As personal injury cases go, burn injuries are among the most devastating types of injury an individual can suffer. These catastrophic injuries are exceptionally painful and can be life-threatening. Medical treatment is extensive and prolonged, and victims are often left with severe physical and psychological scars. On top of the physical pain and suffering, a person’s employment and daily routine are usually affected while medical bills stack up, resulting in significant distress and financial hardship.
As experienced personal injury lawyers, we at Cantor Grana Buckner Bucci understand how important it is for burn victims to have strong legal advocates. Our personal injury attorneys have decades of experience fighting for our injured clients, and we’ve won over a hundred cases over a million dollars. We pride ourselves on helping victims move forward. If you or a loved one has suffered severe burns due to someone else’s negligence in Richmond, VA, you have the right to take legal action against the at-fault parties. Contact us at the Virginia Trial Firm today for a free consultation.
Severity of Burns
In the realm of personal injury law, when a burn victim’s injuries are demonstrably caused by another party’s negligence and damages are being considered, the severity of the victim’s burns is a highly significant factor.
Skin burns are categorized by severity and extent, with first-degree burns being the mildest and third-degree burns being the most severe. These are the degrees of severity most people are familiar with, but the medical community sometimes refers to fourth-degree burns, as well.
- First-degree (superficial) burns: First-degree burns damage only the top layer of skin (epidermis). They usually result in mild pain and redness, and heal within a week.
- Second-degree (partial thickness) burns: Second-degree burns damage both the top and underlying layer of skin (dermis). They usually result in significant pain, redness, and blistering. They may require a covering or skin graft while they heal and leave scars.
- Third-degree (full thickness) burns: Third-degree burns damage or completely destroy both layers of skin (dermis and epidermis), including hair follicles, sweat glands, and underlying tissue. They often result in white, blackened, or charred skin and numbness. Third-degree burns may also damage the subcutis (adipose-rich tissue beneath the dermis), muscles, tendons, and bones. When this occurs, they are sometimes referred to as fourth-degree burns. Third-degree burns always require skin grafts to heal, resulting in amputation or even death.
Types of Burn Injuries
When we think about burns in a general sense, we may imagine a sunburned tourist or a child touching a hot stove. But, in actuality, there are five different types of burns, all of which are classified by the above degrees.
- Thermal burns result from an external heat source raising skin and tissue temperature. They can cause blisters, cell death, and charring. Some thermal burns are coming into contact with scalding liquid, steam, flames, or hot metal.
- Chemical burns are caused by strong caustic agents such as acids and alkalis, often chemical solvents or detergents.
- Electrical burns are caused by the body coming into contact with an electrical current.
- Radiation burns or electromagnetic burns are caused by prolonged exposure to radiation sources, such as the sun’s UV rays, x-rays, gamma rays, etc…
- Friction burns are damage to skin and tissue from the heat generated by friction, such as a rope burn.
- Ice burns, better known as frostbite, result from spending time in freezing temperatures or the skin coming into contact with something extremely cold for a prolonged period of time. With frostbite, skin and tissue freeze, water in the tissue forms ice crystals which damage the cells, and blood vessels constrict, reducing blood flow and oxygen to the affected appendages.
The Body’s Response to Severe Burns
In the event of a severe burn, the body’s normal inflammatory response–which protects it from bacteria, viruses, toxins, and other pathological threats–is thrown into overdrive. While trying to contain the damage and destroy the cause, it can overreact and make matters worse. In short, some of the primary risks of major burns are shock, edema, organ damage and/or failure, and infection. Any of these complications can be potentially lethal for a burn victim.
Burns affecting 10% of a child’s body and those affecting 15-20% of an adult’s body are considered extreme injuries, requiring hospitalization, extensive treatment, and a lengthy rehabilitation period.
Causes of Major Burns
According to the American Burn Association, around 486,000 people receive medical treatment for burns every year. Numerous accidents can result in burns, and they certainly are not all attributable to a secondary negligent party. However, among personal injury claims, certain kinds of accidents are more often the cause of these devastating injuries. Some of the most common ones include:
- Automobile accidents – Millions of people are injured in car accidents every year. They are the leading cause of personal injury lawsuits, so it should be no surprise that automobile accidents are a significant source of burn injuries. These are usually caused by contact with external heat sources such as metal, liquids, or steam, exposure to chemicals, and explosions.
- Motorcycle accidents – Motorcycle accidents are especially notorious for leading to extreme burns since the rider lacks the protective surroundings of a regular motor vehicle. Motorcycle accidents frequently result in fire and chemical burns, contact burns from metal parts up to 230 degrees Fahrenheit, and friction burns (also known as road rash).
- Defective products – Poor product design or construction can lead to severe electrical and thermal burns. The culprits are often defective cords or wires, overheating parts, and explosions. Also, E-Cigarettes or VAPs can cause burn injuries if defective.
- Construction accidents – Construction workers are subject to naturally more dangerous environments in their daily jobs than most of us. Property owners and contractors are responsible for ensuring worksite conditions are safe, safety protocols are followed, and safety equipment is provided. Still, accidents in the construction industry are significantly more serious than in others, and burns are a common injury. Fires, flammable or caustic chemicals, sparks from tools and equipment, and electrocution are often the cause.
