According to the American Burn Association, 3,400 people died from burn injuries in 2012 and another 450,000 burn victims required medical treatment. Of those requiring medical treatment, over 40,000required hospitalization. Although some burn injuries cause only minor damage, others can result in devastating injuries that are permanent and life altering. In fact, burns can be some of the most painful and expensive injuries to treat.
If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury as a result of an accident, it is important that you choose an attorney who thoroughly understands California’s laws and statutes regarding burn injuries. California Burn Injury Lawyer Fernando D. Vargas is an experienced trial lawyer who, since 1987, has effectively litigated thousands of personal injury cases throughout the Inland Empire and the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, and San Bernardino with an emphasis in the cities of Pomona, Rancho Cucamonga, Claremont, Montclair, Upland, Ontario, Chino, Fontana, Riverside, and San Bernardino. The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas, which is located in the city of Rancho Cucamonga, has recovered millions of dollars in personal injury verdicts and settlements for their clients.
Anatomy and Physiology of the Skin
Anatomy and Physiology of the Skin
The skin is the largest organ of the human body, with an estimated total area of approximately 20 square feet. Skin has several functions, including:
- Providing a waterproof barrier of protection from the elements.
- Providing a frontline defense of the immune system and protection from microbes.
- Regulating the body’s temperature.
- Permitting the sensations of touch, heat, and cold.
Skin is composed of 3 major layers: the epidermis, the dermis, and the hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue.
The epidermis is the outer layer of the skin, which people see. It provides a waterproof barrier to protect our bodies from microbes and the elements. The epidermis contains melanocytes, which are special cells that produce pigment melanin and create our skin tone and color. In addition, the epidermis contains 5 layers of cells. As the cells move into the higher layers, they flatten and eventually die. The top layer of the epidermis is made of dead, flat skin cells that the body sheds about every 2 weeks.
The thickness of the epidermis varies, depending on the type and location of the skin; it is thinnest on the eyelids (0.05 mm) and thickest on the palms of hands and soles of the feet (1.5 mm).
The dermis is the middle layer of the skin that lies beneath the epidermis. This layer of skin contains collagen, elastic tissue, and reticular fibers, hair follicles, and sweat glands. In addition, blood vessels and nerves are present in this layer of skin. These nerves transmit sensations of touch, pressure, pain, itch, and temperature.Like the epidermis, the thickness of the dermis varies, depending on the type and location of the skin; it is thinnest on the eyelids (0.3 mm) and thickest on the back (3.0 mm).
Hypodermis or Subcutaneous Tissue
The hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue is the innermost layer of skin and contains the fat and connective tissue that houses larger blood vessels and nerves. This layer of skin is important for regulation of the temperature of the skin and the body. The size of this layer of skin varies throughout the body and from person to person.
What happens to the skin when it is burned?
What happens to the skin when it is burned?
A burn is damage to your body’s tissue. When the skin is injured from a burn, the functions of the skin can also become impaired – sometimes permanently. When your body’s tissues are burned, the loss of fluid from damaged blood vessels causes swelling and blistering. Burns can cause an interruption in the protective layer, making the body susceptible to infection. In severe burns, such fluid loss can cause the victim to go into shock. Serious burns may require multiple surgeries and extended hospitalization and rehabilitation.
There are three types of burns: first-degree burns, second-degree burns, and third-degree burns. In order to distinguish whether your burn is a minor burn or a serious burn, you must first determine the extent of damage that has been done to your body’s tissues. The following three classifications of burns will help you determine whether your burn may be treated as a minor burn or whether you need emergency medical care:
First-degree burns are the most common and least serious of all burns. With these burns, the outer layer of the skin (the epidermis) is burned, but not all the way through.
Symptoms of first-degree burns include:
- Redness to the skin
- Swelling is often present
- Pain is sometimes present
First-degree burns may usually be treated as a minor burn and do not usually require emergency medical treatment.
