Bronx Burn Injury Attorney
Each year, approximately 1.4 million people in the United States sustain burns. One of the most frequent causes of burn injuries is accidental fires; however, there are other sources of burns that many people do not readily think about. Burns are defined by their depth: a first-degree burn is the least serious and a fourth-degree burn is the most serious.
When there is injury to organic tissue that is primarily caused by heat or due to electricity, radiation, radioactivity, friction, or after coming into contact with a chemical substance, the injury sustained is referred to as a burn.
Types of Burns
- Thermal heat burns include contact burns, scalds and flame burns.
- Electrical burns are caused by some type of an electrical source.
- Cold temperature burns develop when skin is exposed to windy, wet and/or cold conditions.
- Radiation burns can be caused by X-ray machines, tanning beds/UV lights and radiation therapy.
- Chemical burns can occur after contact with industrial or household chemicals: These chemicals may be in the form of a liquid, a solid or a gas.
- Friction burns can develop after contact with any hard surface, including carpet, the road or a hard floor. It is not uncommon for an individual riding a bicycle or motorcycle to sustain friction burns (including abrasions) during an accident.
Recognizing First-, Second-, Third- and Fourth-Degree Burns
A first-degree burn is superficial and only affects the epidermis (top layer of skin). The injured area appears dry and red.
A second-degree burn affects the epidermis and the dermis (top two layers of skin). This type of burn appears red and blistered. Inflammation may be present and pain is likely. Second-degree burns should be assessed by a physician to determine severity. The doctor may prescribe antibiotics, medication and/or give the individual a tetanus shot.
A third-degree burn is serious and requires emergency assistance. This type of burn may cause the site to appear charred or white. The ultimate goal following this type of burn is to keep the victim from going into shock. This can be accomplished by having the victim lie flat, placing his or her feet about 12 inches above the heart (if possible) and covering the victim with a blanket. Both second- and third-degree burns have the potential to leave serious scars or cause some type of disfigurement.
A fourth-degree burn penetrates through all layers of the skin and begins burning the underlying ligaments and muscles. The nerve endings have been destroyed; therefore, the victim will have no sensation in the injured area.
Healing Timeline for Burns
First-degree burns typically heal within a week and do not result in scarring. Second-degree burns usually heal within two to three weeks. Healing time for third- and fourth-degree burns varies; however, these do take a very long time to heal and scarring is likely.
Scarring generally develops within three months of the burn, peaking at around six months. The scar will ‘mature’ within 12 to 18 months. As a scar matures, it usually fades, becomes softer and flatter as well as less sensitive.
Itching in the damaged area is common: This itching occurs because a burn can destroy the oil glands responsible for keeping the skin from becoming too dry.
Liability for Burn Injuries
If an individual is severely injured due to an accidental fire, liability may fall on the person responsible for starting the fire or who caused a fire to go out of control. For example, if a fire occurs due to an unsafe workplace, the corporation may be liable for the injuries an individual sustains. A manufacturer may be at fault if a product has a defective part that leads to a fire or releases some type of chemical that results in burn injuries. If a landlord fails to follow the current fire codes and/or neglects to provide tenants with an accessible fire escape, he or she may be held liable for injuries sustained during a fire on said property.
Personal Injury Damages – Punitive and Compensatory
Punitive damages are not awarded in every case and are only considered when a defendant’s conduct is considered especially outrageous. These damages are not meant to compensate the victim: They are designed to penalize the defendant for causing the victim’s injuries. Thus, deterring others from similar behaviors.
The goal of compensatory damages is to return the victim to the condition he or she was in prior to the injury. To attain compensatory damages, a dollar amount must be placed on the injuries the victim sustained. In addition, these damages are designed to restore, or come as close as possible to restoring, the victim to his or her physical, financial and emotional state prior to the incident.
Compensatory damages are usually divided into two categories:
- damages to compensate victims for their monetary losses; and
- damages meant to compensate victims for their non-monetary losses.
Monetary Losses include medical expenses, cost of living changes due to a disability, property repair or replacement, lost wages and funeral expenses: Funeral expenses would be awarded to the family of a personal injury victim who did not survive as a result of the injuries he or she sustained.
Non-Monetary Losses include damages for the pain and suffering an individual experienced due to the burn injuries he or she sustained. This compensation may also include damages for emotional distress (e.g., anger, fear, loss of enjoyment and frustration). A spouse may request compensation for certain emotional and intangible elements of a marriage. These elements may include a loss of affection, comfort and companionship.
Burn Injury Lawsuit Settlements
Stella Liebeck vs. McDonald’s: The Hot Coffee Lawsuit
This is probably one of the most famous lawsuits involving burns in the United States. Stella Liebeck purchased a cup of coffee from McDonald’s. She placed the coffee between her legs and as she attempted to remove the lid, the coffee tipped over, pouring the coffee onto her lap. McDonald’s had previously been warned that their patrons were sustaining scald burns because the restaurant was serving its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees (a scald can occur at 130 degrees). Prior to Ms. Liebeck’s injury, 700 people (including infants) had already sustained scald injuries related to the temperature of the coffee.
Ms. Liebeck suffered third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body. She remained hospitalized for eight days and underwent various treatments. She was disabled for two years following the incident. Despite her extensive injuries, Ms. Liebeck offered to settle for $200,000; however, McDonald’s refused her offer and the case went to court. The jury awarded Ms. Liebeck nearly $3 million in punitive damages (for the callous and willful conduct of McDonald’s). However, the trial judge reduced the jury’s award to $480,000. Eventually, the parties chose to settle out of court for an undisclosed amount.
Porter vs. Rexburg, Idaho
Paramedics arrived at the home of the Porter family in Rexburg, Idaho, to find a mother with her previously delivered newborn baby (Londyn) in her arms. The paramedics placed the baby in the ambulance. To help Londyn retain her body heat, she was wrapped in a foil blanket and surrounded by heat packs. Londyn suffered second-degree burns to her right leg and buttocks. Upon arrival to the hospital, she was sent to the neonatal intensive-care unit. Her burns were scrubbed every day for six weeks. Since she was premature, physicians were only able to provide her with Tylenol prior to removing the dead skin and treating her burns.
Londyn’s parents filed a lawsuit requesting $100,000 and payment of Londyn’s medical bills. The parties settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. Part of the settlement includes a “Londyn Porter Policy,” which requires sufficient training for fire department personnel on the use of heat packs.
Contact a Bronx Attorney
Following any type of injury, seeking medical treatment essential. If you believe you have sustained injuries due to the negligence of another, contact The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond today at 718-588-2000 or call us toll-free at 877-960-1702. Your initial consultation is free. In addition, we know how difficult things can be following an injury: For this reason, Bronx Attorney Ivan M. Diamond offers weekend and evening appointments, as well as in-home and hospital visits.
The Law Offices of Ivan M. Diamond888 Grand Concourse #1L Bronx, NY 10451 Phone: (718) 588-2000 Ivan M. Diamond is available for home and hospital visits, as well as weekend and evening appointments.
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