The American Burn Association estimates that there are more than 1 million burn injuries every year, and 500,000 burn accident injuries require medical treatment. They estimate 4,000 burns per year result in death, of which 3,500 are from fires and the other 500 are from auto and plane crashes, electricity, chemicals, hot liquids, and other types of burns. If you or a loved one has been burned from someone else’s negligence then contact a Chicago burn injury lawyer today.
Injuries resulting from a burn accident can cause severe pain, permanent cosmetic disfigurement and life-long emotional distress. Burn victims often require long-term medical care. Serious burn victims are often treated with skin grafts, and because skin grafts do not grow, multiple surgeries may be required. Don’t be alone in your recovery learn what a Chicago personal injury lawyer can do for your burn injury.
Who is at Risk for a Burn Injury?
Burn injures can happen to anyone, regardless of age or occupation. With so many sources of potential burns around in daily life, activities from the mundane to the dangerous may expose someone to the potential for a burn injury.
Though anyone can get burned, statistics show that certain types of people are at greater risk for some burns than others.
Burns Among Young Children
For example, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reports that young children are particularly vulnerable to scalding injuries that result in burns. Scalding occurs when a hot liquid or gas, including steam, comes into contact with a victim’s skin. Common causes of scalding burns to children include tap water that is too hot, bathwater that is heated to an unsafe temperature, water and liquids that are heated on a stove, or hot drinks, like coffee, that get spilled on a child.
Scalding injuries often occur at home. When a pot of boiling water is on the stove and the handle of the pot is in reach of a small child, it is easy for the child to grab the handle and spill the contents of the pot on himself or herself. As with any type of burn, the longer skin is in contact with the heat source, the more severe the burn will be. When hot liquid is spilled on a child, the liquid can continue to burn until it is completely removed by a towel or until the temperature decreases enough to stop the burning, through normal cooling of the liquid by the air or by combating the hot temperature with cool water.
Burns Among Older Children
Older children are less likely to be scalded than younger children in part because their life experiences make them more aware of the dangers presented by boiling water and other hot liquids. However, older children are still likely to suffer burns, most of the time through direct contact with a flame or fire source. Children who are around matches, lighted candles, bonfires or campfires may suffer a burn injury. Not only are the ignition sources of these fires dangerous but the fires themselves are a hazard. Embers can escape from an open fire and burn a child instantly or even cause the child’s clothing to catch fire, leading to more extensive damage.
When a child is burned, it can be just an accident or it can be through the negligence of an adult. Too often, children who are left in the care of a babysitter, daycare, or school are burned and forced to suffer permanent injuries.
Burns Among Adults
Adults are less likely to experience scalding burns than children but adults are often burned while at work. Many of these accidents result in the death or serious injury of an employee. Those who work with electricity are some of the most common employees to suffer burns. Electrical current is strong and can burn or singe instantaneously. Workers who deal with electricity should always receive proper instruction first and should be aware of the dangers they face. When all the safety precautions are taken, these work sites can be safe. However, when employers, general contractors, or management put the interests of the business before the safety of their employees, accidents often occur.
Another type of common worker who may be burned is a restaurant employee. Whether standing at a grill, over an open flame, or by a deep fryer, employees face heated surfaces and liquid that can be several hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Even employees who do not work in the kitchen may be burned in a restaurant. Common injuries result to those who work with as or with a dishwasher. To meet sanitation standards set by governing health departments, dishes must be washed in very hot water. When the clean dishes are removed from a dishwasher, they are often accompanied by steam that is hot enough to burn anyone in the immediate vicinity. The dishes themselves, especially metal silverware or metal utensils, can also be hot enough to cause a contact burn when a worker attempts to handle them.
Another common employee exposed to potential burns are those who work in an industrial setting, including factory workers, assembly line workers, and those who work on any type of equipment. Depending on the specific job and the product being produced, these employees may directly or indirectly come into contact with burning materials that may lead to injuries. Of particular concern are welders who focus on tasks that involve extremely high heat. Common amongst workers who may be exposed to burn injuries are safety gear, including gloves and where necessary, long sleeves. Though safety gear can reduce the severity of burns, the best thing to do is to have a safe working environment in the first place.
What to Do if You Have Been Burned?
Immediately after being exposed to a burning agent, the most important thing to do is to remove the heat source. This means removing your hand from a hot grill or removing clothing that may be burning. If a hot liquid has been spilled on you, it means neutralizing the effects of the liquid by using cold water on the burned area.
