Every year, around 1.1 million burn injuries require medical attention in the U.S., with 50,000 burn victims being admitted to hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says that in 2016, 3,390 people were killed and more than 14,650 were injured in fires, with total damage of over $10.6 billion.
- Structure fires (commercial and residential) caused 2,950 deaths and 12,775 injuries.
- Vehicle fires killed 280 people and injured 1,075.
- Outdoor and “other” fires resulted in 85 deaths and 650 injuries.
Get the help you deserve. Contact one of our experienced burn injury attorneys in Houston, TX today for a free consultation.
What Are the Degrees of Burn Injury?
Burn injury severity is placed on a scale from first degree to fourth degree. Accident severity will be a major point of emphasis for an attorney.
- First-degree injuries only affect the outer layer of skin and are similar to sunburns.
- Second-degree injuries are severe enough to require medical attention and involve multiple layers of tissue. Scalding liquids and brief exposure to fire are common causes of second-degree injuries.
- Third-degree injuries are medical emergencies and extend through all layers of skin, damaging nerve tissue as well. Scarring is common, and amputation may be needed in some cases. Building fires, chemical fires, and electrical fires often result in third-degree injuries.
- Fourth-degree injuries cause catastrophic damage to the body and are often fatal. Such damage extends through the dermis into bone, muscle, and fat tissue. As a result, amputation is usually required. High voltage electrical shocks and longer exposure to open flames can cause fourth-degree injuries.
Serious burn victims who survive their wounds invariably experience physical and psychological scars. They (and, by association, their families) are often saddled with devastating medical bills and lost wages, and the victims themselves deal daily with excruciating pain and suffering. When some negligent party or entity causes the burn injury — such as an apartment or rental house landlord failing to follow fire safety law, an employer not following workplace safety regulations, or a careless driver causing a catastrophic accident — victims are often able to seek financial compensation for their medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and other legal damages.
Below are the most common causes of severe, negligence-based burn injuries.
Structure fires – According to the NFPA, one residential structure fire was reported every 90 seconds in 2016. And statistics point the finger at several reasons for apartment and residential fires. Two of the most prominent are faulty cooking and electrical equipment or wiring, and open-faced portable heaters.
Smoke alarms cut in half your chances of being seriously injured or dying in a fire, according to the NFPA. Houston and its surrounding communities have stringent smoke alarm requirements in all rental homes and apartments. If landlords do not obey the regulations and a fire occurs, they may be held liable for legal damages even if they had no hand in causing the fire themselves.
Car Accidents –Thanks to gasoline, other flammable fluids, and the high concentration of plastics and foam rubber in all vehicles, crashes are often the cause of catastrophic burn injuries. Fires and explosions can turn a serious car accident into a fatal one in the blink of an eye. If the accident was caused by a negligent, intoxicated, reckless, or distracted driver, victims can recover legal damages.
Chemical burns – Caustic chemical compounds such as industrial acids or other corrosive liquids can cause severe burns when they come into contact with the skin. Highly toxic chemicals can burn away soft tissue in seconds. With Houston having the largest concentration of petrochemical refineries in the U.S., hazardous chemical exposure is very common. And disastrous chemical fires can irrevocably sear lungs in workers all too quickly. Companies which do not safely manage their chemical plants, leading to an explosive chemical fire or widespread exposure event, can be sued for damages by injured workers and residents who live in proximity to the disaster.
Electrical burns – An electric shock or uncontrolled short circuit can cause electrical burns, resulting in extreme internal damage such as cardiac arrest or damage to other vital organs which may not be apparent at the time of the injury. Though many electrical burns are obvious at the point of contact, that is not always the case.
Scalding – Hot liquids can cause scalding burns when they come in contact with the skin. Scalding is frequently the cause of burns experienced by children younger than five, but they can also occur in restaurant kitchens or near steam release valves.
Consequences of and Complications from Burn Injuries
Burns can seriously harm the skin, underlying muscles, blood vessels, nerves, and bone. Additional consequences of severe burns include:
- Scars and disfigurement
- Serious emotional and psychological damage
- Infection during treatment
- Respiratory distress in patients with severe burns, which is often fatal.
Serious burns can overwhelm not only the victim but also their family. Rare is the time that the victim’s life isn’t profoundly changed after a catastrophic burn injury. The possible loss of a limb, disfigurement, permanent scarring, and/or recurring infections can truly devastate the victim and their loved ones. Depression, nightmares, and avoiding social interaction often follow, and rehabilitation for the physical damage caused by a burn is long and painful.
How Is A Burn Injury Case Analyzed In Court?
Perhaps the most important factor is what caused the accident. If, for example, a person is hurt in a vehicle accident, and the other driver was in violation of traffic laws at the time, they will be considered negligent. Running a red light, driving while intoxicated, making illegal turns, and speeding are common causes of vehicle accidents, and they can all leave a victim exposed to fire. At work, if an accident occurs due to the negligence of a co-worker or employer, the victim may be entitled to enough compensation to cover their medical costs. If, however, the accident was caused by pure chance and no one is clearly at fault, a hurt worker will usually only be entitled to workers’ compensation, providing the employer opted into the insurance coverage.
The severity of the accident will also have a major impact on the kind of settlement a victim may be able to secure. Fire is capable of damaging tissue all the way to the bone, leaving the victim with intense, chronic pain, loss of limb mobility, numbness, secondary infections, and disfiguring scars. Long-term physical therapy and several cosmetic surgeries may be required to restore some quality of life to the victim, and this is expensive. The worse the accident, the more the victim may be able to recover, and if there are scars present in a visible place, such as the face, the settlement will need to be higher to offset the emotional and psychological damages.
Contact a Burn Injury Lawyer in Houston, Texas
The Terry Bryant Law Firm has more than 30 years of experience fighting for the rights of injured burn victims. Let our experience and knowledge of the law work to help get you the compensation you’re owed for your injuries. A burn injury lawyer works to build a strong claim on your behalf, so you can focus on recovering. Contact Terry Bryant today and get the legal help you deserve. Call (713) 973-8888 or toll-free (800) 444-5000, or fill out our online contact form, for your free consultation today.