Stephen Hasner | Personal Injury | March 23, 2021
Burns can result from many kinds of accidents. But regardless of how the burn occurred, you could face a lifetime of medical problems and complications from your burn injuries.
Your skin is one of the largest organs of your body. It performs critical functions as part of your immune system. Burns can rob you of many important bodily functions, such as thermoregulation and resistance to infections.
Worse yet, severe burns often leave visible scars. These scars can have a lasting psychological effect.
Let’s take a look at some of the lasting damages that are likely to occur from a severe burn injury and learn about the effects of burn injuries on an injury claim.
What You Need to Know About Burn Injuries
Broadly defined, any skin damage that results from a chemical reaction qualifies as a burn.
Doctors usually classify burn injuries in accordance with their cause. Depending on the manner in which the burn occurred, many different types of treatment could be used.
Some of the most common types of burn injuries come from the following sources:
The heat from solid objects, liquids, and vapors can damage the skin by killing skin cells and triggering an immune response that can create localized inflammation. Severe burns break down cells in the same way that cooking breaks down plant and meat cells.
Burns from flames can create charred skin and hair. Flames can also melt clothing into the burn, complicating treatment and increasing infection and scarring risk.
Caustic chemicals react with skin cells, which can damage or completely kill the cells. An oxidation chemical reaction produces the same damage as a flame, which represents another form of oxidation reaction.
Radiation damages skin cells through ionization. In ionization, energetic waves knock electrons from atoms. Sunburn is a radiation burn caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Electrical burns occur when an electrical current passes through the skin. In addition to rapid heating at the electrical burn site, the electrical current damages skin cells and overloads nerves.
The Severity of Burn Injuries
Doctors usually describe the extent of burn injuries based on (1) the severity of skin damage and (2) the amount of skin affected. For example, you might hear a burn injury described as “third-degree burns over 40% of his body.”
The severity of skin damage uses a three-step scale:
First-degree burns produce redness and some swelling. The upper skin layers may die and peel away. But first-degree burns produce little scarring and no long-term effects.
Second-degree burns produce redness, swelling, and blisters. The extent of the damage often goes much deeper than a first-degree burn. Second-degree burns may require medical treatment because they reduce the skin’s protective effects, which means that the body becomes susceptible to infection.
Third-degree burns can threaten the life of the victim. With a third-degree burn, the damage goes all the way through the skin to the fat layer underneath. Third-degree burns may produce less pain than a first- or second-degree burn because the burn may damage or kill nerve cells.
Third-degree burns may need to be treated with skin grafts because the dead skin no longer protects the body from moisture loss or infection.
Lasting Damage of Burn Injuries
The damage from first- and second-degree burns is limited to the skin. Second-degree burns can produce scars but will usually leave the underlying tissue undamaged.
Third-degree burns affect the skin and the underlying tissue. As a result, they produce long-lasting effects than lower-degree burns.
Lasting Physical Effects of Burn Injuries
Some physical effects of burn injuries can last beyond the initial recovery phase include.
These effects include:
- Increased risk of infection
- Scar tissue
- Contractures (a term for a tightening or hardening of the skin, muscles, and tendons which inhibits movement)
- Loss of thermoregulation
- Sensitivity to heat
- Weakness from muscle damage
- Nerve damage
In addition to these lasting effects, radiation burns can cause skin cancer, while electrical burns can cause heart arrhythmia.
Lasting Psychological Effects of Burn Injuries
Burns can produce profound physical changes. These physical changes, along with the intensive treatment and pain that the patient endured, can have lasting psychological effects.
Some of the psychological effects of burn injuries include:
- Negative body image
- Social isolation
- Sleep disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
These psychological effects may be disproportionate to the actual burn damage. For example, someone with extensive burn scars on their legs may experience anxiety and negative body image, even though they can cover the scars with clothing.
Damages for Lasting Damage from Severe Burn Injuries
A person or business may be liable for your burn injuries if their negligence caused such injuries. In this case, the at-fault party has to compensate you for your economic and noneconomic damages.
Some common events that may entitle you to damages for your burn injuries are:
To prove liability for your burn injuries, you must show that the person or business negligently caused your burn injuries. In other words, you must demonstrate they failed to exercise reasonable care in safeguarding you from the accident. For instance, you may be able to establish negligence for a burn injury if a hotel failed to replace a broken smoke alarm in your hotel room.
Economic Damages for Burn Injuries
Economic damages make you whole financially. They compensate you for your financial losses arising from an injury.
These damages cover such things as:
- Current and future medical expenses, including your costs for medical treatment, mental and physical therapy, and medication
- Current and future lost income if your burn injuries cause you to miss work
- Diminished earning capacity if your burn injuries force you to change jobs
Burn injuries can produce lasting damage to your skin, nerves, immune system, and mental health. Thus, you should seek money for your future medical expenses and lost income due to future health problems that are likely to arise from your burn injuries.
Non-Economic Damages for Burn Injuries
Non-economic damages represent the burdens of injuries that might not have a direct financial cost.
Some examples of non-economic losses include:
- Pain and physical anguish
- Suffering and mental anguish
- Diminishment in your quality of life
- Reduced ability to participate in activities
The psychological effects of the disfigurement caused by burn injuries can help you establish a claim for non-economic damages.
Proving Damages for Burn Injuries
A claims adjuster or jury will need documentation to support your claim for damages.
To support your claim, you should:
- Keep records of things like prescriptions and medical bills
- Discuss the lasting effects of your burn injuries with your doctor so that your medical records reflect all of your long-term symptoms
- Seek psychological therapy or counseling for any lasting psychological effects of your burn injuries
With evidence to support your claim, an injury lawyer can help you obtain fair compensation for your burn injuries.