Prompt medical treatment can make a big difference in the intensity and the degree of the burn suffered as well as the long term effects. If you or someone around you has been burned, you should seek immediate medical care. In addition to treating the exterior injuries caused by the burn, doctors can make sure that a victim gets the medical treatment needed so that the healthy skin around the burn can heal and so that the risks of infection are as small as possible.
Unfortunately, many serious burns leave permanent damage, including scars, scar tissue, and loss of movement. These scars can be disfiguring and unsightly in addition to posing threats to a victim’s overall health. When you have suffered a burn through the fault of another, the law may provide you with the opportunity for relief. Whether through a claim against the negligent person or company directly or through a worker’s compensation claim, you may be entitled to monetary damages.
Chicago Burn Injury FAQ
According to data from the American Burn Association (ABA), over 450,000 serious burn injuries occur in the United States each year. Approximately 10,000 people die every year from burn-related infections. Many people suffer severe burn injuries after a car accident, due to open flames, chemicals, or electrical problems. Often, these injuries are the result of the negligent or reckless conduct of others.
Unfortunately, Chicago is no exception to these statistics. Negligent landlords, unsafe construction sites, irresponsible drivers, or any number of causes can contribute to the risk of sustaining a serious burn. This is where a compassionate, experienced Chicago burn injury attorney comes into play: To ensure those at fault for your injuries are held accountable, and to maximize your odds of a successful recovery and return to normalcy.
What are some common types of burn injuries?
People usually associate burns with fires, but burns can occur from a range of different types of accidents. For instance, a car accident could cause a person to sustain a radiological or chemical burn if a hazardous truck was involved, a thermal burn from contact with ignited gasoline or a car’s heated metal frame, or an electrical burn if the accident involves a power line.
The many different types and causes of burn injuries include:
- Flames or fire cause approximately 44 percent of all burn injuries. House fires, motor vehicle accidents, the improper use of flammable liquids, or clothing that caught fire from stoves and heaters may cause flame burns. The smoke from flames and fire can lead to respiratory problems.
- A flash of intense heat for a brief period of time. Explosions of flammable liquids such as gasoline, propane, and natural gas frequently cause flash burns. Clothing may protect the skin somewhat, but if it contains flammable material, it may ignite.
- Scald burns, caused by hot metal, liquid, or steam, are responsible for about 35 percent of burn injuries. Tragically, 61 percent of scalding accidents happen to children less than five years old.
- Electrical burns. Exposure to an electrical current, such as exposed wiring, an electrified surface in your car, or a downed power line from a crash frequently causes electrical burns. The electrical contact burns the skin, but the electricity can also move through the body, causing other injuries. Victims may suffer additional injuries if the electrical shock throws them.
- Chemical burns. Exposure to caustic chemicals, strong acids, or solvents causes these burns. In a car accident, you may suffer a chemical burn if your body contacts caustic fluids such as antifreeze or steering or transmission fluid. Airbag deployment triggers a chemical reaction. In some cases, hot gases and chemicals explode out of the airbag canister, burning the occupant.
- Friction burns usually occur when the skin gets dragged repeatedly over a rough surface. It’s both an abrasion and a heat burn. Friction burns are common in motorcycle and bike accidents. In some cases, friction burns can even impact muscle and bone.
What kinds of incidents commonly cause burns?
- Workplace Accidents: As we mentioned above, one of the most common causes of burns in adults occurs in the workplace. In fact, work is the second most common place that adults get burned behind their own home. Explosions, caustic chemicals, and heat sources on a job site or at a workplace can expose workers to potentially serious burns. These injuries are especially egregious when negligence is involved, like if an employer fails to maintain a safe worksite or a manufacturer doesn’t recall defective machinery.
- Defective Products: Products that are manufactured and released to the public with serious defects are another common cause of burn injuries. Some of the most recent examples include exploding cell phones, hoverboards, and e-cigarettes. All of these incidents were caused by batteries that were known to be defective. In situations like these, the designer, manufacturer, or retailer of the product may be liable.
- Defective or Broken Home Appliances: Major home appliances and heating equipment, such as space heaters and water heaters, are another common cause of burn injuries. In some instances, bad luck or user error are responsible for these incidents. But in cases where a landlord or property owner were notified that an appliance was defective and failed to fix it, they may be held liable for any injuries.
