Nearly 500,000 people in the U.S. seek medical care for burn injuries each year, with 40,000 cases requiring hospitalization and 4,000 dying due to their injuries. Severe, life-threatening burns require specialized medical care and cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in ongoing treatment. They often leave sufferers physically altered and may require multiple surgeries and long-term rehabilitation. Treatment costs are often astronomical, and the victims are unable to work for extended periods of time while they heal.
Gary Martin Hays & Associates deals specifically with severe burn injury cases that have left victims in pain, disabled, scarred, or deceased through no fault of their own. We help burn injury victims and their families fight for rightful compensation after a traumatic incident.
Contact us for a free consultation to learn about your rights.
Degrees of Severity
Burns are divided into degrees based on the depth of tissue damage. A first responder or healthcare professional can assess the severity of a burn after an accident.
- First-degree burns are typically mild (e.g. sunburns). The top layer of skin (epidermis) turns red and hurts when touched but doesn’t blister. These burns typically heal on their own.
- Second-degree burns affect the skin’s top and lower layers (dermis). Symptoms include pain, redness, swelling, and blistering. Depending on the severity and location, a skin graft may be needed.
- Third-degree burns affect the top layer of skin, the lower layer of skin, fat, and sometimes muscle. Hair follicles, sweat glands, and nerve endings are destroyed, causing the pain to shift to the area around the wound. The burned skin may appear blackened, ash-white, or red and leathery. Skin grafts are required for the wound to heal effectively.
Common Types of Burn Injuries
The risk of suffering a burn injury is all around. A burn can be caused by heat, chemicals, electricity, radiation, or sunlight. The most common types of burns which are life-threatening tend to be:
- Chemical Burns: A chemical burn occurs when skin or eyes come into contact with substances such as chlorine, ammonia, battery acid, bleach, etc.
- Electrical Burns: An electrical burn happens when the body encounters an electrical current. This type of injury can leave burn spots when electricity has entered or exited the body or cause internal damage to organs and muscles.
- Thermal Burns: Thermal burns occur when a person comes into contact with something hot, such as flames, molten liquid, steam, or hot objects.
Burn injuries may also be combined with blunt or penetrative trauma. Additional wounds typically occur due to motor vehicle accidents; fires with structural collapses; falls while trying to escape a fire; electrical injuries and falls; scald burns during an assault; acid attacks; plane crashes; and explosions.
If you are involved in a serious accident and suffered second and third-degree burns, seek medical care immediately.
Severe Burn Injury Treatment
Minor burns can be treated at home with over-the-counter painkillers, aloe vera gel, antibiotic cream (for thermal burns), and gauze. Severe second and third-degree burns require significantly more treatment, including skin grafts.
Skin grafts replace the damaged tissue using healthy skin from another part of the victim’s body. The tissue is removed in such a way that the donor site heals on its own. Donor skin grafts or artificial skin grafts can be used temporarily if there is not enough tissue available, but these will eventually need to be replaced by the person’s own skin.
Third-degree burns necessitate medical intervention due to the life-threatening complications that can arise, including:
- Arrhythmia (heart rhythm disturbances caused by electrical burns)
- Burn shock
- Edema (excess tissue fluid and swelling)
- Hypotension (low blood pressure)
- Organ failure
- Permanent scarring
- Severe infection (may lead to sepsis or amputation)
Long-term treatment will involve reducing chronic pain, managing post-traumatic stress, and improving the cosmetic appearance of the damaged area. A burn surgeon and burn specialist team will be needed to evaluate burn wound healing, provide surgical management as needed, respond to burn wound complications, optimize nutrition in response to the body’s hypermetabolic state, and provide psychosocial support for any scarring or disfigurement.
The healing process for burn victims can take months or years. Although most people survive their injuries, they may have to adjust to a life in which their appearance has been altered and/or being disabled.
Burn Injury Recovery and Costs
While first and second-degree burns heal within two to three weeks, third-degree burns need long-term physical therapy to maintain joint mobility and stimulate nerve growth. A therapist may also be needed for emotional support for those who develop depression or PTSD after the burn accident.
Fortunately, advances in modern medicine mean that most people who suffer severe burns survive and hospital stays are not as long as they once were. Unfortunately, the average total treatment cost for severe burns ranges between several thousand dollars to $125,000 per patient. These costs increase if a larger percentage of the body is burned or there are co-injuries present, such as smoke inhalation damage, broken bones, and concussions.
It is recommended that injured victims consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure they understand their legal rights and don’t accidentally sign away their right to compensation.
Burn Injury Settlement and Compensation
Burn victims can file for personal injury compensation if their injuries resulted from careless or reckless behavior by another person or company. For example, if a person was burned in a car fire caused by a crash, they can file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to cover their medical treatment and losses.
A personal injury lawyer can review the facts of the case and list out all of the damages and suffering the victim endured. Burn victims may be able to seek compensation for a wide range of costs, including:
- Ambulance ride
- Emergency room care
- Surgeries and skin grafts
- Painkillers and prescriptions
- Lost wages
- Vehicle repair or loss
- Mileage to and from medical appointments
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Depression and PTSD counseling
- Disability modifications and tools
- Emotional and social suffering
- Loss of enjoyment
Talk to a Burn Injury Attorney
Recovering from a burn injury is a long, arduous process. Not only are multiple surgeries often needed, but complications may arise due to issues such as chronic pain, loss of sensation, reduced mobility, and neurological damage. The cost of medical care is extensive and time-consuming.
Burn victims injured in an auto accident, work accident, or other traumatic incident deserve to be fully compensated for their pain and suffering.
Our Atlanta burn injury lawyers have helped victims and their families recover the rightful settlement they deserve from the insurance company so they can have peace of mind. Contact us at (770) 934-8000 to learn more.