Unfortunately, in life, most people will suffer at least one type of burn injury. Many burn injuries are serious or even life-threatening. Some burns can result in disfigurement and lifelong impairment, if not threated promptly and by following the proper burn protocol.
The Fierce Advocates at Cannon & Associates have seen the damage caused by burn injuries in injury cases and we are committed to heling burn victims and their families through this difficult time. You may be entitled to compensation, if you have been subjected to a personal injury resulting in burn injuries.
Burn injuries are extremely dangerous, especially when they are severe enough to go below the skin. The American Burn Association reported that less than half of burn victims are injured by fire, which is evidence of the fact that multiple causes exist for burn victim injuries. Not only can burns cause immediate pain, but they can also create a lifetime of discomfort and potentially disfigurement for the victim.
What are the Classifications of Burns?
When a person gets a burn injury, that burn is categorized based on its severity. No matter what the severity of the burn is, however, it is important to still document the burn with a medical provider for legal purposes. The four levels are:
- First-degree burns are the least severe. It damages the outer layer of the skin and a person may experience some acute pain, redness, or swelling. Sunburns are commonly categorized as first-degree burns. Typically, this doesn’t require medical attention but if any burn occurs as a result of an accident, it is important to go to a doctor to document it in case it gets worse. First-degree burns can require medical attention especially if it covers large portions of the body or appear on delicate parts of the body, such as the face, hands, buttocks or groin area.
- Second-degree burns penetrate both the out and inner layers of skin. This can mean severe redness and swelling, significant pain and blistering. These burns will be very sensitive to the touch and can look moist and can also potentially leave a scar.
- Third-degree burns go below the layers of the skin and leave the skin looking stiff, waxy, leathery, or tan. Third-degree burns are dangerous because the nerves become damaged and cause numbness—a burned person might not even feel pain. These are likely to leave a scar.
- Fourth-degree burns are the most severe. These burns damage the muscles, tendons, and even bone. It leaves the skin blackened and charred, but since the nerves are damaged the burned person may still feel no pain. Since the burns damage the body so deeply, they are potentially fatal, and require immediate attention.
Third- and fourth-degrees burns will require that the burn victim get medical treatment to prevent lasting damage, but even second-degree burns should be treated by a medical professional. Additionally, the larger the burn, the worse the damage might be, but even small burns should be treated seriously.
What Do I Do if Someone is Badly Burned?
If someone ends up badly burned, you should always call 911, or take them to the hospital. While waiting for an ambulance or fire truck, assess the situation. According to the Mayo Clinic, the first thing you need to do is make sure the burned person is protected from further harm. If there is a source of electrical current near the victim, make sure that it is off before touching them. If there is a burning building that they came out of, safely remove them from any further harm.
Once the person is safely removed from a dangerous situation, make certain that the burned person is breathing. If they are not, you may begin rescue breathing if you know how to do it. If they are breathing, you may start removing restrictive items of clothing such as necklaces or belts. This is because the burn can cause the skin to rapidly swell, and these items may become a danger and restrict their breathing.
If available, you can begin to use cool and moist bandages to cover the burn area. If those are not available, it is also a good idea to raise the burned area above the heart, if possible.
These steps should be taken only while waiting for emergency responders, and only while it is safe to do so. If none of these steps are possible, make sure to at least watch for signs of shock, such as: fainting, pale complexion, or shallow breathing.
How are Major Burns Treated?
Major burns can cause severe disfigurement and often treatment for that includes reconstructive and cosmetic surgery, along with months or even years of rehabilitation. Some burn injuries are so severe that the person will be permanently disfigured or disabled. Rehabilitation can include physical therapy, psychological therapy, use of wheelchairs or walkers and cosmetic surgery.
When burns are initially treated, the infection risk is high because the wounds are open. If left untreated, or treated incorrectly, the burn victim can be at risk of developing fungi, parasites, or other diseases which can be fatal.
Burn victims who were harmed in a fire also likely need to be treated for respiratory damage, which can also be fatal. Usually this means being on a ventilator or being under close watch for lung damage and throat issues.
What are the Causes of Serious Burns?