- Workplace accidents – While burns can occur in just about any workplace, other industries outside of construction have a higher instance than others. For example, kitchen workers risk being burned by hot grease, liquids, flames, or equipment. Lab workers can be subject to chemical or radiation burns. Plant workers are similarly at greater risk of chemical burns, exposure, and explosions.
- Medical malpractice – Every year, patients suffer burns at the hands of their healthcare providers due to medical negligence. The most common causes of burns resulting from medical malpractice are MRI burns, laser burns, chemical burns, and surgical fires in the operating room.
- Premises liability accidents – Dangerous property conditions can lead to various situations in which a person can be burned. Often, these burns result from poor or unmaintained wiring in apartment complexes or other residential buildings, a lack of working fire alarms and/or fire extinguishers, and blocked or inaccessible fire escape routes.
The Effects of Burns
Severe burns are catastrophic injuries. Long after the physical pain subsides and victims recover, they usually endure lifelong scarring, deformity, and disability.
Victims of third-degree burns almost always require treatment in a special burn unit. There are just over 120 of these units (or centers) in the U.S., which are verified according to stringent national requirements set by the American Burn Association (ABA) and the American College of Surgeons (ACS). Team members of burn centers have specialized training in the care, treatment, and rehabilitation of burn injury patients.
Immediate Care for Burn Victims
Immediate care for severe-burn victims involves acute, extensive medical care, including extra fluids to maintain blood pressure and prevent shock. Topical treatments and costly silver dressings are used to help heal the skin. Painful skin grafts are necessary to cover and regrow skin on the affected area. Meticulous infection prevention measures must be taken. Artificial and lab-grown skin products are sometimes needed, and reconstructive plastic surgery. As burned children grow, they may require continued surgeries throughout life to help their scarred skin accommodate their growth.
Rehabilitation and Beyond
The rehabilitation process is a lengthy and challenging process. The loss of limbs, mobility, and physical independence is common among severe-burn victims. Victims may need to relearn basic tasks, such as dressing and feeding themselves. Disfigurement, recurring infections, and a host of emotional problems such as anxiety, depression, nightmares, and flashbacks are also common for burn victims.
The list of specialists who may be involved in a burn victim’s rehabilitation is a long one and includes:
- Orthopedic surgeons
- Plastic surgeons
- Rehabilitation nurses specializing in burn care
- Physical, occupational, and speech therapists
- Respiratory therapists, and so on…
These are simply the physical, mental, and emotional tolls on the burn victim. But devastating burns affect the entire family. Family members may struggle with grief, guilt, and other complex emotions. They may have to learn how to care for the victim if he cannot do so himself. Medical complications and recurring surgeries may become a part of life that affects everyone.
Medical costs for burn treatment and rehabilitation add up quickly, easily into the millions of dollars. Medical insurance coverage may not cover everything, and in the case of a negligent party, their insurance company may try to deny claims or pay out as little as possible. That’s why it is so important for victims to have competent, aggressive legal representation from an experienced personal injury attorney.
How A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help in Richmond
The skillful Richmond personal injury lawyers at Cantor Grana Buckner Bucci can help lighten the tremendous load you’re already bearing as a burn victim or family member.
We will listen to you during your free consultation and get a detailed account of your accident. If you choose to pursue a personal injury case, we will immediately proceed to do a full investigation, identifying all liable parties and gathering physical evidence to support your claim. We will consult with experts, doctors, and anyone necessary to help build your case. We pride ourselves on being thorough, but more importantly, we pride ourselves on genuinely caring about our clients. We will ensure that your care and recovery continue uninterrupted by additional stressors of your case. Your health and rehabilitation are the number one priority.
You will never need to speak to an insurance company or adjuster. We will handle all the communications, negotiations, and paperwork filing on your behalf. We will review any settlement offer with you and advise whether it is inadequate. If we do not receive a fair settlement offer from the at-fault party, we will not hesitate to take your personal injury case to trial and fight for you to be awarded the financial compensation you deserve.
We are compassionate, committed attorneys knowledgeable in personal injury law, and you can rest assured that we will fight tirelessly for your justice.
Identifying Responsible Parties
Depending on your case and the details of your accident, responsible parties can vary. It is not uncommon in certain situations for there to be numerous parties who were negligent. An experienced personal injury attorney will be certain to identify anyone who bears responsibility for your physical injuries and suffering. Some examples of responsible parties in personal injury cases are the following:
- Drivers of any motor vehicle who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, violate traffic laws and regulations, violate the rules and safety protocols of their employer (such as truck drivers), drive without a valid license, or drive distracted.
- Businesses or corporations who fail to properly maintain equipment, machinery, and property, or who fail to ensure safe conditions on their property.
- Manufacturers, retailers, and distributors who design, market, sell, or distribute defective or unsafe products.
- Employers who fail to maintain safe work conditions, force employees to break the law or safety protocols, or perpetuate or allow harassment or abuse to occur in the workplace.
