According to theAmerican Burn Association, around 40,000 people are hospitalized due to burn injuries each year in the United States. Approximately 3,275 people die from fire or smoke inhalation. While the provision of burn centers, where the staff specializes specifically in treating this type of injury, has resulted in a decline of deaths, burn injuries are still serious and can lead to a lifetime of medical complications.
If you’ve suffered burn injuries due to a defective product or an accident, you may be able to recover the compensation you need to pay for your injury-related expenses through a personal injury lawsuit. A Seattle burn injury attorney can help you understand your legal options.
Understanding Burn Injuries
A burn is tissue damage that results from heat, overexposure to the sun, radiation, chemical, or electrical contact. The Mayo Clinic explains that there are three degrees of burn severity. Here is a look at each:
- First degree: This type of burn only affects the epidermis, which is the outer layer of skin. Symptoms of first degree burns include redness and pain, and treatment of first degree burns can usually be done at home.
- Second degree: Second degree burns involve the two outermost layers of skin, the epidermis and the dermis. This type of burn can cause redness, swelling, or blotchy skin. Blisters may develop, pain may be severe, and second degree burns can lead to scarring.
- Third degree: Third degree burns are those that reach into the fat layer beneath the skin. Burned areas may look black, brown, or white and the skin may look leathery. Third degree burns may cause significant scarring as well as damage to the nerves that can lead to numbness.
Burns of particular concern include those that are deep or cover a wide area of the body. The reason for concern is the increased risk of complications, including:
- Bacterial infection, which may travel to the bloodstream and cause sepsis.
- Fluid loss, including low blood volume.
- A low body temperature.
- Breathing problems from the intake of hot air or smoke.
- Scars or keloids, which are ridged areas that are caused by the overgrowth of scar tissue.
- Bone or joint problems due to the scarring from the burn causing a tightening of the skin, muscles, or tendons.
How Are Burns Treated?
When seeking medical treatment for burns, the person suffering the burn is often transferred to a burn center if the burn covers more than 10 percent of the body, is deep, or occurs in a problematic area such as the feet, groin, or face. The focus on burn treatment is controlling pain, removing dead skin, preventing infection and scarring risk, and regaining function of the area. Those with severe burns may also face skin grafts to cover large wounds, and physical therapy.
Other treatments may include:
- Ultrasound mist therapy that will clean the wound and stimulate healing.
- IV fluids to prevent dehydration. Dehydration can lead to organ failure.
- Pain and anxiety medications, which help keep the patient calm during wound dressings.
- Topical treatments that help prevent infection
- Wound dressings, which may include specialized dressings or dry gauze.
- IV antibiotics to fight any infection that occurs secondary to the burn.
- Tetanus shot.
- Physical or occupational therapy to assist the patient in regaining function.
- Surgical assistance including breathing assistance if the burn victim has suffered burns to the face or neck, as the injury may cause swelling in the throat; placement of a feeding tube to ensure that a severely burned patient gets the nutrition he or she needs while recovering; surgery to improve blood flow around the wound; skin grafts involving the patient’s own skin, donor skin, or pig skin; or plastic surgery to improve the appearance of scarred areas and joint function if scarred and tightened skin has affected the movement of a joint.
Three Phases of Healing
There are three phases of burn care management for those with severe wounds:
- Emergent: The emergent phase is the first 48-72 hours after the burn occurred. This is the time when immediate, potentially fatal problems must be addressed such as fluid loss and breathing problems.
- Acute: The acute phase is when the focus shifts from lifesaving procedures to wound care. It begins when the burn victim’s urine output increases, showing that the patient is hydrated. It can last for weeks or months, as necrotic tissue begins to slough off and new tissue takes its place. This phase continues until the wounds are past the danger of infection, the skin is well into its healing process or the patient is ready to begin the skin graft process.
- Rehabilitation: This phase occurs when the patient begins to engage in self-care. Rehabilitation has begun, along with reintegration into society, and psychosocial support is given for the patient to manage feelings about the changes to his or her body that have been created by the injury. Patients in this phase must be reminded that newly-healed areas of skin are hypersensitive to the sun, and must be taught how to apply a complete dressing and to continue caring for the wound. Particularly severe burn cases may require in-home care for the patient during the rehabilitation phase or long-term.