Fire and Ash Inhalation is one of the most common causes of serious burns. Fires break out as a result of poor building or car maintenance of heaters, propane tanks, or fireplaces. These can cause major fires, and any victims that are caught inside when it happens are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Additionally, vehicles will often catch fire after a serious car accident, which can burn passengers or drivers in a car accident.
Scalding comes from extremely hot items that comes into contact with the skin and can leave the skin blistering, raw, and tight. This can come from boiling a pot of coffee or drinking a coffee, as well as hot glasses and even gasses.
Vehicle Crashes are a common cause of serious burns if a fuel line erupts and the car catches fire, or a vehicle gets set ablaze. Burns can also come from the friction of a seatbelt when a car is jolted.
Thermal Burns occur when the temperature of a person’s skin rises so high that it causes the tissue around it to die or become charred. Common causes of thermal burns include scalding liquids, steam, and hot metals that come in contact with the skin.
Electrical Burns come from an electrical current, whether from the original source (direct current) or through another source (alternating current). These burns may be larger on both ends, because the current generally creates both an entrance and exit wound. This means that the burns can be deep and cause much internal damage.
Radiation Burns occur from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays or sources of radiation. These can occur from things such as the sun, or x-rays, which cause radiation burns.
Chemical Burns include any burns that result from a chemical reaction. These commonly include strong acids or industrial agents and detergents that come into contact with a person’s skin.
Medical Malpractice can cause burns if a medical professional does not administer certain tests, such as x-rays or MRIs, correctly.
Why are Fireworks Dangerous?
According to the Oklahoma Department of Health Burn Statistics, more than half of all fireworks injuries are burns, and unsurprisingly, two-thirds of them occur around the Fourth of July. This is because fireworks contain gunpowder, which explodes when it ignites, and when a person if caught too close when one takes off, they can experience serious burns. Sparklers and hand-held fireworks are the most dangerous because they are designed to be in close proximity, and burn over 2,000 degrees. Aerial fireworks are also dangerous however when they are defective and don’t follow their designed flight path.
The department states that men account for 75% of injuries reported and children account for 40%. 8 out of every 100 end up being admitted to the hospital for these burns. Hands, eyes, and the head are most commonly hurt.
What are Oklahoma’s Laws on Fireworks?
Oklahoma has made it illegal to offer fireworks for retail sale to residents of the state before June 15th and after July 6th for protection around the Fourth of July, and before December 15th or after January 2nd for protection around New Years. Any further ordinances regarding the regulation and prohibitions of fireworks are left to the city or town. Additionally, the sale, gift, distribution, or use of skyrockets with sticks (including bottle rockets, cherry bombs, and M-80s) is prohibited
In Oklahoma, it is also unlawful to explode or even ignite fireworks within 500 feet of churches, hospitals, asylums, schools, agricultural crops, or to avoid massive damage, where other fireworks are stored. Additionally, a person may not light or throw fireworks from motor vehicles at or near a group of people. These are all laws designed to protect Oklahoma citizens from getting burn injuries from fireworks.
Additional information can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-education-centers/fireworks/.
How Can I Prevent Fireworks-Related Injuries?
- Never build or experiment with fireworks-related injuries
- Make sure your fireworks are permitted in your city by checking with local police or the fire department
- Never allow children to handle fireworks
- Read all warnings and instructions on the label
- Make sure other people are out of range and warned
- Don’t hold fireworks as you ignite them
- Only light fireworks on a smooth, flat surface away from houses
- Never light fireworks near dry leaves or flammable material
- Never relight fireworks if they do not function properly
- Keep a bucket of water nearby in case of an emergency
- Contact the fire department immediately if a fire starts
GASOLINE AND FLAMMABLE SUBSTANCES
What Makes Flammable Substances Dangerous?
Flammable substances are involved in one third of all burn center admissions. Gasoline in particular is dangerous because when thrown over a fire or ignited by a match, the fire can grow exponentially in size and severity. The speed by which it can explode will likely injure and burn anyone in the surrounding area. Note that in Oklahoma, it is illegal to burn trash in an area where trash collection services are available.
In addition to the fore and the burns, the vapor that comes from burning gasoline is extremely toxic. Gasoline vapors are heavier than air and can flow invisibly along the ground for a considerable distance before being set ablaze. The spark can be man-made by a flame or ignited by a spark, such as by lightning.
