Although the number of burn injuries and deaths from burn injuries in the U.S. has been on the decline for decades—thanks to increased use of smoke detectors, fewer people smoking, and advances in regulations, technology, and burn treatment, among other factors—the risk of complications arising from this type of injury remains a major problem, according to information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
While someone with burns over the majority of their body can survive, they will often have permanent impairments. If you’ve suffered a burn injury due to someone else’s negligence, a Brockton burn injury lawyer can help you understand the legal process and whether you qualify for compensation under Massachusetts’s personal injury law.
As explained by the Mayo Clinic, burns can occur due to exposure to hot liquids or other heat sources, overexposure to the sun or other sources of radiation, or contact with chemicals or electrical currents. The symptoms of burns vary, depending on the depth of the burn. Burn injuries are divided into three categories in order of severity:
- First-degree burns are minor burns that only affect the outer layer of an injured individual’s skin. Symptoms generally include redness and pain.
- Second-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin as well as the layer of skin beneath it. 2nd-degree burns may present with skin that is swollen and red, white, or splotchy. Blisters may develop, and pain may be severe. Scarring can result from a second-degree burn.
- Third-degree burns extend through the skin’s layers into the fat beneath the skin. Burned areas may appear brown, red, or white, and the skin may have a leathery appearance. Third-degree burns may cause significant scarring as well as nerve damage that causes numbness.
While minor burns may be treated at home, you should seek out emergency medical attention immediately if you experience the following conditions:
- The burns cover sensitive, infection-prone, or hard-to-heal areas, such as the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or a major joint, such as the elbow or knee.
- The burns cover a large part of the body.
- Burns that cause the skin to look leathery or to appear charred with patches of black, brown, or white.
- Burns to the airway or difficulty breathing after becoming burned.
- Burns caused by chemicals or electricity.
Patients who have suffered significant burns are often taken to a specialized burn unit to receive care from professionals who are highly trained in the treatment of burns. One such burn unit is located at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, which explains that burn treatment for its patients begins with an initial evaluation. Patients suffering severe burns may be admitted to a burn intensive care unit at the hospital for minute-by-minute care, while those less critically injured will be admitted to the burn inpatient floor. Burn patients undergo extensive monitoring during the first 48 to 72 hours, as the damage caused by the burns may become more severe during that time.
Burns carry a high risk of complications, including the following:
- A bacterial infection that could lead to sepsis
- Breathing problems due to burns to the airway or smoke inhalation
- Fluid loss, including low blood volume
- An overgrowth of scar tissue on the burned area that may cause the skin to appear ridged
- An extremely low body temperature
- Bone and joint problems due to scarring that causes shortening of the skin, muscles, or tendons in jointed areas, such as the elbows or knees
How Common Are Injuries and Deaths From Burns?
The American Burn Association reports that, in 2016, 486,000 people sought medical treatments for burns in the U.S. Burn injuries resulting in death are most commonly caused by fire. In 2014, the nation saw 3,275 deaths due to fire or smoke inhalation. Of those deaths:
- 2,745 resulted from house fires
- 310 resulted from motor vehicle crash fires
- 220 resulted from other sources
One civilian death due to fires occurs every two hours and 41 minutes in the United States. Often, when an individual dies due to a fire, it is impossible to tell whether the death was the result of burns from the fire itself or from the inhalation of smoke and other toxins caused by the fire.
About 128 burn centers around the nation treat 60 percent of individuals who suffered significant burn injuries. Each one of these hospitals sees around 200 new admissions for burns or skin conditions annually. There are about 40,000 hospitalizations for burn injuries in the U.S. each year. The survival rate for burn patients is 96.8 percent. Other statistics on burn patients include:
- Males are more than twice as likely to suffer a significant burn than females.
- Nearly 60 percent of burn victims are Caucasian, followed by 20 percent African American and 14 percent Hispanic.
- 73 percent of burns take place in the home. 8 percent occur at a person’s place of work. 5 percent occur on the roadway, and sports and recreational activities account for another 5 percent.
- 43 percent of burns are caused by fire. 34 percent are the result of scalding liquids. 9 percent are caused by contact with a hot object. 4 percent are electrical, and 3 percent are chemical.
If You Suffered a Burn in Brockton, Contact The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan
Burns can happen in a variety of ways. They may result from natural causes, such as lightning, corporate negligence in the form of defective products—such as a faulty smoke detector, or by someone else’s negligence, such as by a car accident. If your accident was caused by negligence, you should seek compensation through a personal injury lawsuit. Massachusetts law has strict time limits on personal injury cases that depend on the type of accident you’ve suffered, so learn your legal options as soon as possible. The Law Offices of Gerald J. Noonan can answer your legal questions regarding your burn injury. For a free consultation and case review, call us at (508) 588-0422 or contact us online.