What Are The Most Common Causes Of Burn Injuries?


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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 1.1 million people are treated for burn injuries in the United States every year. Around 50,000 of them have burns severe enough to require hospitalization, and 20,000 have major burns covering at least 25 percent of their body. Tragically, approximately 4,500 people die due to their burns every year, and up to 10,000 people die of burn-related infections.

What Can Cause A Burn Injury?

Most people hear “burn” and think “fire.” While it’s true that most burn injuries are caused by heat of some kind, there are actually four main types of burns:

  • Thermal, caused by contact with hot surfaces, liquids, steam, or fire
  • Chemical, caused by exposure to strong acids or bases
  • Electrical, like burns caused by exposed wiring or lightning
  • Radiation, including burns caused by sunlight

All of these methods can cause burn injuries ranging from minor to severe, and any one of them can result in severe disfigurement or death.

How Is A Burn’s Severity Determined?

Burns are typically categorized into “degrees” depending on how deeply the burn has penetrated the skin. 

  • First-degree burns are superficial and only affect the topmost layer of the skin. Mild sunburns are a common example. First-degree burns rarely require any medical treatment and typically heal within a few days.
  • Second-degree burns penetrate into the second layer of the skin and can cause blistering. Medical treatment usually isn’t needed if the burn is small but may be needed depending on the size and location of the burn.
  • Third-degree burns cause damage all the way through the deepest layer of the skin. These burns require medical treatment and can cause substantial scarring.
  • Fourth-degree burns, the most serious, destroy the skin completely and cause damage to underlying structures such as nerves, tendons, muscles, and bones. Fourth-degree burns require immediate medical attention and cause severe scarring and disfigurement.

What Complications Can Result From A Severe Burn Injury?

Healthy skin has several functions. It serves as a barrier to keep bacteria and viruses out of the body. It keeps fluids contained within the body to prevent dehydration. It also plays a crucial role in regulating body temperature. When the skin is damaged or destroyed, particularly over a large area of the body, the consequences can be catastrophic.

Apart from the obvious pain that a severe burn can cause, complications of deep or widespread burns can include:

  • Infection - typically from bacteria and can quickly turn into sepsis, which can be deadly
  • Hypovolemia - fluid loss causing low blood volume and dangerously blood pressure
  • Hypothermia - low body temperature
  • Keloid formation - an overgrowth of scar tissue, causing disfiguring ridges
  • Bone and joint problems - caused by scar tissue shortening and tightening the skin, muscles, or tendons

Today, over 96 percent of patients treated in burn centers will survive, but many of those survivors sustain serious scarring and will have life-long physical disabilities.

Where Do Burns Happen, And Who Is At Risk?

Of the burn injuries that require medical treatment, 73 percent occur in the home (primarily the kitchen), and 8 percent of injuries are obtained at work. Burns can occur in many ways, such as through another person’s negligence, faulty consumer products, arson, assault, or by complete accident through a seemingly simple mistake.

Children and disabled people are especially vulnerable to burn injuries. In fact, 25 percent of all burn injuries occur in children younger than 15.

Was My Burn Injury Preventable?

Whenever an injury occurs, we always wonder if we could have done something differently to prevent the injury. Sometimes, we realize that we did something foolish to cause the injury ourselves, such as spraying something we knew to be flammable near an open flame. However, when you’ve done everything right and are still injured, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. 

It’s not always an easy feat to determine whether a burn injury was preventable or foreseeable, so you must seek legal guidance as soon as you can to help root out the underlying cause of your injury. Were the instructions inadequate on a product you purchased? Was the valve on a propane tank faulty? Was a dangerous chemical sold in a package that a child could easily open? Did a property owner have exposed wiring and neglected to fix the problem or properly warn others of the danger? If there’s any possibility that another person is at fault for your burn injury, don’t delay in contacting a qualified attorney.

Am I Entitled To Compensation For My Burn Injury?

Whether or not compensation can be obtained for a burn injury depends primarily on who was at fault for the injury. If the victim is more to blame than another party, then it’s unlikely that much, if any, compensation will be awarded. However, if another party is either partly or entirely to blame for your burn injury, then you may be entitled to compensation in a premises liability or product liability lawsuit. 

In Pennsylvania, you only have two years to file a claim in court from the date of your injury. If found liable, a person or business may be required to compensate a victim for their medical bills and lost wages and for physical and emotional pain and suffering, which are often substantial in the case of burn injuries.  

Why Choose Ross Feller Casey?

When it comes to complex medical and personal injury cases, the experienced legal team at Ross Feller Casey has what it takes to get the compensation you and your loved ones deserve. We have a dedicated team of doctor-lawyers on staff, so we understand how life-altering a severe burn can be and what the future may look like for you and your family. Our team has delivered some of the largest financial recoveries on record. We have recovered more than $3 billion in personal injury cases for our clients, including more than 50 $10-million-plus verdicts and settlements. If you believe your burn injury is a result of another’s negligence, don’t delay any longer. Contact us today for a free case evaluation, and take the first step toward reclaiming your life.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.