Burn Injury Lawyer
According to the United States Fire Administration (USFA), in 2010, 3,445 civilians lost their lives as the result of fire and over 75% of all civilian fire deaths occurred in residences (USFA, Civilian Fire Fatalities in Residential Buildings (2008 – 2010) – TFRS, Vol. 13:1 Feb 2012). Sadly, many burn and explosion related injuries are never reported, leaving many scarred emotionally and physically without financial or legal recourse.
At Joseph Farzam Law Firm, we understand how traumatizing it can be to lose everything in a fire, especially your own health. Unfortunately, the key to recovering medical expenses and other damages in a burn injury case depends on proving negligence, which is often very difficult to do. That is why it is vital to have someone who is experienced in investigating and prosecuting burn injury cases on your side and why we believe the personal injury attorneys at Joseph Farzam Law Firm can help.
Burn Injuries and Sources
Burn injuries fall into three categories, first, second and third degree burns and describe the extent of injury sustained. However, burns can be caused by a variety of sources that present different levels of danger and injury. No matter how extensive your injuries may be, if they were the result from a fire caused by someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to full compensation.
Burn Injury Types
- First degree: Affect the outer layer of skin (epidermis) and are usually very painful. The most common first degree burns are sunburns.
- Superficial second degree: Involve the outermost layer of the dermis, the skin tissue just below the epidermis. These burns are typically moist and pinkish in color and produce red blanches when pressed.
- Deep second degree: Occur when skin burns penetrate more deeply into the dermis. They are dry and whitish in color and will not produce red spots when pressed. Healing may leave thick scars.
- Third degree: The most serious types of skin burns; they destroy the epidermal and dermal layers of skin and extend into subcutaneous tissue. Skin appears charred and leather-like and fluid loss from the injury often presents a serious medical emergency. Third degree burns are often less physically painful, due to extensive nerve damage.
Burn Injury Sources
- Flame burns: These are most likely to occur in a building fire and result from direct contact with an open flame causing direct injury.
- Flash burns: Flash burns result from the rapid ignition of a flammable gas or liquid. Exposed body parts, usually the face and hands, are at the greatest risk for burn injury.
- Contact burns: Direct contact with a hot object creates contact burns such as burns from cigarettes, cooking appliances and equipment that radiates at extreme temperatures (like wall and car radiators).
- Scalds: Scalds result from contact with hot liquids; prolonged contact creating increasingly severe injury.
- Steam burns: Industrial accidents are the typical source of these types of burns, but can occur when any appliance is under extreme steam pressure. These situations are particularly dangerous because of the high heat-carrying capacity of steam.
- Electrical burns: Electrical burn wounds occur when electricity gets passed through skin tissue. They can be deceptive since they may not look serious from the exterior, but can create a lot of internal or deep damage.
- Chemical burns: These burns result from exposure to a caustic substance such as a strong acid or base and can occur from contact with household cleaning substances like bleach or industrial chemicals.
While it is clear that our bodies are easily damaged by fire, heat and external exposure, the good news is that the major improvements in medical treatment over the past 20 years has lead to a much improved chance of survival for even badly burned victims. Whereas burns over half of the body used to be fatal, advances have enabled medical personnel to save someone with burns over as much as 90% of their body.
Fire Causes And Prevention
There are a number of reasons fires begin, from electrical malfunctions to unprotected sparks that ignite flammable materials. When the hazard is present in commercial buildings or at the workplace, the owner or employer is responsible for the repair or removal of the hazard and can be found negligent if a burn injury occurs. However, because the majority of all fire deaths occur at private residences, it is very important that you understand what can creates fire risks and that you take steps to prevent a fire at your home. Remember, fires are not a matter of luck or chance and you have the power to keep you and your family safe.
Following are some common causes of fire, burn injuries and fire-related deaths:
- Kitchen/Cooking Accidents: This is the most common cause of fire in homes and of burn injuries. Old, faulty electrical appliances, open flames (from gas stoves) and malfunctioning pilot lights can easily spark a grease fire. Pots full of boiling or hot liquids are hazards for everyone, but particularly for children who often cannot see over the stove and simply grab at handles without knowing the consequences. To prevent kitchen fires and injuries, turn all pot handles towards the center of the stove, never leave a flame unattended and turn a flame down immediately if you see it is boiling over the cookware. Keep a fire extinguisher in or next to the kitchen where it can be quickly grabbed in the event of a grease fire. DO NOT attempt to put out a grease fire with water, as this will only feed the fire. Keep all non-cooking flammable items like towels, oven mitts, potholders, etc. away from the stove.
