Written by attorney David Jose Lopez

Burn Injuries, Severe Burn Injuries, Scald Burn Injuries

Burn injuries are catastrophic injuries that require careful attention to the future needs and cost of future care for the burn-injured person. Because they are often catastrophic injuries, burn injuries can result in life-long disability and the need for life-long medical care, life care assistance, and household services assistance, among other needs.

Such catastrophic injuries require careful analysis of complicated financial damage calculations, large damage awards, well-crafted structured settlements, analysis of the effects of reduced life expectancy, and placing values on a person's daily needs for his or her life expectancy. Experienced analysis is required to carefully calculate the future needs of the injured person and place financial values on those needs to ensure appropriate compensation for the catastrophically burn-injured person.

Burn injuries often result in fatalities due to the shock they place on the human body. In those cases, a wrongful death lawsuit can hold the responsible party or parties accountable. If not fatal, burn injuries can be extremely painful because burns damage nerve endings in the skin. Burn injuries can range from "first degree," where the first layer of skin is burned to "third degree," in which all the layers of the skin are burned. Third degree is the most severe and painful burn condition involving destruction of the skin's nerve endings, deep and extensive scarring, and possible skin grafts to cover the burned area.

Burn injuries present the injured person with physical injuries and challenges as well as psychological injuries and challenges. These challenges are usually life-long. Burn injuries can be caused by fire, heat, electrical, chemical, radiation, and gaseous sources. Burn injuries can affect other parts of the body and the injured person's mental and emotional condition. Muscles, nerves, blood vessels, blood flow, body fluid levels, bones, body temperature, respiratory system, physical ability to do tasks, joint functions and physical appearance, among other aspects, can be affected by severe burn injuries.

Most burns are thermal burns that occur when a persons skin comes in contact with a source of increased temperature. Fire, flame, scalding liquids (such as hot soups, hot drinks, hot water heaters, and hot shower water), steam, and hot objects are common sources of thermal burns. Burn severity is related to heat intensity and how long the skin is in contact with the heat source (higher heat and longer contact leads to deeper, more severe burns.) Thermal burns occur at temperatures above 111.2 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degree Celsius. Destruction of a person’s full thickness of skin tissue can happen in as little as 3 to 5 seconds with a heat source of 140 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures or 60 degrees Celsius. Children and the elderly, are at greater risk of burn wound injury because they have thinner skin..

Chemical burns cause a smaller percentage of all burn injuries. Chemical burn injuries can happen from contact, inhaling, swallowing, or injecting of chemicals. A chemical burn can affect the whole body and have systemic effects. Chemical burn severity depends on the type, volume, duration of contact, quantity of the chemical, extent of tissue penetration, and concentration of the chemical. Tissue damage typically will continue until the chemical is eliminated, removed or neutralized. Chemical burns can result from:

Strong acids: sulfuric and muriatic acid;

Alkalis: lime (cement), ammonia, caustics;

Vesicants: Dimethyl sulfoxide, chemical warfare agents;

Corrosives: phenol, lye, white phosphorus

Electrical burns can occur from contact with household electrical current, car batteries, electric surgical devices, and high-tension electrical wires. Electrical injuries are classified as either high-voltage, greater than 1,000 volts of energy, or low-voltage, less than 1,000 volts of energy. The severity of electrical burns depends on the type of electrical current, the length of contact, surrounding environmental conditions and the resistance of the body’s tissues. Electricity takes the path of least resistance. Generally, nerves, blood vessels, and muscles have the highest risk of damage. Nerve tissues have the least resistance and bone tissue has greater resistance. Electrical burn injuries typically have both entrance and exit wounds. Much of the burn area may not be visible due to damage done beneath the skin. The amount of internal injury is usually unknown until a thorough medical examination is completed. Electrical burns can result in severe and life-threatening complications.

Radiation burns include burns from nuclear sources and some ultraviolet light sources.

Inhalation burn injuries typically result in lung injury is as a result of smoke inhalation and particles from incomplete combustion. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a type of chemical burn Incomplete combustion of smoke products can produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs because carbon monoxide attaches to blood hemoglobin 200 times more easily than oxygen. When carbon monoxide is combined with hemoglobin, oxygen cannot be carried by the red blood cells and the body tissues do not receive the oxygen they need for the cells.

Inhalation burn injuries can include injury to the lips, mouth, nose, throat, esophagus, and lungs. Often these injuries are referred to upper airway injuries. These injuries create a high risk of airway obstruction. They can result in hoarseness, dry cough, labored or rapid breathing, difficulty swallowing, and difficulty breathing, or death. Burn injuries in the lungs can cause extensive damage to the air sacs, or alveoli. Bronchial constriction and spasms can occur within minutes to hours after an inhalation burn injury and can lead to respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome within minutes, hours or days.

David Lopez, Esq., has litigated and taken to trial a variety of burn injury lawsuits in his more than 22 years of trial law practice. David has more than 22 years experience handling complex serious injury, catastrophic injury, and wrongful death cases. If you have been injured, or a loved one has died, as a result of severe burn injuries from an accident, please contact David J. Lopez, Esq.,, by e-mail at [email protected], or by telephone at 619-985-6187, for a free consultation and case evaluation.

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