Second-degree burns involve burning through the first layer (epidermis) and second layer (dermis) of the skin. Symptoms of second-degree burns include:
- Blisters develop
- Skin develops an intensely reddened, splotchy appearance
- Severe swelling
- Severe pain
Second-degree burns smaller than 3 inches in diameter can usually be treated as a minor burn. However, if the burned area is larger than 3 inches or if the burn is on the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or over a major joint, you should treat the injury as a major burn and seek medical help immediately.
Third-degree burns are the most serious of all burns. These burns involve all layers of the skin – the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis or subcutaneous tissue – and cause permanent tissue damage. With third-degree burns, fat, muscle, and even bone may be affected. Areas of the burned skin may be charred or appear white and dry.
Third degree burns are major burns and require immediate medical attention!
How do you treat burns?
How do you treat burns?
Treatment for Minor Burns
For first-degree burns and second-degree burns that are less than 3 inches in diameter, there are actions you should and should not take:
- Cool the burn. Place the burned area under cool (not cold) running water for 10-15 minutes or until the pain subsides. If running water is not possible, immerse the burned area in cool water or cool it with a cold compress. The purpose of cooling the burn is to reduce swelling by taking heat away from the skin.
- Cover the burn with a sterile dressing (gauze bandage). Do NOT put cotton balls or any fabric on the wound that could get lint or fibers in the wound. Wrap the bandage loosely to avoid putting pressure on the burned skin. The purpose of covering the burn with a sterile dressing is to keep air off the burn, reduce pain, and protect any blisters that are on the skin.
- Take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever. OTC pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol) will help reduce pain. In addition, the OTC pain relievers (except Tylenol) will also help reduce swelling.• Watch for infection. If any signs of infection are present (increased pain, increased redness, increased swelling, fever, or oozing of purulent drainage), seek medical attention.
- Do NOT put ice on the burn.
- Do NOT put butter on the burn. This could cause an infection.
- Do NOT apply egg whites on the burn. This could cause an infection.
- Do NOT apply ointments to the burn. This could cause an infection.
- Do NOT break blisters. Broken blisters are more vulnerable to infection.
Minor burns usually heal without needing any additional treatment. Sometimes minor burns can cause changes in the pigment of the skin and the healed area may appear a different color from the surrounding skin.
Treatment for Major Burns
Third-degree burns are major burns and require immediate medical attention. For third-degree burns, there are actions you should and should not take:
- Call 911 immediately for emergency medical help.
- Check for signs of circulation (breathing, coughing, movement). If the burn victim is not breathing start CPR.
- Do NOT remove burned clothing.
- Do NOT immerse large severe burns in cool water. Immersing a large burn in cool water could cause the body’s temperature to drop, resulting in hypothermia and could cause the burn victim’s blood pressure to drop, causing him/her to go into shock.
- Elevate the burned area. If possible, raise the burned area above the level of the heart.
- Cover the area of the burn. Use a cool, moist, sterile bandage to wrap the burn.
If you do not have sterile bandage, you may use a clean, moist cloth or clean, moist cloth towel.
Causes of Burn Injuries
Causes of Burn Injuries
Burn injuries can be caused by several factors, including:
- Hot liquids
- Flammable liquids and gases
- Electrocution burns
- Building fires
- Thermal burns
- Chemical burns
- Smoke/Heat inhalation
- Gas explosions
- Fume Ignitions
- Gasoline spills
- Work-related accidents
- Defective products
- Flammable clothing
- Water heater fires
Many times, burn injuries are suffered as a result of another party’s negligence. The negligent party should be held accountable for damages the burn victim suffers. That is why you need an experienced California Burn Injury Attorney to represent your legal rights. Your burn injury attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and help you determine exactly which party or parties should be held responsible for your injuries.
Your burn injury lawyer will then obtain all the evidence needed and hire a team of expert witnesses, including medical professionals, and economists, to prove your damages.
