A burn is an injury to the skin or other organic tissue primarily caused by heat or due to radiation, electricity, friction, cold, or chemicals. Burn injuries can be very serious, and even life-threatening. A burn injury can leave the victim with physical and emotional scars for life.
Burn Injury Statistics
Serious burn injuries are far more common than most people realize. The following facts and statistics from the American Burn Association show the frequency and severity of burn injuries in the United States:
- On average there are 486,000 burn injuries each year that require medical treatment.
- Of those who suffer a burn injury, over 3,200 ultimately result in death.
- 68% of burn victims are male, and 32% are female.
- Those admitted to a hospital for a burn injury report the cause as being:
- 43% from fire or flame,
- 34% from scalding liquids,
- 9% from contact with solid objects,
- 4% from electrical,
- 3% from exposure to chemicals and
- 7% “other.”
Types and Causes of Burn Injuries
A burn injury usually results from some sort of energy transfer to the body. Wounds resulting from burn injuries can be challenging to treat because burns differ in their types and severity.
There are different types and causes for burn injuries.
- Thermal (heat) burns are caused by contact with flames, hot liquids, hot surfaces, and other sources of high heat. Chemical burns and electrical burns are considered thermal burns.
Most thermal burn injuries can be prevented by wearing adequate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) using fire prevention tactics and by having procedures and emergency action plans related to fire detection and protection.
- Chemical Burns are caused by strong acids, alkali, detergents, or solvents that make contact with a person’s skin or eyes. They continue to burn the skin and tissue until the agent is deactivated. Chemical burns often occur after exposure to industrial grade cleaners, battery acid, bleach, ammonia, swimming pool cleaners, toilet and drain cleaners, oven cleaners, fertilizers, metal cleaners, and other chemicals found in laboratories or manufacturing plants.
Industry standards require that all workers who may come into contact with any chemicals be knowledgeable in Hazard Communication. Hazard Communication training covers the symbols and labels that communicate the risk level of chemicals. These labels should also include the steps workers can take to prevent burns if they encounter dangerous chemicals.
- Electrical Burns are caused by an electrical current that passes through a person’s body. The injury typically occurs in areas other than the contact/entry site. The extent and severity of electrical burns cannot be determined from the outside injury alone because they can cause severe burns to a person’s internal organs and tissues.
To avoid burns from electrical sources, high-voltage areas and machinery should be clearly marked. Workers should also make sure to identify live wires, avoid contact with water while working with electricity, and wear the personal protective equipment necessary to avoid burns by electricity. As with chemical burns workers should be trained on the types of electrical hazards they may find on a worksite and the standards that help avoid accidents.
- Radiation Burns occur after extended exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, or to other sources of radiation such as x-ray machines or radio waves. Radiation can potentially alter a person’s cell structure and lead to dangerous long-term side effects, such as cancer. People exposed to these types of burns often need to undergo decontamination to stop the injury process, such as cancer treatments. However, the most common form of radiation burn is a sunburn.
- Friction Burns occur when the body comes into contact with an abrasive surface. Some examples of friction burns include skinning, chafing rope burn, carpet burn, rug burn, and road rash.
- Cold Burns or Frostbite is a condition where the skin and tissue just below the skin freeze when the skin is exposed to extreme cold for too long.
Levels and Treatment of Burn Injuries
What is done to treat a burn in the first few minutes after it occurs can make a huge difference in the severity of the injury and the recovery process. For severe burns, immediate emergency care can even be lifesaving. Please do not attempt to treat serious burns unless you are a trained health professional.
- First Degree burns involve the top layer of skin. A typical sunburn is a good example of a first-degree burn. The symptoms of this type of burn include redness of the skin, pain to the touch, and there may be mild swelling.
First-degree burns will usually heal without significant treatment. However, if a first-degree burn covers a large area of the body, or the victim is an infant or elderly, emergency medical attention may be necessary.
- Second Degree Burns involve the first two layers of skin. These types of burns can be identified by a deep reddening of the skin, moderate to severe pain, blisters, a glossy appearance to the exposed skin which may be leaking fluid and a possible loss of skin.
Those who have suffered second-degree burns should immediately seek emergency medical attention.
- Third Degree Burns penetrate the entire thickness of the skin and permanently destroys the tissue.
The signs of third-degree burns include a loss of multiple layers of skin, the remaining skin may feel dry and leathery and may appear charred or have patches that appear white, brown, or black. Third-degree burns are often painless themselves, but because they are typically surrounded by patches of first and second-degree burns a victim may still experience pain.
Immediate medical attention is required for third-degree burns.
- Fourth Degree Burns is the most serious type of burns. The injury reaches all the way to the underlying muscles and bones. This type of burn often results in irreversible damage to the nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Immediate emergency medical attention is required for fourth-degree burns and they will require extremely specialized treatment. The burn victim will need to be kept in a sterile hospital room until their wounds heal completely to prevent a possible secondary infection, which could be fatal. Even after the wound has healed, the victim usually requires extensive rehabilitation and physiotherapy just to be able to perform ordinary, everyday activities.
Workplace Burn Injuries
While a very large majority of burn injuries occur at home, workplace burns are a preventable source of injury. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has specific standards and regulations that employers must follow for fire and burn safety in the workplace and for the use and handling of hazardous chemicals and gases.
