Burns are among the most destructive and painful injures. Victims endure both the immediate trauma of the injury and, when the injury is severe, a lengthy and painful recovery process. Even at the end of that process, many victims are left with permanent alterations of appearance, function, and personality. The emotional and psychological impairments can be severe, and attributable to memory of the initial injury, memory of the painful post-injury period and the effects of scarring or physical limitations.
The medical care, both immediate and long term, is usually very expensive; multiple surgeries may be needed. Victims may be unable to work or attend school for lengthy periods, some victims will never be able to resume their former employment, and therapy for the mental and emotional aspects may be lengthy and expensive. On top of which, victims and their families must decide whether someone may be legally responsible for the injury and how to go about obtaining compensation.
The services of an experienced Austin burn injury attorney can relieve you of the concerns about the legal case, and may well help you navigate the medical and rehabilitative universe as well.
Classification of Burns
Most people think of burns as being classified as first, second, or third degree. In the medical world, four degrees are recognized, and one of them has two variations. In their treatment, doctors and nurses will describe burn injuries as (least severe to most severe):
- First degree if the burn involves only the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin; these burns heal in a few days without major treatment
- Second degree, which is often broken into:
- Partial thickness, which involves the entire epidermis and the uppermost layers of the dermis
- Full thickness, which involves the destruction of the entire epidermis and most of the dermis
- Third degree, in which all layers of the skin are destroyed, so damage extends into the subcutaneous tissues
- Fourth degree, in which damage extends even further, into muscle and bone
While textbooks discuss these categories as if they were clearly visible differences, doctors often have to simply estimate the depth of the burn, which is complicated by the fact the thickness of the epidermis varies from body location to body location and that skin is thinner on children and the elderly.
Related Physical Injuries
If the burn incident involved a fire, the victim may have respiratory damage from the smoke (especially if toxic materials were burning). If muscle and bone have been injured, mobility can be impaired.
The primary injury from a burn itself is to the skin, although 3rd and 4th degree burns affect deeper tissue as well. Deep burns may destroy:
- Sweat glands, which are involved in the body’s temperature regulation; lack of these glands can make it very difficult to be in environments that are very hot and/or humid, and can make the victim more prone to overheating while engaged in strenuous activity
- Sebaceous glands, which lubricate and moisturize the skin
- Sensation on the skin surface, altering the victim’s ability to sense hot and cold, to distinguish between sharp and dull contact and to identify changes in pressure on the skin
Scarring is a major concern, though modern medicine has made tremendous advances in minimizing scars. If scars form near joints, mobility can be restricted. Scarring is an even greater concern in child burn victims, whose continued growth requires that their skin expand.
Emotional disturbance is common after severe burns. The experience of the traumatic event can affect sleep, mood, and general willingness to engage in normal activities. The problem is exacerbated when the victim has scars, especially in areas that are very visible (mostly the face, hands, arms). The disturbance is exacerbated still more in children, who are by nature self-conscious, females who in this society remain subject to social expectations as to appearance, and victims whose employment requires considerable public contact.
Handling a burn injury case requires four things:
- Experience with the specific type of incident that caused the burn (defective product, auto accident, industrial accident, premises that are prone to fire, etc.); the necessary evidence and potential witnesses differ from type to type.
- Experience with the legal principles which apply to liability of specific people or organizations that may have been negligent (homeowners, local governments, retailers, industrial businesses, etc.).
- Experience with burn injuries that allows computation of immediate, medium term and long term damages for which the defendant may be responsible; that includes both physical injuries and the emotional/psychological injuries so common for burn victims.
- Experience with the behavior and tactics that defendants are likely to display in attempts to avoid or minimize liability, which speeds up resolution of the case, either through fair settlement or a court trial.
Seek Help from a Seasoned Austin Burn Injury Attorney
The Austin personal injury attorneys at Briggle & Polan, PLLC have that experience and a track record of successfully obtaining the compensation our clients require in order to resume their lives. We know how to settle cases fairly and we’re always ready to proceed to court if a fair settlement isn’t possible. Call us in Austin 512-472-1926 and tell us about the burn injury that has intruded on your life.
For more information, see our recent blog post about the Top Causes of Burn Injuries in a Household.