Though most burn injuries are preventable, they remain a leading cause of accidental death and injury in the United States. According to the American Burn Association, from 2011 to 2015, around 486,000 Americans were treated at hospital emergency rooms for burns. These are some other statistics released by the American Burn Association:
- There were 3,390 civilian deaths from fires in 2016: 2,800 of those fatalities were from residential structure fires, 150 deaths from non-residential structure fires, 355 from vehicle fires, and 85 were outdoors or “unclassified” fires that were neither structural nor vehicle fires.
- Children and the disabled are particularly vulnerable to burn injuries. Almost one in four (24%) of all burn injuries occur in children under age 15, while those five years of age and under are almost two-and-a-half times as likely to suffer traumatic burn injuries as the general population.
- Today, almost 87% of serious burn victims will survive their wounds. Unfortunately, many survivors will live the rest of their lives with serious scarring and physical disabilities.
There are several types of burns, which fall into four basic groups:
- Thermal burns from hot metals, scalding liquids, steam, and flames, causing tissue cell death or severe charring
- Radiation burns resulting from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, radiation, or X-rays
- Chemical burns from exposure to caustic substances such as strong acids, alkalies, detergents, or other dangerous solvents. Immediate washing of the affected area can lessen the effect. Many of these serious injuries come when caustic liquids come in contact with eyes.
- Electrical burns such as those produced when someone touches high-power electrical lines.
What are Common Causes of Serious Burn Injuries?
Auto Fires: According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) there were 174,000 vehicle fires in 2015: 49% from a mechanical failure or malfunction, 11% from fuel line leaks or breaks, 23% from electrical failures, and 3% from a car crash or rollover. The remaining causes were not listed. Car fires accounted for less than 1% of all 37,461 U.S. vehicle fatalities in 2016 and .07% of all 4,084,631 vehicle accident injuries.
Residential Fires: In 2015 there were 380,900 such fires caused by cooking/kitchen incidents (51%):
- 11% heating (mostly open-flame gas heaters)
- 6% electrical appliance malfunction
- 6% “unintentional/careless” actions
- and the remaining percentage divided among 11 other causes.
Industrial Fires: Unsafe working conditions on construction sites, faulty electrical equipment, and substandard safety instruction or faulty safety equipment are all causes of industrial fire-related burns.
Defective Flame-Retardant Clothing: Workers in a number of professions are required to wear flame-retardant garments for protection. Defective gear can result in incidental, serious burn injuries.
How Burns are Classified
Burns are classified as first-, second- or third-degree burns and are determined by how deep they penetrate the skin’s surface.
- First-degree burns affect only the epidermis (outer layer of skin). Referred to as a “superficial” burn, the site is red, painful, and dry, but there are no blisters.
- Second-degree burns (also called partial thickness burns) affect the epidermis and the upper dermis layers of skin. The burned area is red and blistered, and may include a wound which is swollen and moderately painful.
- Third-degree burns destroy both the epidermis and dermis. When severe third-degree (full thickness) burns damage underlying bones, muscles, and tendons, they are often referred to as “fourth-degree burns.” The wound site appears white or charred, and the patient feels nothing in the affected area due to complete destruction of the nerve endings.
Prognosis of Serious Burns and their Effects on Victims and Families
Severe burns are always devastating to the victim, both physically and emotionally. They place overwhelming long-term stress on the victim’s family as well. Serious burn injury victims are often left with a loss of some physical abilities, sometimes losing limbs, suffering disfigurement, scarring, and/or recurring infections (because skin is the body’s greatest fighter against infection). “Fourth degree” burns often leave victims with permanent muscle or tissue damage that can seriously impact every organ.
Burns commonly leave victims with emotional problems such as depression, nightmares, and withdrawal from social interaction. The loss of a friend or family member, and all of one’s possessions in the fire may add grief to the emotionally frail, seriously injured burn victim. Burn rehabilitation from serious injuries is long and painful.
Our experienced Houston burn injury lawyers will work to build a strong injury claim on your behalf to help you get the compensation you deserve for your burn injuries. Contact Terry Bryant to get the legal help you need after a Texas fire, explosion, or workplace accident by calling (800) 444-5000; or you can arrange for a free case evaluation by using our contact form. If you are unable to travel, we will come to you.