Burn injuries are the third most common cause of accidental death in the U.S. accounting for about 4000 fatalities annually. Children are most susceptible with around half of all burn victims under 18 years old. Burn injuries are among the most catastrophic of injuries with significant physical, emotional and financial tolls.
Burns are classified according to the burn's depth:
Superficial Burn (First Degree)--A burn to the epidermis. Sunburns are in this category and usually heal after one week or less.
Dermal Injury (Second Degree)--Also called a partial thickness injury, is a burn down to the second layer of skin, or dermis. The dermis is much thicker than the epidermis and a deep burn is usually treated with grafts and generally leaves scars.
Full Thickness Injury (Third Degree)--Burns that extend to the subcutaneous tissue below the skin, such as body fat. All three skin layers are damaged including follicles, hair, and sweat glands. Skin grafting is required.
Full Thickness Injury with Injury to the Underlying Muscle (Fourth Degree) --Burns that penetrate the subcutaneous tissue and the muscles underneath. Ligaments and muscle are damaged and the burn is life-threatening. Comprehensive burn treatment along with grafting and plastic surgery are required.
Smoke inhalation is the leading cause of death in fires. A fire consumes all the oxygen in an enclosed area and produces carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and other poisonous gases. It can cause death within minutes of inhalation or result in permanent lung damage.
Burns are often caused by fires, electricity, friction, and exposure to ultraviolet light. The following is a list of causes and areas where burns frequently occur:
- Kerosene heaters
- Cooking equipment
- Flammable liquids
- Wood or coal burning stoves or fireplaces
- Cigarettes and matches
- Flammable materials in furniture
- Flammable chemicals in household products
- Explosions from defective water heaters, gas lines, or electrical wiring
A property owner who negligently fails to remove flammable materials or products, or who failed to install a smoke detector may be liable to anyone who is burned as a result.
Similarly, manufacturers whose products are flawed in design may be liable for resultant burn injuries. A failure to warn consumers of potential burns or fires from certain uses of a product can also subject the manufacturer to liability for damages that result.
Construction workers frequently suffer burns from faulty electrical wiring, chemical burns, gas explosions, and exploding water heaters or boilers. The manufacturers, designers, or companies responsible for servicing or maintaining this equipment face potential liability for negligence or manufacturing defects.
Determining the liable parties and proving their fault can be difficult. Victims should immediately contact a burn injury attorney.
Below are some helpful safety tips on how to best avoid injury in scenarios that commonly lead to burns:
- Use caution when cooking. Do not leave a hot stove or oven unattended.
- If working around chemicals, electrical equipment, gas lines, water heaters or boilers, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and rubber soled shoes.
- Use sufficient sun block if you are exposed to the sun for long periods of time.
- Do not handle fireworks under any circumstances.
- Do not smoke in bed or while on sofas.
- Do not use wood or coal burning stoves indoors.
If you are burned in an accident or suffer lung damage from smoke inhalation, preserve the product that may have caused the fire or burn along with any instructions or manuals that came with the product if possible.
Proving liability is always difficult in these cases. An experienced and resourceful burn injury lawyer can properly investigate your claim and advise you of your legal options and any compensation to which you may be entitled.