Burns Really Happen Because of Negligence
Negligence is a breach in the duty of care that a person or entity owes to those around them or those who are using their products or visiting their business. Accidents that are caused by someone else’s negligence may result in severe burn injuries in numerous scenarios, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents: There are several different ways that a car crash can cause a severe burn, including airbag deployment, contact with dangerous chemicals such as gasoline, car fires, and explosions, electrocution or contact with a live electrical current, or exposure to hot metal or steam.
- Accidents in the workplace: According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, work-related fires and explosions account for more than 5,000 burn injuries each year. Studies show a substantially high number of burn injuries occurring in the workplace, ranging from 10 to 45 percent of all burns.
- Defective products, such as electrical cords or even defective smoke detectors.
- Apartment building fires: Landlords and property management firms are required to keep apartments safe for their residents. This includes ensuring that the building’s electrical system is up to code, and requires the provision of safety features such as smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and sprinklers.
- Locked fire exit
- Scalding water and pipes
- Electrical accidents
- Recreational fires in hotels, restaurants, retail outlets, or nightclubs.
Compensation May Be Available
Those suffering burns from motor vehicle accidents, premises liability accidents, and injuries resulting from defective products may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party within three years of the date of the accident. Washington does not place a cap on compensation in personal injury lawsuits. Some of the potential damages that you may seek compensation for include:
- Current and future medical bills
- The cost of rehabilitative services
- The cost of in-home care
- Lost wages and the loss of future earning capacity
- Permanent injury or disability
- Pain and suffering
- Property damage or loss
- Scarring and disfigurement
If you’ve lost a loved one due to severe burns caused by negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to recover damages such as:
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills incurred before death
- Loss of future wages and benefits
- The cost of household tasks that the decedent used to perform
- Loss of companionship and consortium
- Pain and suffering incurred by the decedent before death
Wrongful death lawsuits may be filed on behalf of the decedent’s family members, including spouses, registered domestic partners, children, or stepchildren. If none of these family relationships exist with the decedent, then other family members are allowed to file the suit, including parents, sisters, or brothers who depended on the decedent for support. In cases involving the death of a child, parents who regularly contribute to the support of a child may participate in a wrongful death action. Like personal injury lawsuits, wrongful death suits in Washington must be filed within three years.
Those who suffered their burns due to a workplace accident will likely seek compensation through the state’s workers’ compensation program. Workers’ compensation benefits include compensation for approved medical, hospital, and related services as well as compensation for those who are unable to work due to the severity of their injuries. A Seattle burn lawyer can help you understand the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim and may be able to help you with appealing a workers’ compensation claim denial or other problems you encounter in the process.
Burn Injuries in the News
According to an article from the Seattle Times, Madigan Army Medical Center has been ordered to pay $12.3 million for an operating room fire that severely disfigured a 13-month-old child in 2015. The accident occurred when a surgeon activated an electrocautery device while an anesthesiologist administered oxygen to the child with a face mask. The fireball that resulted from the electrical device and the oxygen engulfed the child’s face, leaving the boy with severe burns. The child spent 22 days in intensive care and the burn unit at Harborview Medical Center and will require numerous future facial reconstruction surgeries. The judge found both the surgeon and the anesthesiologist liable in that they negligently failed to communicate with one another about the risk of a fire before beginning the procedure, which had been scheduled to remove a small, benign cyst from the child’s forehead. The Army admitted that it was negligent and responsible for the fire.
USA Today reported that nearly $60 million was awarded to a former high school student who was brutally burned in a failed chemistry experiment at school. The accident occurred when a chemistry teacher at Beacon High School in Manhattan conducted an experiment involving a gallon jug of methanol. A fireball erupted, causing burns to 31 percent of the 16-year-old student’s body. The student was hospitalized for five months after the accident, and had to endure painful skin graft surgeries to burns he suffered on his face, neck, arms, and hands. The school district stated after the verdict that it plans to explore its legal options to attempt to reduce the verdict to an amount more consistent with the damage awards received in similar cases, and also stated that it is no longer allowing that particular chemistry experiment to be conducted in its science classes.
