New Jersey Burn Victim Lawyers
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Different Types of Burns
Burn injuries are second only to vehicle crashes when it comes to accidental deaths in the United States. Throughout the state, injured burn victims are constantly injured and are often scarred or disfigured for life. In the most extreme cases burn injuries can lead to death or the inability to move one or more limbs. If you or someone you love has been burned in New Jersey and you believe it could have been prevented please contact our office for a free consultation with one of our experienced New Jersey burn injury lawyers. Because the potential for burn injuries to result in such serious consequences is very real it is strongly encouraged that you contact us at (609) 240-0040 immediately.
The most common forms of burn injuries are from scalding water, gas or liquid and from flammable materials. Scalding can result in severe burns, depending on the factors behind the injury. The length of the time that the liquid is on the body, the temperature of the liquid and the composition of the liquid will all determine how severe the burn is. In some cases hot steam from items can cause serious burns as well. Some common forms of scalding include hot beverages at restaurants, steam from cooked microwave foods, or chemical scalding from hazardous materials.
Types of Scalding Injuries
According to the American Burn Association, there are an estimated 500,000 burn injuries that receive medical treatment each year. These injuries range from relatively minor, such as those burn injuries that may heal completely with minimal scarring, to serious burn injuries that never fully heal, leave significant scarring, and can even require skin grafts to repair severely damaged areas. Scalding injuries in particular are especially problematic in that they are the leading cause of burn injuries.
Scalding burn injuries occur out of negligence. If a child is left unattended in a bathtub and an inattentive parent or caregiver is unaware of the tub's water temperature, then the child can be significantly burned by hot water. In the incident of a hot water heater's temperature being too high and heats water at a level that is above the recommended setting of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, users of that water run the risk of scalding themselves when coming into contact with the heated water. In fact, it is estimated that at least 5,000 burns each year are caused when heated tap water scalds the skin.
Other Causes of Serious Scalding Burns
Other ways of being scalded include burns caused by food or other hot objects. Heated liquids always pose the risk of causing scalding injuries. These liquids can take the form of coffee, tea, or even a sauce poured over pasta. Hot objects, such as pots and pans, can also cause scalding injury. Household appliances, such as clothes irons and curling irons, can seriously harm a person, particularly a child, if the item is not handled responsibly, or is left unattended. Faulty products are also a cause of burn injuries. For example, an extension cord, even when properly used, may become extremely hot to the touch, and can pose the risk of burning any would-be handler, particularly a curious child. Product malfunction here takes the form of insulated cording that is not strong enough to withstand the heat of the electric current, and thus results in the occurrence of a burn.
A contact burn is a burn from exposure to a very hot object, liquid or gas, rather than direct exposure to flame. Contact burns can be caused by scalding hot liquids and superheated steam, as well as exposure to very hot metal or other materials that conduct heat. Chemical burns and cold burns may also be considered a type of contact burn. Contact burns involving exposure to physical objects may be especially destructive because the object may stick to the skin, forcing the victim or helpers to tear it -- and some skin -- away.
Unfortunately, contact burns are common workplace injuries, especially for those who work in construction, manufacturing or other industries involving heavy machinery. But contact burns can happen in any setting that involves hot objects, liquids or gases, including:
- Car, truck and motorcycle accidents
- Cooking accidents, including steam burns and scalds
- Accidents with steam pipes or hot water heaters
- Superheated equipment, including light fixtures, mufflers and industrial tools
- Electrical problems
Like other burns, a contact burn can be life-threatening when it destroys a significant portion of the victim's skin. Without the skin, the human body may have trouble fighting off infections and maintaining a safe body temperature or hydration level. But even if the victim is out of danger, a severe burn is a life-changing injury because it leaves the skin scarred. Victims may have trouble regaining a full range of movement -- leaving them partly disabled -- and will likely be left with permanent scarring that changes their appearance dramatically, traumatizing them and inviting prejudice.