OSHA has released statistics regarding workplace burn injuries in the United States.
- More than 5,000 burn injuries each year are caused by work-related fires and explosions.
- On average, 40% of all burn deaths were related to workplace fires and explosions.
- 20% of all cases of thermal burns in patients admitted to a hospital occurred at work.
- Burn injuries account for 42% of all work-related injuries.
Possible Causes of Workplace Burns
Some common causes of workplace burn injuries include:
- The heat caused by fire, steam, hot liquids, and other hot objects
- Contact with industrial or household chemicals in liquid, gas, or solid forms
- Radiation exposure to x-rays, sun lamps, UV lights, and more
- Exposure to wet, windy, and cold conditions
- Exposure to electrical sources such as wires, outlets, or lightning
- Fire or explosion caused by defective machinery or equipment
- Work-related vehicle accident which results in a vehicle fire
- Lack of the necessary safety equipment and personal protective equipment
- Negligence on the part of someone other than a direct employer, such as a project manager, an architect, or an engineer
- Negligence the on the part of a subcontractor’s employee or a vendor working at the job site
Some occupations that involve burn hazards include (but are not limited to):
- Janitorial Work
- Construction Workers
- Food Prep Workers (Chefs, Cooks, Servers)
- Healthcare Workers
- Fire Fighters
- Offshore Workers
- Oilfield Workers
- Factory Workers
- Machinery Workers
Prevention of the Most Common Workplace Burns
- Provide Training: One of the most important steps a company must take ensure the safety of their workers is to make sure their workers have the proper training. Training should cover the hazards that the employee might face on their specific worksite. After providing general training companies need to make sure their workers are trained on their specific job functions, including in-depth safety training with any machinery, chemicals or other worksite hazards specific to their job. Routine refresher training maybe necessary to keep employees up to date with standard changes and policies.
- Hazard Communication: Companies should provide color codes, posters, labels or signs to warn workers of potential hazards, and these vital pieces of Hazard Communication are extremely important to prevent burn injuries. Workers should be trained on how to recognize the symbols, and hazard communication codes. When hazardous chemicals are found in the workplace, companies should produce and provide a written Hazard Communication plan to their workers.
- Provide Protective Gear: Personal protective equipment (PPE) is equipment worn by workers to minimize exposure to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses. Companies should provide protective gear when engineering, work practice, and administrative controls are not possible or do not provide enough protection to the worker. Companies should ensure their workers who are using the protective equipment are properly trained in when it is necessary; what kind is necessary for the job; how to properly put it on, adjust, wear and take it off; the limitations of the equipment; proper care, maintenance, useful life; and how to safely dispose of the equipment.
Here to Help Victims of Burn Injuries
Burns can be among the most serious of all injuries, requiring surgery, physical therapy, and extensive rehabilitation. Burn injury victims suffer in ways many have difficulty understanding. In many cases, the event that caused the burn injury could have been avoided if the proper safety regulations were followed.
At Armstrong & Lee LLP, we understand how serious a burn injury can be, which is why we are dedicated to helping burn victims and their families. If you have suffered a burn injury in an accident that you believe was someone else’s fault we urge you to contact our law office today to schedule an appointment for a free case evaluation. Call 832-743-2471.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who do I hold responsible for causing my burn injury?
Who is responsible for your burn injury may not be obvious. The event that caused the burns may not have happened because of some obvious reckless or negligent action. Frequently burn injuries are caused by a malfunctioning product or faulty equipment. There may be multiple defendants in your case including an employer, property owner, equipment manufacturer, machinery installer, gas company, electrical company, or others. The attorneys at Armstrong & Lee are ready to hold any at-fault party financially responsible for your injuries.
Does my attorney need to hire experts to prove my case?
Legally, it will be necessary to prove how a negligent or intentional act directly caused your injuries and identify who committed that act. Even when it is obvious what happened to cause your injuries it may not be easy to prove who is responsible. In burn injury cases experts are often needed to prove who is the responsible party.
What can I expect to receive as compensation?
There are two main types of monetary compensation available in burn injury cases.
The first is economic damages which include the amount of your past, ongoing, and future medical expenses to treat your injuries, your past and future lost wages and the cost of your future out-of-pocket expenses associated with your injuries.
The second is non-economic damages which are specific to you and your injuries and include your pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment, impairment, and disfigurement.
How are my damages calculated?
Determine how much you may be entitled to recover depending on the circumstances surrounding your injury. The type of burn injury, the severity of the burns, the treatment necessary, and the fault of the involved parties are all used to determine a fair compensation amount. For example, very serious burns can cause a loss of fingers or other body parts, lung damage, severe scarring, mobility issues, and a multitude of other factors that should be included in compensation calculations. Having an experienced personal injury attorney such as those here at Armstrong & Lee is recommended to make sure nothing is left out.
What happens if I was partially at fault for causing my injuries?
Even when are partially at fault for causing the event which leads to your injuries you may still be able to seek legal action. If your portion of responsibility for causing the event is less than or equal to 50% of the overall fault, then monetary recovery is still possible. However, there are some circumstances which would prevent you from any recovery such as if you were more than 50% at fault for your own injuries. If you have sustained burn injuries and believe that someone else is responsible, contact the attorneys at Armstrong & Lee to discuss your case and possible next steps.