Howry Breen & Herman is so proud to have represented so many men, women, and children who have fought to recover from burn injuries, one of the most devastating and painful types of injury, securing full and fair compensation along the way.
Many accidents lead to severe, catastrophic burns. Oilfield accidents, defective products, premises liability and even car crashes can all result in extensive burns that permanently alter the victim’s life. Catastrophic burns are extensive in nature and often lead to further complications, such as infection, low body temperature, problems breathing, and scarring. These injuries require immediate and extensive medical treatment and often result in serious physical and emotional consequences.
Unfortunately, burn injuries commonly occur as a result of negligence. When this is the case, you may be able to hold the negligent parties accountable for your damages and pain and suffering. At Howry Breen & Herman, we help victims of negligence fight for a full, fair recovery. Our team of Austin burn injury lawyers has been serving clients in Austin and Georgetown since 1995; find out how we can help you with your complex catastrophic injury case today.
Types of Burn Injuries
A burn injury is a type of injury that occurs when skin or other tissues of the body are damaged due to exposure to heat, electricity, chemicals, radiation, or friction. Burns can vary in severity, and they are typically categorized into different degrees based on the extent of tissue damage.
Burns are categorized according to severity. Generally speaking, the more severe a burn, the more treatment it will require. Very severe burns also pose a higher risk of related complications.
The different types of burns are as follows:
- First-Degree Burns: The mildest type of burn, first-degree burns affect only the outer layer of skin (epidermis). First-degree burns usually result in redness of the affected area and minor pain.
- Second-Degree Burns: Second-degree burns are moderate burns that affect both the upper layer of skin (epidermis) and the lower layer of skin (dermis). Second-degree burns usually result in pain, redness, and blistering.
- Third-Degree Burns: The most severe type of burns, third-degree burns affect the upper and lower layers of skin, as well as the muscles, tissues, and sometimes bones beneath the skin. These burns often result in whitened or blackened skin and very high levels of pain.
In addition to these three primary degrees, there are also fourth-degree burns, which are even more severe, involving damage to deeper tissues like tendons and ligaments. Electrical burns and chemical burns can be particularly dangerous, as they can continue to damage tissue even after the initial exposure is removed.
Regardless of the type, all burns can result in other related injuries. Often, burns cause extreme pain, blisters, swelling, and/or damaged or peeling skin. In certain cases, an individual may experience shock, which can lead to dangerously low blood pressure. Burns can also be permanent and cause scarring, disfigurement, and physical impairment that lasts a lifetime.
Furthermore, burns caused by heat sources can be sorted into multiple categories, such as:
- Flash Burns: Flash burns occur when a person is exposed to a sudden, intense burst of heat and light, often due to explosions or exposure to intense sources of radiation, such as welding arcs. The heat and light can damage the skin and eyes. Flash burns are typically superficial and may affect the outer layer of the skin, resulting in redness, blistering, and pain.
- Flame Burns: Flame burns are caused by direct contact with an open flame, such as from a fire, candle, or stove. The severity of flame burns can vary, with superficial burns causing redness and blistering, while deeper burns can result in charring, and may be extremely painful.
- Contact Burns: Contact burns are caused by direct contact with hot objects, like irons, pans, or heating elements. The severity of contact burns depends on the temperature of the object and the duration of contact. They often result in localized damage, and the depth of the burn can vary.
- Scald Burns: Scald burns are caused by exposure to hot liquids or steam, such as boiling water or hot beverages. These burns can vary in severity, with mild cases resulting in redness and blistering, while severe cases can lead to deep tissue damage. They often occur on areas like the hands, arms, or lower extremities.
- Steam Burns: Steam burns occur when a person is exposed to hot steam, often from cooking or industrial processes. These burns are typically superficial, causing redness and blistering, but can also result in deeper burns depending on the temperature and duration of exposure.
- Chemical Burns: Chemical burns result from contact with corrosive substances, such as acids, alkalis, or strong cleaning agents. The severity of chemical burns can vary, and they may continue to damage tissues until the chemical is removed. These burns can be extremely dangerous and may not show immediate symptoms.
- Electrical Burns: Electrical burns occur when the body comes into contact with electrical currents, such as from electrical outlets, power lines, or electrical appliances. These burns can vary in severity and often result in entry and exit wounds. The internal tissue damage may be more extensive than what's visible on the skin.
- Radiation Burns: Radiation burns result from exposure to ionizing radiation, such as in medical treatments or nuclear accidents. These burns can vary in severity, affecting both the skin and underlying tissues. The severity depends on the dose and duration of exposure.
When Are Burns Caused by Negligence?
Burns are fairly common results of many different types of accidents. When these accidents are caused by negligence, the victim may be entitled to compensation.
Some examples of how negligence can lead to burn injuries include:
- An explosion at a construction site or oilfield causes a fire that leaves several workers with extensive burns.
- A defective electronic device sparks when it is plugged into an outlet, causing the user to burn her hand.
- Unsafe electrical wiring at a hotel causes a fire the results in multiple people suffering severe burn injuries.
- A product that uses fuel is involved in an accident, spilling fuel that catches fire and burns a victim.
- A distracted driver hits a motorcyclist, causing the motorcyclist to hit the ground where he suffers road rash and burn injuries.
- A tenant in an apartment complex starts a fire in his kitchen, which then rages through the building and severely burns other tenants.
