Negligent accidents can leave victims with a variety of physical injuries, and the most serious damages are known as catastrophic injuries. Burns are a type of catastrophic injury that can have lifelong and widespread implications upon the victims, depending upon the severity of the burns.
Burn injuries can be the result of car accidents, ranch accidents, workplace accidents, industrial accidents, and more, and if the damage was caused by another person’s negligent actions, a burn victim may be entitled to compensation.
According to the American Burn Association, about 486,000 people receive treatment for burn injuries each year with 40,000 resulting in hospitalization. The vast majority of burns are not fatal, but the extensive recovery, scarring, and excruciating pain accompanying a burn force victims to cope with significant changes and difficulties in their lives. Those challenges mount even further when the burn happened because of someone else’s poor decisions.
If you or a loved one has sustained a burn injury caused by someone’s negligence or recklessness, Nebraska law entitles you to seek damages in court. You deserve compensation for the pain you have endured and the scars you likely will have for the rest of your life. Contact the burn injury lawyers at Robert Pahlke Law Group at (308) 633-4444 for a free consultation to discuss the details of your case and learn how we can assist you after a burn injury.
Common Causes of Burns
Burn injuries occur when an individual comes into contact with one of five main dangers: heat, sunlight, radiation, chemicals, and electricity. When you go to the hospital, or if you take a burn victim to the hospital, it is important to tell medical professionals the general cause of the burn. The source of the burn can impact the doctor’s treatment options. More specific scenarios leading to burns include:
- Scalds from hot steam and liquid which might occur from running water too hot in a bathtub or kitchen sink, cooking, or ordering food and drink at a restaurant
- Fires from car accidents, house fires, wildfires
- Flammable liquids and gases which might cause explosions and fire such as gasoline, ethanol, ammonia, hydrogen, and propane
- Contact with chlorine, ammonia, bleach, battery acid, or other harsh chemicals
- Radiation from cancer treatment
- Live and unprotected electrical wires
Degrees of Burns
The harm caused by burn injuries can vary extensively, as some victims sustain only redness and painful swell, while others are left with blistering, scars, and severe damage to the skin and tissue.
Regardless of the cause of a burn, medical professionals, including specialists in burn units, characterize the type of burn on how deep it penetrates an individual’s body. The severity of burn injuries is categorized in three ways:
- First degree burns. These are the least serious type of burns because they only affect the epidermis, the outer layer of skin on the body. In many cases, a first degree burn doesn’t require medical attention and will heal on its own within a week or two. When a first degree burn covers a large part of the body, it is best to seek medical attention to ensure one heals well.
- Second degree burns. When a burn permeates through the epidermis into the next layer of skin, the dermis, it requires a longer healing time. These second degree burns might require a skin graft in some cases. The treatment a doctor chooses depends on the size of the burn and its cause.
- Third degree burns. These burns extend through both the epidermis and the dermis and victims must always have a skin graft to heal completely. Victims experience excruciating pain, requiring hospitalization for pain management during treatment and recovery.
- Catastrophic burns. The most severe burns are fourth, fifth, and sixth degree burns, also referred to as catastrophic burns. These occur when a burn extends through a body’s fat and muscle layers. In the most severe cases, burns will reach the skeletal system. Catastrophic burns typically result in shock and can be deadly in the most severe cases.
Types of Burns
Although burns can result from a variety of situations, there are three types of burns that are most commonly treated by hospitals and burn centers: thermal, chemical, and electrical.
Thermal burns are perhaps the most commonly occurring types of burns, and are the result of the skin coming into contact with a heat source of some sort. Heat sources include fire, steam, hot liquids, hot metals, and other hot objects. Thermal burns can also be caused by exposure to strong radiation, which will lead to severe sun burns. The severity of thermal burn injuries depends upon the location, depth, and size of the burn wound.
Chemical burns occur when the skin makes contact with some sort of corrosive substance, including caustic chemicals, alkaloids, and acids. The resulting damage from chemical burns often is not immediately apparent, and to prevent further harm it is crucial to properly remove the substance from the skin as soon as possible. Chemical burns are most often suffered by workers in the medical, construction, automotive, and agricultural industries. These burns can also be caused by such commonly used products as:
- Industrial products like tar, wet pavement, and gasoline
- Cosmetic products like hair dye and nail polish remover
- Household cleaners with caustic ingredients, like bleach, toilet bowl cleaners (sulfuric acid), paint cleaners (lye), disinfectants (sodium hypochlorite), and deodorizers (phenol)
Electrical burns result from an electrical current passing through all or a part of the body. These types of burns can cause both external and internal damages, although most of the damage occurs below the skin. The severity of electrical burns depends upon the type of current involved and its intensity, the amount of moisture on the victim’s body, the length of exposure to the current, and the area of the victim’s body that the current passes through. Electrical burns can also have a number of other serious side effects based upon the intensity of the current.
