, of the burn injury. Generally, burn injuries fall into four categories:
- First-Degree Burns – First-degree burns are also known as “superficial” burns. These burns involve slight damage to the outer layer of the skin, or epidermis. The impacted area may appear red and dry or turn white when pressed. Even though the injury may be painful, a first-degree burn is the least severe type of burn. It typically heals in a short amount of time and does not leave any scars.
- Second-Degree Burns – Second-degree burns are referred to as either “superficial partial thickness” or “deep partial thickness” burns. These burns penetrate the second layer of skin tissue, or dermis. These burns typically are marked by red or yellow discoloration, swelling and blisters.If the burn extends to the superficial dermis, it may be extremely painful. Even though the burn itself may take only a few weeks to heal and not result in scarring, the burn may lead to complications such as cellulitis, which is a type of bacterial skin infection. If the burn reaches deeper, it could lead to contractures. This is the tightening of skin, muscle and other soft tissue that restricts movement. The burn is likely to result in scarring. Recovery may take several weeks or months. The victim may require debridement (removal of dead tissue) or a skin graft (replacement of damaged skin with skin taken from another part of the body).
- Third-Degree Burns – Third-degree burns are commonly called “full thickness” burns. With these burns, the damage reaches the level of fat under the dermis. The impacted area may appear white, stiff and/or leathery. Because the nerves in the burned area have been destroyed, the victim may experience numbness instead of pain.One who suffers a third-degree burn will have a long road to recovery. The injury commonly will require a skin graft. A decision may also need to be made on whether to amputate a severely burned limb or extremity. Undergoing an amputation can be a traumatic experience, and the aftermath will involve extensive therapy and rehabilitation. However, in many burn injury cases, an amputation may be needed to prevent infection and save the victim’s life.
- Fourth-Degree Burns – A fourth-degree burn is a potentially fatal injury. This occurs when the damage reaches into muscle, tendons and bones. The victim’s skin may have a blackened or charred appearance. Because of the extensive nerve damage, the victim may have no feeling or movement in the affected area.The treatment of burns that fall within this category is similar to what is provided for third-degree burn injury victims. Due to the severity of the injury, treatment may initially focus more on addressing life-threatening complications than on treating the wound.
What Are the Consequences of Burn Injuries?
Burn injuries can lead to painful, permanent and potentially fatal injuries. The burn may damage skin tissue, muscle, ligaments, tendons and nerves. In some instances, the burn may cause damage to the lungs and other organs. Complications such as arrhythmia, infections and organ failure may arise.
Additionally, a burn injury victim may be left with scarring or disfigurement. An extremity may need to be amputated in order to save the victim’s life. Victims may also bear emotional scars from the experience.
Any claim for damages resulting from a burn injury should take into consideration all related costs and losses, including:
- Medical expenses – This includes emergency procedures, debridement, skin grafts, plastic surgery, compression garments, medication and any assistive devices or long-term care a victim needs to fully recover.
- Lost income – This includes any wages, commissions, bonuses and other compensation that is lost while recovering from the burn injury. It also includes any income that will be lost in the future due to a disability that prevents one from working or diminishes one’s earning capacity. A claim should also cover any vocational rehabilitation that may be required.
- Pain and suffering – A burn is one of the most painful and traumatic brain injuries that an individual can suffer. A claim should account for this harm.
If the burn injury causes a victim’s death, eligible family members may be able to seek just compensation through a wrongful death claim.
Types of Burn Injuries
While we normally think of burns as being the result of contact with fire or flame, some of the most severe burns are actually caused by exposure to scalding liquids, chemicals, electricity and radiation. In fact, the American Burn Association reports that fire and flame exposure accounts for only 43 percent of burn injuries that require treatment in a specialized burn care center each year in the U.S.
If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury due to the negligent or reckless conduct of another, it will be important to work with a lawyer who understands the type of burn injury involved in your case.
At Powers & Santola, LLP, we can draw on our decades of combined experience with assisting burn injury victims in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and throughout New York State to provide you with a comprehensive review of your case. Simply contact us today to schedule a consultation.
These are burns that result from contact with fire and hot objects such as space heaters, stove burners, clothes irons or hot metal, glass, plastic or coals. These burns may result from residential fires, car accidents, propane tank explosions or other incidents that occur at home or work. They may be caused by human error or by a defective product.
Thermal burns tend to cause skin and tissue damage. They can lead to scarring and infections, including cellulitis (skin infection) and pneumonia (lung infection). A common related injury in a fire or explosion is smoke inhalation, which can lead to long-term damage to the lungs, throat and mouth.
Scald burns are actually a type of thermal burn. These burns may be caused by contact with a hot liquid, fluid or vapor, including hot tap water, overheated beverages, steam, oil, grease or tar.
While scald burns can occur in the home, they are also common in construction, industrial and kitchen work settings.
These burns are caused by contact with corrosive or toxic chemicals such as strong acids or bases. Substances that can produce chemical burns include sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, lye, lime and silver nitrate.
In contrast to thermal burns, a victim may experience a chemical burn without an accompanying “heat” sensation. The victim may instead detect the burn by noticing blisters or skin discoloration or by experiencing an itching sensation or numbness in the affected area.
Chemical burns primarily affect the skin and other tissue. However, a chemical can also be dangerous if it comes into contact with one’s eyes. If a person inhales chemical vapors, it can cause difficulty with breathing or lead to coughing up blood. Swallowing a hazardous chemical can cause internal organ damage.
The severity of a chemical burn depends on the type of chemical, concentration of the substance and length of exposure. A chemical that is not neutralized or diluted with water can continue to burn and damage skin. Prompt and thorough dilution of the burn site with water is necessary to minimize the extent of harm.