These are just a few ways in which negligence can lead to burn injuries. There are countless other ways that burns can directly or indirectly result from another person, company, or entity’s careless or reckless actions. For example, some of the deadliest apartment fires were worsened due to the landlord’s terrible compliance with fire safety codes, such as not providing tenants with working smoke detectors, blocking fire escapes, and failing to maintain fire extinguishers in common areas.
If you believe your injuries were caused by negligence, reach out to our firm as soon as possible to discuss your options with an experienced burn injury attorney in Austin.
Burn Injuries That Happen in the Workplace
Every year, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) agents are tasked with investigating thousands of workplace fires, many of which result in a worker’s serious burn injuries.
Industries and careers that are more likely to see an on-the-job burn injury include:
- Foodservice: Cooking equipment, hot surfaces, and hot oil can pose burn hazards in commercial kitchens. Contact with hot dishes, coffee, or beverages may result in burn injuries.
- Construction: Welding operations involve intense heat and the risk of welding-related burns. Construction workers may also encounter electrical burns due to contact with live wires and electrical equipment.
- Electrician: Electricians can face electrical burns and arc flash injuries when working with electricity.
- Industrial Manufacturing: Workers operating machinery or equipment that generates heat may be at risk of burns. Employees in chemical manufacturing facilities may be exposed to chemicals that can cause chemical burns.
- Firefighting: Firefighters are exposed to high-temperature environments, flames, and the risk of burn injuries in the course of their duties.
- Healthcare: Healthcare workers may encounter scalding injuries from hot fluids and, in some cases, chemical burns when dealing with medical substances. There is a risk of burns from surgical instruments, lasers, and electrosurgical devices in the operating room.
- Automotive and Mechanics: Auto mechanics may be at risk of burns from hot engine components, exhaust systems, or welding activities.
- Chemical Industry: Workers in chemical plants or laboratories may be exposed to corrosive chemicals, which can lead to chemical burns.
- Roofing and Roofing Installation: Roofers may encounter hot tar, asphalt, or heated roofing materials, leading to thermal burns.
- Metalwork and Foundry Operations: Workers in metal foundries may be at risk of burns from molten metal, hot molds, and other high-temperature processes.
If a worker is burned while performing an expected job duty, then they could use workers’ compensation if eligible or file a claim if not. Furthermore, workers’ compensation will only pay for the medical treatment costs related to the worker’s burn injury and it might replace some of their wages if they are temporarily or permanently disabled from their burn. Damages related to their pain and suffering are not covered at all, and the worker will still be missing some of their pre-injury wages. A burn injury lawsuit could be justified to pursue those unpaid damages, but this is not an option in many cases due to workers’ compensation laws. Our attorneys can help determine if filing a personal injury claim in addition to or instead of a workers’ compensation claim is right for your case.
Typical Recovery Process for Burn Injury Patients
Following a third-degree burn, a patient will need immediate medical care and possibly surgery. Skin grafts are useful for treating a burn but can leave the patient with permanent scars. Once corrective and reconstructive surgeries are completed, it is common for a burn injury patient to spend days or weeks in the hospital. Burns cause severe dehydration and pain in the following days, so hospitalization will ensure the patient receives adequate fluids and painkillers.
All of the treatments during an average burn injury recovery process can get expensive. If you did not cause your burn injury, then you should not be the one stuck with the medical bills. Filing a burn injury claim is the first step in pursuing proper compensation for your damages.
Am I Entitled to Financial Compensation If I Was Burned?
Much like any other personal injury claim, determining whether you are eligible to receive compensation after sustaining burn injuries depends largely on the issue of liability. Only when another person/party is legally liable for your injuries are you able to secure compensation.
So, how can you determine if someone else is liable? This will depend on who or what caused the accident or event that led to you being burned. If someone else—whether that’s a person, a product manufacturer, a property owner, or another entity—is at fault for your injuries, you are able to seek financial compensation by bringing a claim against their insurance provider.
In order to determine if you are entitled to seek financial compensation for your burn injuries and related damages, ask yourself the following:
- Did someone else owe you a duty of care? In other words, did another person or party have a responsibility to act in such a way (within reason) as to prevent you from coming to harm?
- Did that person or party fail to uphold the duty of care (by acting negligently, carelessly, recklessly, wrongfully, etc.)?
- As a result of that person/party’s failure to uphold the duty of care, were you injured (in this case, burned) or did you otherwise suffer harm?
- Was the harm you suffered, whether or not it was economic in nature, measurable in some way?
If you are able to answer “yes” to all of these questions, you have grounds to bring a claim. In the simplest terms, if someone else was at fault for your burn injuries, you can seek financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, trauma, pain, suffering, and other damages.
Why Hire a Lawyer for a Burn Injury Claim?
Insurance defense companies adamantly challenge burn injury claims like clockwork. The insurance adjusters know that the medical costs to treat a severe burn can be extensive, ranging into tens of thousands of dollars. When lost wages and noneconomic damages are factored in, a third-degree burn injury claim could justify seven-figures of compensation.
With the likelihood of the responding insurance company putting up a big fight, you should prepare early and take the initiative with a legal team of your own. Howry, Breen & Herman, LLP and our burn injury attorneys in Austin are here to help you stand up to insurance companies and demand the full amount of compensation you deserve. While we work on your case and deal with insurers, you can focus on rest and healing.