Throughout California, fire danger is a big deal. The 2017 wildfire season is considered the most destructive on record. A reported 1.2 million acres were destroyed by almost 9,000 individual fires, and 46 people lost their lives.
Structure damage and personal injury from burns aren’t limited to wildfires, however. Burn injuries can be caused by a number of factors, including commercial fires, contact with hot liquid or steam, exposure to toxic chemicals, and house fires.
In 2016, there were 352 thousand reported home fires across the U.S., resulting in nearly 11,000 personal injuries, more than 2,700 deaths, and $5.6 billion in property damage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
So what do you do when the unthinkable happens, and you or a loved one suffers from a burn injury? Maybe you were scalded by a hot beverage from a gas station, or perhaps you were exposed to caustic chemicals at work.
No matter the extent of your burns, if you feel that the injury is due to the negligence of another person, company, or private entity, you may be entitled to compensation. Here’s what you need to know.
The First 24 Hours Post Injury
Time is of the essence when it comes to burn injury treatment and litigation success. Following an accident, a burn victim should seek immediate treatment, even if the injuries do not appear severe.
Only a medical professional, such as an emergency room doctor or EMT, can determine the severity of a burn. When determining burn classification, health care professionals will assess the both the extent and depth of the injury.
The mildest form of burn injury is the first degree burn, which rarely requires hospitalization. A first degree burn only affects the top layer of skin. It’s important to note that very young and elderly victims are more prone to burn injury complications from a minor first degree burn, including infection, flu-like symptoms, and fever.
Acute burn victims are typically referred to a burn center to receive specialized treatment. Recovery from severe burns is often a painful, time-consuming endeavor that may require surgery and/or skin grafts.
Which Accident Victims are Referred to Burn Centers?
The American Burn Association criteria for burn center referral includes partial and full thickness burns, with patient age taken into account. In general, burn victims between the ages of 10 and 50 with partial thickness burns on more than 20 percent of their body, called the Total Body Surface Area (TBSA), will be referred to a burn center.
Transfer to a burn-centric facility is also recommended in patients with:
- Partial or full-thickness burns of the face, hands, ears, or eyes
- Burns in addition to injury from smoke inhalation
- Burns caused by chemicals or high-voltage electricity
The estimated number of burn injury victims who require long-term hospitalization tops 40,000 per year. As burn victims recover from their accident, they are typically unable to work or attend school.
Facilities that specialize in treating burn victims in Greater Los Angeles include The Grossman Burn Center and The LAC+USC Regional Burn Center. No matter the severity of a burn victim’s injury, keeping a record of hospitalization and treatment is paramount when taking legal action against the responsible party.
What is the Best Legal Course of Action for a Burn Victim?
When you’re injured in an accident involving fire, burns, or smoke inhalation, documentation is key. Make sure to obtain copies of any police reports and/or hospital records. If possible, ask a friend, relative, or health care provider to take photos of your injuries, before and after treatment.
While it may be difficult to take on-scene photos at the time of the fire or fire-related incident, you can put together a timeline of the incident, to the best of your knowledge, after the fact. Identify potential witnesses and give those names to your lawyer.
Determining Negligence in a Personal Injury Case
Many burn victims are tempted to seek compensation on their own, without the assistance of a lawyer. This is not advisable, as a legal professional with experience in personal injury law understands how to work with insurance companies and gather evidence against the responsible party in order to achieve the highest possible settlement.
By providing your lawyer with as much evidence as possible regarding your burn injuries, you have the best chance of receiving just and fair compensation.
For example, using before and after treatment photos, Simon P. Etehad, managing partner at Etehad Law, recently achieved a burn injury settlement in excess of $600,000. The case involved a day laborer who sustained severe burns due to a gas fire while on the job. If you or a loved one has questions about a similar burn-related injury, get in touch with Etehad Law today.