- Rental Home and Apartment Fires: House and apartment fires caused by faulty wiring, broken smoke detectors, and defective kitchen equipment can all cause serious burn injuries and deaths each year. If an apartment or house fire was caused by a landlord’s negligence, you may be able to hold them liable for any damages incurred due to your injuries.
- Defective Auto Parts: Defective auto parts can cause vehicles to catch fire in certain instances. Some of the most common defective auto parts that cause fires include electrical components, air bags, and fuel systems.
How are burn injuries classified?
Burns are defined by how deep they are and how large an area they cover. A large burn injury is likely to include burned areas of different depths. The injury may damage not only the skin, but in some cases, also damages deeper tissues, muscles, and bones.
There are four primary classifications, or degrees, of burns:
- First-degree burns. These are often the least serious, as they only damage the very top layer of skin. Home treatment is appropriate for some first-degree burns.
- Second-degree burns. Second-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, and part of the second layer of skin called the dermis. They are more serious and may require medical attention. Second degree burns often present with blisters and can leave scars.
- Third-degree burns. These can seriously damage the deepest layers of skin and tissue. Third-degree burns can lead to nerve damage and may require skin grafts.
- Fourth-degree burns. Prolonged contact with fire can result in the most serious type of thermal burn, referred to as a fourth-degree burn. These are the deepest and most severe of burns, and they may be life-threatening. These deep and devastating burns destroy the skin, as well as the bones, muscles, and tendons.
How are burns treated?
The victim’s pain levels, treatment, and recovery vary widely, depending on the cause and severity of the burn. A doctor will assess the burn and may advise treating minor burns at home. However, treatment for serious burns may require wound dressings, medications, skin grafts, and physical, mental, or occupational therapy. The goal of treatment is to prevent infection, remove dead tissue, minimize scarring, regain function, and control pain levels. Those with severe burns may need treatment at specialized burn centers. Burn injuries may lead to visible scarring, and can cause emotional and psychological trauma.
Burn injury treatment is very expensive, often costing well over $200,000, even for a moderate injury. Severe burn injuries can cost $1.5 million or more. In the event of complications, the cost may exceed $10 million.
Treatments may include:
- Water-based treatments.
- Intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and organ failure.
- Pain and anxiety medications. Burns can be incredibly painful.
- Drugs that fight infection.
- Specialty wound dressings.
- Burn creams and ointments. These may be used in less serious cases to help prevent infection and prepare the wound to close.
- Follow-up treatment for physical and occupational therapy.
What are some complications of burn injuries?
Burns are often considered catastrophic injuries. They can result in serious, life-altering conditions and disfigurement.
Physical complications may include:
- Respiratory issues. Inhaling smoke and hot ash can damage the lungs. It may also burn the mouth and tongue, as well as the throat, larynx, and esophagus.
- Infections. Burn sites are open wounds and can easily become infected or even lead to sepsis.
- Contractures. Scar tissue from burns may tighten up as time passes. This tightening, known as contractures, can make movement painful or breathing difficult.
- Compromised immune systems. If a burn injury results in organ damage or infections it may affect the immune system.
Other common complications from burn injuries may include:
- Psychological complications,
- Skin breakdown,
- Skin graft failure.
Can landlords be held responsible for burn injuries?
Tenants living in rental homes, apartments, and public housing have a right to live in safe conditions. In order to ensure this, all landlords and property managers have a responsibility to follow city, state, and federal regulations put in place to keep their tenants safe from danger, including from fires and other hazards.
If a property manager does not follow the required laws or safety measures defined by the city, county, or state, they may be held responsible for injuries like serious burns.
Some of these responsibilities include:
- Having electrical wiring properly installed and maintained
- Ensuring smoke detectors are in proper locations and working
- Regularly servicing fire extinguishers
- Maintaining a sturdy fire escape
- Keeping all escape routes clear
If a landlord fails to provide these basic fire safety features in their buildings, they are putting their residents at risk of burn injuries and death.
More information can be found under the Landlord and Tenant section of the Illinois Compiled Statutes.
Why would a landlord fail to protect their tenants?