- Children and Matches: The second most common cause of dwelling fires, children who play with matches are often simply fascinated by fire and don’t understand its destructive and unpredictable nature. Teaching the children in your home about the proper and improper uses of fire will help them learn how to be responsible with fire. Also, be sure to include them in all of your fire prevention and escape route planning so that they are aware of what to do in an emergency.
- Smoking: Another leading cause of home fires. Empty ash trays frequently to prevent hot ash buildup and be sure that the cigarette is completely extinguished before leaving it unattended.
- Malfunctioning Smoke Alarm: If you don’t already have smoke alarms installed, buy at least one smoke alarm at any hardware or discount store – it’s inexpensive and the potential life-saving protection it provides far exceeds the cost. Install a smoke alarm on every level of your home and you may want to install additional alarms outside of each bedroom or in the hallway leading to the bedrooms. As noted by the USFA, “a working smoke alarm can double your chances of survival.” Be sure to test it regularly, keep it dusted and replace the battery at least once a year, preferably twice. Replacing the batteries during each time change in the spring and fall is a good way to remind yourself. The entire smoke alarm should also be replaced after ten years of service or as recommended by the manufacturer.
- Electrical Hazards: Pay attention to the voltage of your electrical equipment and be sure that you never plug an appliance into a circuit that can’t handle the electrical demand. Especially take care that you don’t overload circuits or extension cords by plugging excessive numbers of appliances into one outlet. Do not place cords and wires under rugs, over nails or in high traffic areas. Look out for rips or tears in the plastic coating of cords as they can cause sparks or electrocution. Also be aware of appliances that sputter, spark or emit an unusual smell – immediately shut them off and unplug them and have them professionally repaired or replaced.
- Improper Appliance Use: Follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions. Avoid overheating and pay attention to unusual smells, shorts and sparks, which are all warning signs that appliances need to be shut off immediately, then replaced or repaired. Unplug appliances when not in use and use safety caps to cover all unused outlets, especially if there are small children in the house.
- Alternate Heaters: Portable heaters need space, so be sure to keep anything combustible at least three feet away. If you have a fireplace, use fire screens and have your chimney cleaned annually as the creosote buildup can ignite a chimney fire that could easily spread. Use kerosene heaters with extreme caution and only where approved by authorities. Never use gasoline or camp-stove fuel and refuel outside only after the heater has cooled.
Vehicle Fires – Liability for a Vehicle Fire Claim
Close to 300,000 vehicle fires take place yearly in the United States; leading to thousands of injuries and an approximate 400-500 deaths. According to recent published data, due to safety procedures’ proper maintenance and increased emphasis on fire prevention in the design and manufacturing, automobile fires are at an all time low. However, vehicle fires still pose a danger to motorists. Vehicle fires tend to be more numerous in the summer time reaching a peak during the months of July and August. Liability for a car fire can be based on manufacturing and design defect of the vehicle, negligence of the other motorist that struck your car, auto mechanics for lack of proper maintenance or employers for providing knowingly dangerous vehicles to employees for work related activities.
Protect Yourself In An Emergency
In addition to being mindful of the risks and precautions you can take to common hazards, planning an escape route and including every family member (even small children) in the practice drills will help calm the panic and confusion during a real emergency. Try running through the drill with your eyes closed, since the intense heat and heavy black smoke produced by raging fires can completely obstruct your vision. Make sure that everyone knows at least two ways to escape each room, and be sure to designate a common meeting place outside of the home where everyone can reunite in an emergency.
Keep in mind that noxious gases, thick smoke and heat are three very common reasons many people never make it out of a house fire. A fire consumes oxygen and releases noxious gases that can make you dizzy, drowsy and disoriented. Heavy smoke makes it very difficult to see during a fire, and it’s very easy to get lost in your own home if you haven’t practiced and memorized the escape routes. Finally, intense heat is often more dangerous than the actual fire since inhaling it scorches your lungs, can melt your clothes, and can rise to 600 degrees at eye level.
What Can Joseph Farzam Law Firm Do To Help?
Fire and burn litigation is extremely complex and it can often be very difficult to prove negligence without a thorough investigation by an experienced team of professionals. Furthermore, victims who proceed with a burn injury claim with the help of a lawyer who specializes in burn injuries are many times more likely to recover full compensation than victims who are not represented. Compensation that can be recovered includes damages for all medical expenses including initial treatment, surgical procedures, rehabilitation and psychiatric treatment, compensation for lost wages or the ability to earn future wages and qualitative damages, including pain and suffering, the trauma associated with permanent injury and spousal loss of consortium.
If you are dealing with the pain, trauma and grief of dealing with the loss of your property or health problems after a fire caused by another’s negligence, the last thing you should have to deal with is fighting for the compensation that is due to you. The experts at Joseph Farzam Law Firm are compassionate about your situation and will fight to get you the maximum compensation you are entitled to under the law.