WHYY reported that a lawyer has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against three U.S. manufacturers whose products allegedly played a central role in a fire at a high rise in London in 2017. The fire started with a faulty refrigerator in a fourth floor apartment, but quickly spread and engulfed the entire 24-story building in flames. The blaze killed 72 people and injured 100 more, in addition to destroying 151 homes in and around the tower.
The companies named as defendants in the lawsuit include a Whirlpool subsidiary that built the refrigerator that started the fire, a company who manufactures insulation that is not only highly flammable but also produces toxic gas when burned, and a company that supplies exterior cladding that features a highly flammable core. The complaint has 247 plaintiffs, including 69 families who lost a loved one in the fire and 177 people who suffered serious, life-altering injuries. It could be more than two years before the lawsuit sees the inside of a courtroom, at which point the lawyer estimates that there will be many more plaintiffs.
Seattle Burn Injury FAQ
Are there different types and ways of getting burned?
Thermal burns, caused by heat or fire, represent the most substantial subset of burn injuries in the United States. Steam, hot metals, open flames, and scalding liquids may all result in thermal burns.
Other types of burns include:
- Radiation burns – Radiation cancer therapy, exposure to intense X-rays, and even prolonged exposure to the sun may cause painful skin damage.
- Cold burns – Exposure to extreme cold can cause burns, which are often referred to as frostbite. Liquid nitrogen, dry ice, commercial refrigerants, and incredibly cold environmental temperatures all may lead to permanent skin damage, nerve damage, and even amputations.
- Electric burns – Electrocution causes the severe burns commonly suffered in industrial accidents or lightning strikes.
- Friction burns – A combination of pressure and heat often results in this subcategory of thermal burns, commonly seen in a motorcycle accident when exposed skin rubs against the rough surface of the road while traveling at a high speed.
- Chemical burns – Many industrial and at-home burns result from exposure to chemicals or acid, including skin irritants in home-cleaning supplies.
What accidents commonly cause severe burns in Seattle?
Other than sunburns, thermal burns are the most commonly suffered by Seattle residents.
Sources of thermal burns include:
- House fires
- Work/industrial fires
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Defective space heaters, industrial equipment, and home-heating units
- Uncontrolled fireworks and firecrackers
- Kitchen burns
The length of skin exposure and the actual temperature of the thermal element dictate a burn injury’s degree and severity. For instance, someone caught in a car fire or scalded with boiling liquid may suffer third or fourth-degree burns. Poor ventilation in industrial areas may result in chemical burns to the throat. Breathing in smoke, steam, or scorching air might also result in painful internal burns. Open flames, such as car and house fires, typically cause higher-degree burns than minor kitchen or space heater accidents. If you suffered a burn injury due to another person’s reckless or negligent conduct, you may be entitled to compensation.
What are the different degrees of burn injuries?
Medical professionals classify burn injuries based on the depth of skin damage. Three main layers of skin cover your muscles and bones, which correlate to the following four-degrees of burn injuries:
- First-degree burn – This refers to damage to only the first layer of skin, called the epidermis. Examples of first-degree burns include sunburns, minor chemical burns, and most household burns.
- Second-degree burn (partial thickness burns) – This refers to damage to the whole epidermis and part of the middle layer of skin, called the dermis. The dermis contains nerves, sweat glands, hair follicles, and blood vessels. Accordingly, the burn’s seriousness depends on the specific areas of the body that were damaged.
- Third-degree burn (full-thickness burns) – This is classified as damage to the entire epidermis and dermis, and may include more profound damage to the lowest layer of skin, called the hypodermis. The hypodermis contains larger blood vessels, ligaments, and nerves that help regulate body temperature. These burns often appear black and permanently disfigure the surrounding area.
- Fourth-degree burn – This burn reaches through all layers of skin, and into the bones and muscles. Fourth-degree burns often result in death or amputation of the damaged area.