Since renting a home or apartment is a business venture, there are bound to be issues that arise. One of the most common issues is landlords trying to keep costs low as a way of maximizing profits. This might include:
- failing to install proper safety devices
- not maintaining or updating electrical wiring and insulation
- using too few smoke detectors or none at all
- failing to provide a fire extinguisher
- not performing fire sprinkler system maintenance
What’s even more tragic is that it’s often those who can’t properly defend themselves that are most often taken advantage of. This includes elderly people, low-income residents, and those who have to live in temporary housing.
Residents living in these conditions are at a high-risk of receiving burn injuries due to landlord negligence. While it may not be their fault, injured residents are the ones left to deal with the physical injuries, medical bills, and cosmetic disfigurement that is left behind.
Of course, not all fires are the fault of a landlord. But if you or a loved one was seriously burned and you believe it was caused by a negligent landlord, contact a burn injury attorney as soon as possible.
What damages are available after a burn injury?
In a burn injury lawsuit, the injury victim seeks for the responsible party to pay for their losses caused by the accident. Typically, claims include economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages (also called special damages) for burn injuries. These types of damages are those that the court can calculate by reviewing records or documents, such as medical records, or lost wages.
They include money the injured party has spent out-of-pocket, or money they will have to pay in the future, such as:
- Medical bills,
- Burn unit treatment,
- Skin grafting procedures,
- Lost wages,
- Lost earning capacity and
- Property damage.
Non-economic damages for burn injuries. It is harder to put a price tag on non-economic damages, but the harm is still real, and often painful. Just because something didn’t cost money doesn’t mean that it costs nothing. Imagine waking up one day to half of your face severely burned after a traumatic car accident. Or imagine if your child lost all sensation in their left hand because of a defective cell phone. Do these injuries deserve compensation? The state of Illinois says that they do.
Non-economic damages (also called general damages) is financial compensation that is meant to cover the injured person’s non-economic losses, such as:
- Loss of function or other physical impairment,
- Emotional distress,
- Scarring. Burn injuries can lead to permanent, severe scarring,
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of enjoyment in life, and
- Loss of consortium.
In some cases, Chicago courts may award punitive, or exemplary, damages. These damages punish the perpetrator and discourage others from engaging in similar conduct. Punitive damages are usually not awarded in most personal injury claims. Instead, they are generally limited to cases where the defendant’s actions were reckless, malicious, or intended to cause harm.
What are the damages if a loved one dies as the result of a burn injury accident?
If someone is killed in a fire or burn injury accident, the victim is no longer alive to file a burn injury lawsuit on their own behalf. Instead, certain family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit will allow the surviving family to receive compensation and hold the perpetrator accountable.
Under the Illinois wrongful death law, a spouse and the next of kin of the decedent can recover for both economic and non-economic damages. For example, these may include funeral and burial expenses, any hospital bills or other medical expenses, the decedent’s economic contributions to his or her family, and fair and just compensation for the grief, sorrow, and mental suffering of the surviving spouse and next of kin.
Have you suffered a burn injury?
Burn injuries are often catastrophic, requiring painful treatments, medication, and years of therapy. Your quality of life may diminish due to disfigurement and scarring. No amount of money can make up for the pain and loss associated with this severe type of trauma, but you can hold liable parties accountable and help protect you and your loved ones from financial hardship.
The Illinois statute of limitations governs the time limits for filing a lawsuit. If you do not file your claim within the appropriate time—generally two years—you risk losing the ability to sue, so consult a burn injury attorney promptly. If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury, it’s wise to consult a knowledgeable, experienced burn injury attorney as soon as possible.
Why You Should Contact a Chicago Burn Injury Lawyer Today
If you are unaware or unsure of your rights as an injury victim, an experienced burn injury attorney can help guide you through the personal injury claim process. The job of an injury attorney is to evaluate your claim and to help you understand your options. Once both parties agree, your lawyer can then take over the process of investigating your burn injury, collecting evidence, building a solid case, and negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf.
At Abels & Annes, we believe it’s crucial to have an attorney who is specifically experienced in dealing with burn injury cases. By having an attorney who is well-versed in catastrophic injury cases, you can avoid costly mistakes and inexperienced attorneys and firms who have no time for their clients.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., we routinely represent victims of burns and we fight for their rights. With our decades of experience, we are ready to fight for you, too. We will work to help you make a recovery for your pain and suffering, medical expenses, disfigurement, loss of normal life, loss of income, and any other losses sustained in a burn accident. We look to recover present and future costs when representing a burn victim.
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