Delray Beach Burn Accident Lawyers
Fire. It has gone hand-in-hand with the development of human beings as the dominant species on the planet. Not only is fire one of the first things that humans try to master when they are faced with the wilderness; without fire, it is unlikely that we ever would have achieved any of today’s modern technological achievements. However, as important as fire has been to human beings, it has the potential to create vast harm. If you have been injured in a fire, then you know, firsthand, how devastating burns can be.
At Demand the Limits, a Delray Beach law firm, our burn accident attorneys also understand why burns are different from many other types of personal injuries. Burns are probably the most painful type of serious injury that a person can receive. They can also create recovery challenges that other injuries do not create, because of lasting skin and nerve damage. Burns may require victims to be in the hospital for extensive periods of time, undergo multiple surgeries, work on rehab, and put victims at risk of infections and other secondary illnesses. Burn victims often never fully recover from their injuries. These injuries may not only impact the function of impacted areas, but also the appearance and form. While this may not seem as serious to someone who has not been burned, the lifelong impact of that physical damage can have a profound emotional impact on a burn victim.
While we cannot make your burns go away, the burn accident attorneys at Demand the Limits can promise to be there to help you recover if your burns were the result of someone else’s behavior. Whether the burns were the result of someone else’s negligence, or willful criminal activity, we can help you recover the compensation you deserve for their injuries, and help you ensure that wrongdoers are not allowed to injure others in the same way in the future.
Severity of Burns
It is fairly safe to say that every adult person has suffered some type of burn. From the mild pain of a sunburn from too much time in the sun, to the small blister that comes from grabbing a hot pan or getting hot glue on you while doing a craft, burns are a common occurrence in everyday life. However, while these mild or small burns may be part of everyday life, they do allow people some understanding of exactly how significant it could be to have a major burn. Every burn is different. Knowing the type and severity of a burn is important, but it is also important to know what percentage of the body has been burned. An isolated third-degree burn to a small area is a relatively insignificant injury compared to third-degree burns over an entire body. Therefore, it is important to look at three factors when considering the severity of a burn injury: the type of burn, the degree of the burn, and the percentage of the body that has been burned.
The Type of Burn
The type of burn refers to what type of agent caused the burning. There are four main categories of burns: thermal (heat), chemical, electrical, and radiological. These four categories refer to how the burn occurred. At the name suggests, thermal burns are caused by heat. The source of this heat can be fire, steam, hot objects, or hot liquids. Liquid thermal burns are often referred to as scaldings. Chemical burns are burns caused by a chemical reaction, usually by chemicals that are either highly alkaline or highly acidic. These burns are special because treatment generally requires more than simply the application of water to the site; the chemical reaction needs to be stopped in order to stop the burn damage. Electrical burns are burns caused by electrical current. Both AC and DC current can cause electrical burns. On the surface, electrical burns can be very similar to thermal burns, as the current can cause high heat. However, electrical burns can also be systemic and spread throughout the body without any visual indicators. Radiological burns are caused by radiation. Depending on how the radiation burns were caused, a patient may need to be decontaminated and have the radioactive substances removed in order to stop the injury.
The Degree of the Burn
Most people are familiar with the fact that burns are divided into degrees. There are three degrees of burns, and they are simply labeled: first degree burns, second degree burns, and third degree burns. The term degree refers to the depth of the burn. The deeper the burn, the higher the degree, and the more severe the injury.
First degree burns are the most common type of burn and also the least severe. These are superficial burns, and the burn only damages the surface of the skin, or the epidermis. The skin is still intact. You have probably experienced a first degree burn; think about a mild sunburn and you know what a first degree burn is.
Second degree burns are more serious than first degree burns. Not only is the epidermis damaged, but the burn has also gone down to the dermis, which is the skin’s second layer. The nerves are not fully damaged with second degree burns, which means that many people consider them to be the most painful type of burn, even if the injuries are not as serious as third degree burns. Some medical practitioners may refer to second degree burns as partial thickness burns.
Third degree burns are the most serious type of burn. In third degree burns, the epidermis and dermis have been destroyed. In addition to the destruction of both skin layers, there may be deeper damage in third degree burns, impacting organs. Some medical practitioners may refer to third degree burns as full thickness burns. Third degree burns are very serious injuries from which victims may never fully recover, but, because the burns damage and destroy nerves, they are often less painful than second degree burns. In fact, burns are counterintuitive that way; the less pay that exists with a serious burn, the more likely that there is severe long-term damage from which a victim may never recover.