First and second-degree burns usually heal with time, despite causing severe pain and possible scarring. However, third and fourth-degree burns frequently result in the permanent destruction of the affected area, leading to multiple surgeries, skin grafts, infections, amputations, and other painful conditions. Speak with an experienced Seattle burn injury lawyer at Boohoff Law immediately after suffering from negligently inflicted burns.
What are some common burn injury symptoms and complications?
Injured claimants and physicians agree that burns are one of the most painful medical conditions a person can face. Even minor burns often cause blisters, uncomfortable scarring, nerve pain, swelling, redness, peeling, itching, bleeding, and oozing during the healing process. Third and fourth-degree burns regularly destroy blood vessels and nerves, from which a body cannot ever recover. In these cases, doctors must remove the dead skin to avoid necrosis and potentially fatal infections, and then cover the area with new skin.
Infections ordinarily occur when burns expose the flesh over large areas of the body. Victims often require antibiotics and in-patient care to avoid sepsis and fatal diseases. Skin grafts may protect injured claimants from infections, but immune systems frequently reject certain grafts. Claimants might require powerful anti-rejection drugs in addition to antibiotics after suffering from third-degree burns in Seattle. A single severe burn wound could result in widespread damage.
If you or a loved one developed an infection due to burn trauma in Seattle, discuss your recovery options with a burn injury attorney at Boohoff Law today.
How can I recover compensation quickly after a serious Seattle burn injury?
Treating a simple burn injury may cost thousands of dollars, while in-patient care for a severe burn injury could result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. High-degree burn patients often suffer from lost wages and difficulties with daily activities, such as driving, cleaning, and cooking, necessitating immediate financial relief.
You might file a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company if you were burned in a Seattle motor vehicle accident, including motorcycle and bicycle accidents. Claimants burned in house fires, industrial fires, or on school property may also recover medical compensation from a liability insurance policy. Speak with an experienced Seattle personal injury lawyer to discuss applying for insurance benefits without waiving your claims.
Can I sue the seller or manufacturer of a product that burned me?
Malfunctioning space heaters, boilers, and industrial machines regularly cause thermal burns. Claimants might hold the designers, manufacturers, installers, and sellers of defective heating equipment liable for burns in product liability cases. Product liability claims also apply to car, truck, and motorcycle fires caused by negligently designed motor vehicles or faulty fire safety equipment. Claimants burned while using items in a reasonably foreseeable way might sue for product liability. Failure to warn of exposed heating elements or flammability, design defects, manufacturing flaws, and the lack of safety features could sustain these Seattle burn injury claims.
Who might be liable if I suffered from a widespread burn injury in Seattle?
Liability for life-altering burn injuries depends on several factors, including how and where the burn occurred, as well as the victim’s age.
A Seattle burn accident lawyer might help you hold the following persons or entities accountable if their careless acts or omissions proximately caused burns:
- Negligent drivers/owners of motor vehicles – A driver that causes or substantially contributes to a car, truck, or motorcycle accident by violating Seattle traffic laws are liable.
- Product developers/sellers – Products likely to cause burns should contain warnings or reasonable protections. Strict product liability may apply to dangerous products causing burns in the ordinary course of use.
- Landowners – Owners of buildings with dangling wires, exposed heating elements, or fire hazards might be liable for visitor burns.
- Childcare workers – Children might suffer from kitchen, campfire, open flame, and firework-related injuries due to negligent supervision. Liability for children’s burn injuries might rest with the caretaker, teacher, or another adult legally responsible for the children’s safety.
- Construction professionals – Faulty electrical work, negligent heater maintenance, or failure to use fire-safe construction material could have contributed to Seattle burn injuries.
Multiple liable parties may owe burn victims compensation in Seattle. Schedule a free burn injury case analysis with the knowledgeable Seattle plaintiff’s attorneys at Boohoff Law.
What kind of compensation can injured claimants recover after being burned in Seattle?
Personal injury claimants could recover for past and future losses reasonably related to a burn injury. Compensation may include direct economic damages, such as actual financial losses, and the value assigned to non-economic damages, such as pain and disfigurement.