- Medical practitioners, staff, or institutions who fail to detect, diagnose, and treat diseases that they usually ought to, who perform procedures improperly, or who fail to follow standard medical practices and safety guidelines.
Importantly, there is a two-year statute of limitations for most burn injuries. It often takes time to identify the correct responsible party, which is why it is important in burn injury cases to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If a burn injury waits until the eve of the statute of limitations to hire an attorney, it may be too late to identify the correct responsible party in time.
Dealing with Insurance Companies
If you or a loved one has been the victim of a burn, healing and rehabilitation should be your only concern. If you procure legal representation from a qualified personal injury lawyer, they will handle all communications with the at-fault party and their insurance company.
However, if you are contacted by an insurance company before you’re able to obtain a personal injury attorney, there are a few important things to remember.
- Do not presume the insurance company has your best interest at heart. Insurance companies are businesses, and their goal is to get away with paying you as little compensation as possible. They may seem friendly on the phone, but their primary interest is their own.
- Do not volunteer information. Insurance companies will use anything you say against you to devalue your claim. Provide only the most basic, necessary information.
- Do not believe it when an insurance company tells you you don’t need a lawyer. They are likely hoping to take advantage of you. It is in your best interest to seek professional legal advice from a seasoned Richmond personal injury lawyer, and insurance companies know it.
- Never sign any statements or agree to any settlements without first consulting an experienced personal injury attorney.
Damages Awarded for Richmond Personal Injury Claims
Virginia law entitles injured victims to recover compensation for numerous damages. The different types of damages include economic (for monetary losses), and non-economic (for non-monetary losses). In very rare circumstances where someone exercised egregious, reckless or intentional negligence, a jury may award punitive damages, meant to punish the negligent party. Burn injury victims may seek compensation for the following:
- Medical expenses include hospital bills, ambulance services, medical imaging, physical therapy, assistive devices, and future medical costs.
- Lost wages resulting from missed work due to injuries, including losing future wages or earning capacity due to disability resulting from injuries.
- Physical pain and suffering endured due to one’s significant burn injuries.
- Emotional distress and mental trauma. Burn-injured victims often experience severe emotional distress due to scarring and disfigurement. In some cases, they may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental disorders resulting from the accident.
- Permanent disfigurement and disability. Scarring, physical impairment, loss of limbs or abilities (such as loss of sight) are often lifelong for injured victims. Even for people who do not lose limbs or senses, scarring alone may impair movement and prevent a person from returning to their previous ability level.
Decades ago, burns covering half the body or more were often fatal. Thanks to research and improved modern treatments, people can now survive burns covering 90% of their bodies. In fact, according to the American Burn Association, 96% of people who suffer severe burns now survive. Most deaths caused by fires are due to smoke inhalation or toxic gases, not from burns.
However, a small percentage of victims tragically succumb to their burn injuries. If you’ve lost a loved one to a burn accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may be eligible to file a wrongful death claim on their behalf and recover compensation for your loss. While no amount of compensation can fill the void left by your loved one’s passing, it can be a vital financial buoy that enables your family to continue as you grieve.
At the law offices of the Cantor Grana Buckner Bucci, we understand how difficult things are for grieving families, especially when financial hardship compounds their pain. Our caring Richmond personal injury lawyers are available to help you understand your options with sympathy and sensitivity.
Factors that Effect Compensation for Burn Victims
Several significant factors are considered in a personal injury claim for a burn that determines the type and amount of damages awarded to the victim. They include the following:
- The type of burn (i.e., thermal, chemical, electrical, etc…)
- The severity of the burn
- The percentage of skin area affected
- The location of the burn
- The level of medical care required to treat the burn
- The extent and permanency of scarring and disfigurement
- The emotional injuries suffered by the victim (e.g., depression, trauma)
- The long-term physical therapy and medical care required
For logical reasons, someone who suffers a burn covering 60% of their body and including the most visible and significant areas, such as their face and neck, would normally be awarded a larger amount of compensation than someone who suffers a burn affecting 10% of their body on an area that is usually covered by clothing, such as their back.
The Statute of Limitations for Your Personal Injury Claim
It’s important to know that you only have a certain amount of time to file a personal injury claim in Richmond, VA. In general, an individual has two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury claim against a negligent party. However, if the negligent party is the Commonwealth of Virginia, that time frame is shortened to only one year, and if it is a city such as Richmond, an injured party has only six months to file.
Should you fail to proceed with your claim before these deadlines, you may no longer be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit and hold the liable parties accountable. While two years may seem like ample time, it is less than you think. The legal process is very technical and time-consuming. The sooner you seek qualified legal assistance, the sooner your legal team can begin building a strong case and show the insurance companies you’re serious.
Personal Injury Attorneys Serving Richmond, VA
Our legal team at Cantor Grana Buckner Bucci has a distinguished track record and decades of experience winning successful claims for those we are privileged to call our clients. Our greatest satisfaction is helping people to move forward in their lives with hope, having weathered the storm of their injuries.
The attorney-client relationship is paramount to us. We proudly work hard to earn our client’s trust and business, and we work exclusively on a contingent fee basis, meaning we don’t get paid until you do. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us today for a free consultation. We look forward to the opportunity to advocate for you.