To avoid this scarring or make it less visible, victims may need multiple skin grafts, other surgeries or even physical therapy. Victims of catastrophic accidents, especially children, may also need substantial therapy to help them overcome the emotional trauma of the accident and the discrimination or teasing they may face because of their scars. These needs help make burn injuries some of the most expensive injuries to treat.
A flame burn, in which the victim's skin is directly exposed to fire, is the most common type of burn. It's also one of the fastest-spreading types of burn, because hair, clothing, furniture and other flammable material can help the fire spread quickly, exposing even more of the victim's skin to the flame and trapping him or her inside a column of flame.
Causes of flame burns include:
- House fires and building fires
- Careless smoking
- Cooking accidents
- Faulty electrical wiring
- Car, truck or motorcycle accidents
- Unreasonably flammable furniture, clothing and other materials
Fires can ravage a home in a matter of minutes, and occupants of the home have even less time than that to get to safety. Though flames can seriously disfigure our skin, smoke can seriously impair our ability to breath. Inhalation injuries are particularly dangerous because of their ability to quickly incapacitate victims, rendering them susceptible to greater injury during a fire outbreak as a result.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of fire victims die from smoke inhalation, and not from flames. Smoke inhalation is a crippling impairment that results when the body breathes in smoke and other harmful gases that can result from fires. The flames of a fire use oxygen as fuel, just like we do. Once flames convert the oxygen to energy, carbon monoxide is produced. So, in a fire, not only is the oxygen we need to survive used up quickly by the flames, but it is replaced with carbon monoxide, a gas that the human body cannot use in order to survive, and is ultimately poisonous if large enough amounts are breathed in. It is estimated that mortality rate rises between 30 to 40 percent when a person is suffering from inhalation injuries. Those who suffer from inhalation injuries are susceptible to slower recovery times, the possibility of succumbing to other burn injuries due to the increase in mortality rate, and debilitating lung conditions that can persist later on in life.
Inhalation injuries cannot necessarily be prevented, but the likelihood of them occurring can be greatly reduced. Smoke detectors can warn would-be victims of danger, and properly maintained emergency exits or escape routes in private residences can greatly reduce the risk of inhalation injury. Even if a fire does not occur, inhalation injuries can result from gas leaks or prolonged exposure to improperly ventilated areas. Property owners, particularly those who open up their property to visitors, are responsible for ensuring the safety of all visitors.
Inhalation injuries can result from gas leaks as well. Gas leaks may or may not be caused by a faulty product, such as a hot water heater, or could be caused by the improper installation of a gas line into a product, such as a clothes dryer.
Chemical Burn Injury
People use chemicals on a daily basis to accomplish a wide variety of tasks, such as keeping their home clean and making sure their pool is safe for swimming. A burn injury can be avoided if individuals take proper precautions when handling chemicals. No matter how cautious people are in the workplace or at home, chemical burns are bound to happen. A chemical burn is the injury that results when corrosive substances, usually those that are very acidic or basic, come into contact with skin tissue. When examining and treating chemical burns, doctors will classify them as first, second or third degree burns, depending on the layers of skin affected.
While a burn injury attorney can occur anytime, there are certain people who are more likely to sustain a chemical burn than others are. Since most chemical burns occur on the job, those who are around chemicals or handle them directly on a daily basis are obviously at an increased risk for chemical burns. These professionals include mechanics, chemists, laboratory researchers, farmers, many manufacturing professionals and metal refinery workers.
There are many different chemicals that have the potential to burn skin and other living tissues. Three of the main categories of these chemicals are the following:
- Strong acids
Examples of strong acids are sulfuric acid, hydrofluoric acid and hydrochloric acid. Many familiar products and substances contain small or large concentrations of acids, including car battery fluid, drain cleaners, metal cleaners and dyes.
- Strong bases
These include sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide and ammonia. Strong bases are in oven cleaners, cement and common household bleach.
Chemicals that fall under this category include peroxides, chromates and manganates. Industrial chemicals as well as sanitizers and disinfectants contain oxidants.