- Low Voltage Currents: Currents lower than 500 volts often do not cause serious burns but can result in other damages. Victims of low voltage electrical burns can suffer cardiac issues, muscle spasms, and oral burns when a child bites or sucks on an electrical cord.
- High Voltage Currents: Currents higher than 1,000 volts typically cause extreme injuries to the body. Exposure to these currents can lead to severe skin and tissue burns, seizures, permanent neurological damages, heart rhythm disturbances, and blunt force trauma injuries or fractures caused by the power of the jolt.
The Impact of Burn Injuries
Burns can leave victims with injuries ranging from mild to severe, and sadly negligent accidents frequently cause these injuries throughout the state and across the country.
- More than two-million persons seek medical attention for burn injuries in the United States each year
- Approximately 75,000 burn victims are hospitalized annually, and of those 25,000 victims require hospitalization for more than two months
- Each year 20,000 burn victims sustain injuries so severe that they require admittance to specialized burn centers or units
- Burn injuries result in about 14,000 fatalities annually
Burn injuries can impact victims in a variety of ways, and they can suffer from serious infections, and may need skin grafts, plastic surgery, reconstructive surgery, and rehabilitative treatment to restore form and function to the injured area. Burn treatment often takes a long time and can be very costly, in addition to the financial strain of missing out on wages during the recovery process. If you sustained severe burns because of another person’s careless or reckless actions, you may be able to recover compensation through a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Our team can help you seek a fair settlement for the physical, emotional, and psychological effects of your burns.
Additional Medical Complications From Burns
When most think of a burn injury, they think of skin damage and the extent to which a burn permeates through each body layer. Yet, the body has an inflammatory response when an individual suffers a severe burn. Some other complications associated with severe burns include:
- Brain damage
- Lung damage, pneumonia, and smoke inhalation when a fire is involved
- Blood vessel damage
- Kidney and liver damage
- Heart damage
- Sepsis as a response to infection
Seeking Compensation After a Burn Injury
If you take legal action against the negligent party who caused your burn, you might recover damages from settlement or verdict in your favor. Every case has distinctive characteristics, but commonly recovered damages include:
- Medical expenses including ambulance, emergency room visit, hospitalization, surgery, radiology, and pain medication
- Future medical treatment costs, which might be extensive if a burn injury requires multiple reconstructive surgeries
- Lost wages for missing work due to the burn and hospitalization
- Lost future wages when a burn leads to permanent disability preventing the return to work
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Loss of consortium with a spouse
Modified Comparative Fault in Nebraska Burn Injury Cases
When you take legal action against the party who caused your burn, expect the person, their insurance company, and their attorney to pull out all the stops to avoid paying damages. Defense teams often use the legal principle of “comparative fault” as an argument for avoiding some or all liability. Comparative fault is the notion of shared liability. It applies to personal injury cases in Nebraska to assess the extent to which a plaintiff might have contributed to his or her own injuries. The court assigns a percentage portion of fault to each party listed in the lawsuit; if the court finds a plaintiff was partially at fault, it reduces the award by the appropriate percentage.
For example, if you sue for $100,000 and the court finds you were 10 percent at fault for the accident which caused your burn injuries, you can only collect $90,000 or 90 percent of the damages. Nebraska’s modified version of comparative fault has a 51 percent threshold. If the plaintiff is 51 percent or more at fault for the burn-related accident, then he or she cannot collect any damages.
Comparative fault motivates the defense to shift the blame to the victim. They might argue you were using a chemical product incorrectly, or you caused a fire resulting in your burn, or you ignored warnings about dangerous substances. In any case, a competent and skilled burn injury attorney can help fight these attacks and pursue the best outcome for your situation.
Contact a Nebraska Burn Injury Attorney Today
If you have suffered a burn injury, it’s likely you are still in the recovery process. You might even need surgery and additional treatment. Let a skilled personal injury attorney help you hold negligent parties liable, so you can alleviate the financial stress that comes with extended treatment and recovery.
The Robert Pahlke Law Group is dedicated to providing victims throughout Nebraska with the caring legal counsel and relentless advocacy needed to recover compensation for their injuries and losses. We understand that serious burn injuries can have widespread implications upon the lives of victims and their families. Our firm strongly believes that they deserve generous settlements to help them rebuild after negligent accidents, and we can help you take legal action against the party who is liable for your burn injuries.
We can help you understand your rights as a victim, your options under the law, and the size of settlement that you may be entitled to. Our team has more than 30 years of experience and we can use our skill and knowledge of personal injury law to build a detailed claim that will enable you to seek maximum compensation for your injuries. Before making any decisions, it is important to have all the facts, so we encourage you to contact a Nebraska burn injury lawyer from our firm today to discuss your case.
Contact the experienced Nebraska burn injury lawyers at Robert Pahlke Law Group at (308) 633-4444 for a free consultation to determine the best course of action for your situation.