The Extent of the Burn
There are no specialized terms to describe the extent of a burn injury, but the extent of the injury can be as important as the degree of the injury in terms of assessing the likelihood of survival, the likelihood of recovery, and the degree of long-term impact of the burn. Medical practitioners will often refer to the percentage of the body that has been burned when discussing the extent of a burn. In fact, treatment guidelines are often dictated by the percentage of the body that has been burned. Victims who have been burned on 20% or more of their body may need immediate IV resuscitation, while victims who have been burned on 30% or more of their body may be fatal unless they receive prompt medical care.
How Burns Occur
One of the things that makes burn accidents a unique aspect of personal injury law is that burns can occur in a number of different ways. More significantly, the theory of personal injury law that is used to get a victim compensation for the burn injuries will depend on how the burn occurred. Burns might be the result of willful behavior, reckless behavior, or negligent behavior.
Most burns are the result of negligence. Negligence means that someone that owed you a duty of care failed to meet the standard of care associated with that duty. The duty of care varies depending on your relationship with the individual. For example, you may not think of yourself as owing a duty of care to people outside of your direct sphere of influence. However, you owe everyone you encounter the duty to act like a reasonable person. That is why a neighbor who falls asleep with a lit cigarette and causes burn injuries to his neighbors can be held responsible for those injuries without establishing any other relationship between the parties. Likewise, a manufacturer who has failed to ensure that a product is safe may be found negligent under a products liability suit.
Some burns are the result of recklessness. Recklessness implies more than negligence. In common sense terms, a reckless person has done something that other people recognize as foolish and likely to cause an injury. If your burns are the result of a car accident that was caused by someone speeding or otherwise driving in a dangerous manner, then they may be due to recklessness. This factor does not impact the severity of the burns, but might impact the type of non-economic damages you can receive.
Finally, some burns are the result of willful behavior. Arsonists who set buildings on fire often injure people. Then, you have a people who use fire to assault others. Their behavior will be considered willful and is the category most likely to result in a punitive damage award.
Types of Compensation
There are several different types of compensation, or damages, available for burn victims. These include compensatory damages, which are damages that repay a victim for money that they have spent or lost; non-economic damages, which pay for pain and suffering; and punitive damages, which are a way to punish wrongdoers for their actions. The type and amount of damages available to a burn victim can vary wildly and will be based, not only on the severity of the injury, but also how the injury occurred, and how the responsible party’s behavior contributed to the injury.
Burn injuries are expensive, so it should come as no surprise that medical expenses are the most common type of compensation that burn injury victims receive. It is very important to look at long-term medical expenses and not simply current medical expenses when trying to determine whether a settlement offer is fair. In addition to the initial emergency treatment for a burn, many burn victims are looking at lifelong medical treatments and may even be at a lifelong greater risk of infection. Burn victims may face physical rehabilitation, occupational rehabilitation, respiratory problems, and multiple surgeries over a lifetime. You want to make sure that any medical treatment amounts are sufficient to cover the bills you are likely to receive, as well as medical expense that you have already had. In addition, because burns can be disfiguring, you want to ensure that any medical expense awards are sufficient to recovery rehabilitative plastic surgeries.
Lost wages are another common type of compensation for burn victims. The initial period of treatment and hospitalization is the first source of lost wages, but many burn victims experience lifelong impacts, which may impact their ability to work. You want to make sure that any lost wages component of a damage award not only pays for wages that have been lost, but also for the lifelong impact on earning.
While pain and suffering can be a component of any personal injury award, it becomes especially relevant in burn accident cases. Burns are known to be incredibly painful injuries, and, unlike many other types of injuries, often result in lifelong pain. In addition, the emotional suffering that often accompanies burns differs in nature and degree from the emotional suffering that may accompany other types of injuries.
Punitive damages are designed solely to punish wrongdoers. The State of Florida has established a threshold for punitive damages, to ensure that they are being awarded based on a wrongdoer’s behavior and not because of sympathy for a victim’s injuries. To get punitive damages, a plaintiff must use clear and convincing evidence to prove that the defendant’s behavior was recklessly indifferent to life or safety or that the defendant had knowledge of the wrongfulness of the conduct and of the high probability that injury or damage would result. As a result, punitive damages may not be available in every burn injury case. However, when they are available, they can form a significant portion of a damage award.
Burn accidents are not their own type of personal injury claim. Instead, burn injuries fall under the laws that govern whatever caused the injury. These may be auto accidents, workplace accidents, defective products, or even assault claims. While burn injuries may not be their own category of personal injury, they do present unique factors. That is why we encourage you to consult with an experienced burn injury attorney. At Demand the Limits in Delray Beach, we offer free consultations to review your burn injury claim. Contact us today, so we can let you know how we can help you.