Household cleaners, solvents or wet cement can cause chemical burns. Workers in businesses and manufacturing plants that use large quantities of chemicals face increased risk of suffering these burns. Workers may be exposed to caustic substances that are not properly handled or stored, labeled or mixed. Employers should provide workers with proper safety gear and equipment in order to prevent chemical burns.
These burns are caused by exposure to electrical current. They tend to impact underlying nerves and tissue rather than skin. An electrical burn may lead to complications such as heart failure or neurological damage.
Arc or flash burns caused by an electric arc or explosion are not true electrical burns because electrical current does not pass through the body. However, they can still cause serious injuries.
Electrical burns can result from handling defective consumer products. For instance, a manufacturer may fail to take proper steps to protect wires or to provide consumers with proper warnings and instructions.
Electrocutions also frequently occur at construction or demolition sites. A worker may come into a contact with an overhead power line, handle faulty electrical equipment or come into contact with a frayed or worn electrical cable. A demolition crew may encounter substandard wiring in a building. Contractors and construction site owners have a duty to protect workers from these accidents.
Radiant burns may result from exposure to radiant energy in the form of sunlight, X-rays, nuclear emissions or an explosion.The extent of damage to the body caused by radiation depends on the strength of the radiation source, distance from the source, type of radiation, length of exposure and how much of the body is exposed to the radiant source.
Minor radiant burns generally are not life-threatening. However, extensive burns can involve muscles and organs in addition to injuries to the skin. Typically, these burns will require emergency medical treatment to prevent widespread damage to respiratory and vascular systems of the body.
Many survivors of severe radiant burn injuries suffer physical deformities and chronic pain from scars. They may also have psychological complications requiring long-term emotional therapy.
Radiant burns may result from an explosion at a construction site due to the mishandling of hazardous or explosive materials. A defective consumer product such as a poorly designed cover to a gas fireplace may also result in a severe radiant burn. A patient in a medical facility can suffer radiant burns if radiant warmers, exam and operating lights, fiber optic light cables or lasers are defective or improperly used.
Treatment and Costs of Burn Injuries
A person who suffers a serious burn injury due to the reckless or negligent conduct of another has the right to pursue compensation for all past and future medical expenses connected to the injury as well as other losses.
These costs will largely depend on the severity of the burn injury and whether any complications arise. The degree to which a victim requires psychological counseling, rehabilitation therapy and occupational therapy also will factor into the financial impact.
The attorneys of Powers & Santola, LLP, can conduct a careful review of the medical records and other evidence in your case and consult with highly qualified medical experts, life care planners and economists to help you understand the full amount of compensation you are due for the treatment of the burn injuries in your case.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients in Albany, Syracuse, Rochester, and across New York State.
The Impact of Burn Injuries
To understand the potential medical costs of burn injuries, it is important to understand the types of injuries that can be suffered.
For instance, a burn may result in:
- Skin damage or skin loss
- Nerve damage
- Chronic pain
- Muscle, tendon, ligament and other soft tissue damage
- Bone damage or bone loss
- Vision loss
- Lung and other internal organ damage
- Contracture (tightening of soft tissue which restricts movement)
- Scarring and disfigurement.
A burn injury victim may also experience physical complications that include:
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Renal failure
- Respiratory failure
- Wound infection
- Urinary tract infection
- Cellulitis (bacterial skin infection)
- Pneumonia (lung infection)
- Septicemia (bacterial blood infection)
- Bacteremia (non-infectious presence of bacteria in the blood)
In addition to physical complications, a burn injury may result in emotional harm. The victim may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that is triggered by the fire, explosion or other incident that caused the burn injury. Additionally, the victim may suffer from anxiety and depression caused by living with scarring and disfigurement.
Medical Costs of Burn Injuries
The medical costs of a burn injury will include initial medical care to relieve pain and repair tissue damage. A patient may also be administered topical creams or medication for pain, including morphine. Intravenous (IV) solutions may be ordered to prevent dehydration.
Compression therapy, or the use of burn garments, may be undertaken to prevent contractures. Additionally, doctors will remove loose, dead, debris-ridden or contaminated skin and other tissue in the wounded area. This procedure is known as debridement.
Later, the patient may undergo skin grafts to replace scar tissue with healthy skin or cosmetic (plastic) surgery to repair scarring and disfigurement. Multiple surgical operations may be required.
A patient with a severe burn may be transferred to a burn center for specialized care. For instance, The Clark Burn Center of SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse is one of 11 burn care centers in New York recognized by the American Burn Association.
If complications arise, they will increase the time that a burn injury victim must stay in the hospital. In its latest annual survey, Kaiser State Health Facts reported that the average cost per inpatient per day at a New York hospital ranges from $1,780 at a state / local government hospital to $1,906 at a non-profit hospital.
Additional Costs of Burn Injuries
A severely burned patient will eventually require vocational and occupational therapy and psychological counseling.
For a burn victim who has been disabled, a full life care plan should be developed to project costs for future medical care and needs that may include personal assistance, assistive devices, prosthetics, adaptive devices (walkers or wheelchairs) and home renovations.
A severe burn injury victim may be unable to return to working for a living. The victim’s loss of income and projected future loss of income should be incorporated into any claim for compensation.
Contact Our Albany Burn Injury Lawyer
If you or your loved one has have suffered a serious burn injury through another’s negligence or other wrongful activity, an experienced burn injury lawyer from Powers & Santola, LLP, would like to help you. We can review your case and explain your options under New York workers’ compensation, labor, personal injury and wrongful death laws. Contact us today to discuss your case. We represent victims of burns and other personal injury accidents throughout the state of New York.
Sources / Additional Information
- Fact Sheet, American Burn Association