An award or settlement might encompass reimbursement for the following direct expenses:
- Out-of-pocket medical expenses, including co-pays and deductibles
- Unrecovered reconstructive and cosmetic surgery costs
- Pharmaceuticals and pain medications
- Medical equipment, such as wheelchairs or prosthetics
- Lost wages and related employer benefits
- Home nursing care
- Speech therapy and rehabilitation
- Medical transportation
- Assistance with activities of daily living
- Treatment for mental health conditions
Because burns often cause pain, lasting nerve damage, and permanent disfigurement, successful claimants could obtain compensation for the following non-economic damages:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional anguish
- Loss of spousal companionship
- Social stigmas
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Difficulties socializing
- Development of mental health conditions
Typically, expert doctors and economists assist burn injury lawyers in calculating the value of these damages. Evidence may include your testimony, affidavits from friends and family, medical bills, pay stubs, and expert evaluations speculating as to future losses. These damages form the ultimate demand for compensation in burn injury cases. Seattle legal professionals often make an overall demand early in burn injury litigation and then reform this demand as necessary.
Can I recover compensation for an infection or rejected skin graft after I made a burn injury claim?
Parties that intentionally, recklessly, or negligently contributed to a fire must generally compensate burn victims for all resulting damages. These include direct losses, such as the treatment for the initial burns and any subsequent medical developments. However, once a burn victim settles a claim with a liable party and/or insurer, he or she waives any entitlement to compensation for future complications. Third and fourth-degree burns often require continuous treatment and monitoring throughout a claimant’s lifetime.
Experienced Seattle burn injury lawyers at Boohoff Law might work with burn experts to calculate the likelihood of skin graft rejection and infection before accepting a settlement offer. A team of qualified doctors and economists may submit a report to the insurer or court that outlines your anticipated medical needs and approximate expenses. Because a burn victim may require continuous treatment and surgeries as he or she ages, the victim should not settle a claim before discussing future needs with a personal injury attorney. Burn victims must generally file litigation within four years of the accident, under Washington state’s statute of limitations for negligence and product liability.
How can I settle a Seattle burn injury claim if I don’t know what treatment I’ll need in the future?
Future anticipated treatment can be determined with the help of qualified medical, economic, and burn treatment experts. You may recover for future anticipated needs as testified to by expert witnesses. Most law firms with experience handling burn injury cases front the initial expert witness costs to assist you in recovering damages.
How do courts award damages for pain and suffering after a high-degree burn injury?
Many Seattle burn victims find it impossible to describe their pain and suffering in words. Burns often cause significant physical pain and lasting emotional damage. Some claimants develop post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and/or severe anxiety. They may struggle to socialize, go outside, drive, or otherwise enjoy life as they once did.
Many severe burns even result in amputations and job loss. The burn injury lawyers at Boohoff Law know that most claimants find these intangible damages more serious than their actual economic losses. Medical and disability insurance may compensate claimants for lost wages or medical bills, and our experienced Seattle attorneys for burn victims might help you recover for your pain and suffering.
Victims may take the stand and tell their stories to a jury or testify before insurers as to how their burns impacted their lives. Taking detailed notes about your daily pain and how your life changed after suffering traumatic burns may help a jury quantify these non-economic losses. Insurers settling burn injury claims often consider all economic and non-economic damages and make a lump sum settlement offer without distinguishing between these damages. Judges and juries often consider claimants’ direct losses and requested compensation before awarding successful plaintiffs with pain and suffering damages.
Our Burn Injury Attorneys Fight for Your Rights
If you suffered burn injuries due to someone else’s negligence, you likely have a lot of questions about your right to compensation.
We’d like to give you some answers to those questions in a free consultation and case review.
“They were amazing. Thank you Michelle Rimes and Bill Bowles for taking my case. I loved how professionally they handled my case. I would recommend them to all my friends and family.”
– Kayla K.
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Boohoff Law P.A. Seattle Location
2200 6th Avenue, Suite 768
Seattle, WA 98121