Chemical burns can be relatively minor, extremely severe or somewhere in between. The seriousness of a chemical burn depends on many factors including the following:
- The chemical that caused the burn
- The amount of the chemical
- The concentration (strength) of the chemical
- The site of exposure
- The duration of the exposure
- The part of the body that was exposed (skin, eyes, etc.)
Classification of Burn Injuries
First Degree Burns
First degree burns are the most common and least severe types of burns. These, like any kind of burn, can be caused by a number of factors. First degree burns typically result in a reddening of the skin around the affected area. These burns only affect the outer layers of the skin. A swelling of the skin around the burn may result and there is generally some pain that continues to linger for up to a few days.
Treatment for First Degree Burn Injuries
Although first degree burns can be painful, these injuries are superficial in that only the top layer of skin (the epidermis) is affected. If you have a first degree burn that covers a relatively small area, you can probably treat it at home. Cool the burn by placing it under running water or in a cold bath and cover it with a sterile gauze bandage. You can take over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce discomfort.
Second Degree Burns
Second degree burns are burns that affect both the outer and inner layers of skin. Blisters of varying size and shape are common in second degree burn cases. There is also redness and pain that lasts much longer than that in a first degree burn. The swelling of the burn area can also be larger than the swelling of a first degree burn and can last for much longer. Permanent skin disfigurement is a possibility. Second degree burns can often appear "wet" because they can cause a complete loss of fluid that seeps through the burned skin. Fever, pus, numbness of other body parts and a blistering with a green color may accompany second degree burns as well.
Guidelines for Treating Second Degree Burn Injuries
Second degree burns are deeper than first degree ones, so the treatment is slightly more complex. If a second degree burn covers an area that has a diameter of three inches or less, you can probably take care of it yourself without a trip to the hospital. If the burn is larger, or is located on the hands, feet or face, you should see a doctor. For minor second degree burns, cool the area and cover it with a dressing made of non-sticky material. Clean the wound and change the dressing every day. Apply antibiotic cream during each dressing change, and take a pain-relieving product as needed.
Third Degree Burns
Third degree burns are very serious injuries to both the inner and outer layers of the skin. Serious scarring is possible and likely in third degree burns, resulting in permanent disfigurement to the area and the surrounding skin areas. Third degree burns can usually be painless, though the skin around the burn tends to hurt quite a bit. These burns result in a silver or black coloration of the affected skin area. Third degree burns need to be seen by immediate medical professionals and potentially in a specialized burn center. These burns usually require plastic surgery to heal the skin and surrounding area.
Third Degree Burn Injury Treatment
Third degree burn injuries are the most serious of all and there is no standard at-home treatment. A doctor will need to examine the victim to decide on the appropriate course of action. This may include removing damaged skin, performing skin grafts, removing burn scar tissue if it is interfering with joint or muscle function and/or completing reconstructive surgery.
Fourth Degree Burns
Fourth degree burns are so serious that the skin is lost completely. Fifth degree burns result in the loss of the muscle and skin. Sixth degree burns are so deep that the bone is charred and all surrounding skin and muscle is lost.
Contact Our NJ Attorneys Today for a Free Consultation
If you or someone you care about was seriously burned because of another person's carelessness, you have the right to hold that person responsible for the results -- physical, financial and emotional. In a New Jersey burn injury lawsuit, you can ask for money to pay for past and future medical bills; therapy; past and future loss of income; and any other costs related to the accident. You can also ask for compensation for your physical pain and suffering; emotional trauma; any permanent disability; or any wrongful death and related costs. Please contact our office for a free consultation. At Lependorf & Silverstein, we have been handling New Jersey burn injury cases for years from our office in Princeton. We are experienced in dealing with the causes of all kinds of burns and have several experts on our staff who can investigate your particular burn in detail.
Because we work on contingent fees for burn cases we can start working on your case immediately with no money down. We only get paid a percentage of your successful award and if we lose your case you do not owe us these fees. Contact us today for a free consultation.
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