In 2007, fire killed more Americans than all natural disasters combined.  17,675 civilian injuries were sustained as the result of fires.  A burn can be one of the most devastating injuries a person can ever endure.  As well as severely scarring a person physically, the emotional scars can be just as bad.  Victims suffer not only a lifetime of disfigurement and pain but often-repeated reconstruction surgeries and rehabilitation and possibly long term if not lifetime care.  Burn care is an extremely painful and lengthy process.  There are varying degrees of burns and various types of burn injuries including inhalation.

Accidents can and do take place in any number of places and situations.  Burn injuries involve injury from electrocution, explosion, flammable clothing or blankets, auto accidents, chemical or building fires.  They can result from faulty gas lines, improperly stored combustible material, steam, hot liquids or hot surfaces, gas tank explosions, acids or chemicals and improperly maintained smoke and fire detectors.  To hold someone responsible, negligence must be proved.  Negligence is the careless action or inaction of another and involves four elements:  1) duty, 2) breach of duty, 3) direct or proximate cause and 4) injury.  Of course, this must all be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.  If the burn results in a death, the lawsuit becomes a wrongful death suit.  If the result is due to some type of defective recalled product, much like the Ford Pinto issue of the 1970’s, then it becomes a case of liability.

Types of Burns

There are several factors used to determine the severity of a burn, including the depth and size of the burn, the victim’s age and the location of the burn.  There is a “rules of nines” chart, which is used to determine the total body surface area that has been burned.  This is the method used for rapidly assessing the extent of burns on the skin surface, which determines the amount of fluid required as replacement therapy, the head and arms each represent 9% of skin surface; anterior or posterior surface of legs represent 9% each; anterior and posterior truncal skin represent 18% each, inguinal (lower region of the abdomen) are 1%.  When determining the TBSA of children and infants the Lund-Browder chart is used.  This is done because the surface are of the head and neck of children is larger and the limbs smaller than on an adult.

Third Degree Burn – This affects the epidermis (outer layer), dermis (under lying layer of skin) and hypodermis.  It causes charring of the skin or a translucent white color.  There are coagulated vessels visible just below the skin surface.  While the burn area may be numb, the victim may complain of pain, usually because of second-degree burns.  Extensive and severe scarring is usually the result from third degree burns.

Second Degree Burn – This affects the epidermis and the dermis.  The result is redness, pain, swelling and blisters.  Second-degree burns often affect sweat glands and hair follicles.  Second degree burns not being treated properly, can become third degree burns due to swelling and decreased blood flow to the tissue.

First Degree Burn – This affects the epidermis or surface of the skin.  The burn is red and very sensitive to touch.  The appearance is red and blanched when light pressure is applied.  There is minimal tissue damage.

Inhalation Injuries

1.        The first kind is caused by inert gases such as carbon dioxide and fuel gases such as methane, ehane, propane, and acetylen.  The gas displaces air and oxygen, which causes asphyxia.

2.       The second kind is caused by irritant gases such as ammonia, formaldehyde, chloramin, chlorine, nitrogen dioxide and phosgene.  When these gases are dissolved in the water lining the respiratory mucosa it produces a chemical burn and an inflammatory response.  The gases being more soluble in water produce more upper airway burns, and those being less soluble in water produce more pulmonary injury and respiratory distress.

3.       The third kind of injury is caused by gasses, which are referred to as systemic toxins.  These are carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and hydrogen sulfide.  These interfere with the delivery of oxygen for cellular energy production, and aromatic and halogenated hydrocarbons.  These can produce later liver, kidney, brain, lung and other organ damage.

4.       The fourth and final type of inhalation injury is allergic.  These include inhaled gases, particles or aerosols, which produce bronchospasm and edema very much like asthma or spasmodic croup.

If you or your loved one has suffered a burn injury and face the overwhelming challenges of lost wages, surgical and medical expenses, emotional distress or physical disfigurement it is in your best interest to contact a legal expert.  An attorney experienced in burn injuries will help you with the decisions, which you need to make as a result of you or your loved one’s injury.