How Do I Prevent Burn Injuries Around Gasoline and Flammable Substances?
- Do not replace charcoal lighter fluid to ignite fires because gasoline can produce the toxic vapors at all temperatures. This is why it is so unique in a lot of ways. Even in negative temperatures, the vapors could still ignite.
- Teach children—and adults, too—never to use or play with flammable liquids such as gasoline. Also educate them on the hazardous properties of flammable liquids and safety techniques, such as stop, drop, and roll.
- Never use gasoline to start or restart a fire, or to thin paint or clean brushes. Gasoline is too dangerous to use for recreational purposes.
- Store your gasoline or flammable substances in approved safety containers, and never inside the home or near hot water tanks or furnaces.
- When putting fuel into your vehicle, only do so outside the home and in a well ventilated area. To be safe, you should also never re-enter your vehicle while fueling at a gas station.
How Dangerous are House Fires?
According to the Oklahoma Department of Burn Statistics, approximately 70 Oklahomans die from house fires every year. In only 3.5 minutes, the heat from a house fire can reach over 1,100 degrees, and over 300 degrees in rooms that are not even on fire. This is fatal to those that are caught in that room.
Not only is the fire dangerous, but the gases and fumes that are produced can cause you to feel weak, sleepy, and confused. This means that if you are asleep when a fire starts and you don’t wake up when the house starts to burn, you may be at risk of becoming trapped, because your body is already fighting the gases and fumes. Carbon monoxide in particular is dangerous because it is odorless, and usually victims don’t realize something is wrong until it is almost too late. In fact, one out three people who die in house fires were asleep when the fire began. This is why it is so important to install fire alarms and carbon monoxide alarms. If the fumes don’t wake you up, the alarm will.
A common misunderstanding about house fires is that you can just run out of your house if it catches on fire. In fact, in four minutes, your house could be pitch black with smoke, making escape very difficult.
How can I Protect my Home from a House Fire?
A major cause of house fires in Oklahoma include heaters, wood stoves, and fireplaces. Keep furniture, clothing, boxes, and other items away from these heat sources. Especially in Oklahoma where winter weather storms cause people to turn up their heaters, it is important to make sure that the equipment in your home is working properly, and they should be serviced once a year. Chimneys also should be clear and properly cleaned to ensure proper ventilation.
Do not smoke cigarettes in the house, as they commonly lead to house fires. Cigarettes sometimes continue burning after you think you have put them out and can easily light beds or sofas on fire.
Keep children away from fire, as they may trip and not be able to stop a spark. You should also always have a plan in place for people staying in the house. If there are multiple rooms or stories, you should have a plan for the quickest way out of every room.
Smoke alarms can increase the chances of surviving a house fire dramatically, and they should be installed outside of every sleeping area and on the entry level of the home. There should be no reason to remove the battery from the smoke alarm other than to replace it, so make sure that the alarm is functioning properly. Long-life lithium batters are best, and only need to be replaced annually when the alarm starts to “chirp.”
What Kinds of Claims can I Bring for my Burn Injury?
Negligence Claim: Negligence claims can be brought if someone acted carelessly and caused an accident in which another person suffered burn injuries. Anyone can be liable for negligence claims, including property owners and operators, employers, and medical practitioners.
Strict Liability: If your burn injury is a result of a defective product, the manufacturer is strictly liable in Oklahoma. This means that the liability is not dependent on negligence of intent of the harming party. If the burn injury occurs, the at-fault defendant is guilty.
Worker’s Compensation: If you get burned while on the job, you may be eligible for worker’s compensation benefits. An experienced lawyer can help you get these benefits from your employer.
For more information on how to bring these claims, see:
Contact – Cannon & Associates: Oklahoma Personal Injury Advocates
Experience matters when you experience burn injuries in Oklahoma. It is important to know the Oklahoma lawyer you hire is dedicated to your cause and versed in all aspects of personal injury law and damages in Oklahoma. Cannon & Associates is dedicated to Fierce Advocacy and will fight for your rights. Suffering extreme burns is painful, and can come with a very long recover, but Cannon & Associates is here to support and guide you through all of your options, from beginning to end. We are dedicated to helping you resolve your dispute in the most advantageous setting and are ready to help you get the relief you need to support your recovery.