Burn Injuries and Damages
Burn injuries are some of the most painful and expensive injuries to treat. Serious burn injury victims can spend months in hospitals and burn centers and undergo many painful surgeries. Burn victims can suffer catastrophic injuries from their burns, including:
- Paralysis – partial (paraplegia) or complete (quadriplegia)
- Loss of limb, hand, or foot
- Difficulty walking
- Multiple surgeries and skin grafts
- Severe disfigurement and scarring
- Dependence on others for activities of daily living
- Sensory impairment
- Loss of vision
- Loss of hearing
- Loss of sensation or numbness
- Physical pain
In addition, victims of serious burn injuries almost always suffer emotionally from feeling they are trapped in a body that no longer looks or functions the way it used to.
Such emotional symptoms can include severe depression, withdrawal, extreme sadness, frustration, anger, rage, etc.
Burn injury victims are often left with enormous medical bills due to extensive hospitalizations, surgeries, rehabilitation, physical therapy, occupational therapy,
medications, etc. Astronomical medical bills can put a financial strain on the burn victim and his/her family. In addition, parents of a child who has suffered serious burn injuries may have to quit their jobs in order to provide care for their child. This causes a tremendous financial, physical, and emotional strain on the burn victim’s family.
What damages can be compensated in burn injury cases?
Burn victims’ injuries can be devastating. An experienced California Burn Injury Attorney will help you receive the maximum compensation for all injuries suffered, including:
- Medical bills in the past
- Medical expenses in the future
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Lost wages
- Loss of earning capacity
- Physical pain and suffering
- Mental anguish
- Emotional distress
- Permanent disability
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Loss of consortium
- Assistive devices and transportation
- Modifications needed for the home
- Loss of household services
- Funeral and burial expenses
I've been burned! What should I do?
I’ve been burned! What should I do?
If you or a loved one has suffered serious burn injuries, you should do the following:
Seek medical attention
If you have suffered second-degree or third-degree burns, you must seek medical attention. Seeking medical attention should be your first priority.
It is important to take photographs of the burn injury immediately after the accident, as well as during your treatment. Photographs of your burns are important to capture the seriousness of your injuries as well as the pain suffered by the victim. Photographs taken during your recovery process are also important to show the progress of your wounds healing, as well as the permanent nature of any scarring. In serious burn injury cases, your attorney will use these photographs to help establish the painful nature of your injuries and recovery, and the severity of any disfigurement and scarring caused by the burns.
The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas will hire a professional photographer to capture these important images. Depending on the severity of your injuries, the photographer may travel to the hospital and your home on several occasions over a period of time.
Plastic Surgery Medical-Legal Evaluation
In addition to seeking initial medical attention, it is critical that burn victims be evaluated by a plastic surgeon. A plastic surgery medical-legal evaluation is important to obtain a specific diagnosis concerning the type of scarring and to describe its location, size, and dimensions. This medical-legal consult is critical for identifying all non-surgical and surgical options available concerning scar revision treatment, the costs of these treatments, and the potential outcomes of these treatments regarding what effect, if any, they will have on minimizing the scarring and disfigurement caused by the burns. It is important that the costs of available treatments be included in any negotiations to help maximize settlement value.
The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas works with highly qualified and experienced plastic surgeons that perform scar revision surgeries on a lien. All costs of the scar revision procedure, including hospital costs, surgeon’s fees, and anesthesiologist’s fees, are placed on a lien. This means that a burn victim who wants to undergo scar revision surgery in order to help minimize scaring can do so without having to pay any money up front for the procedures, and the costs are recovered in his/her settlement.
Psychological Evaluation and Treatment
In addition to significant scarring and disfigurement, burn injury victims may also suffer a tremendous amount of emotional and psychological injuries. In these circumstances, it may be necessary to refer the client for psychotherapy evaluation and treatment because the psychological component of the injuries may be the most severe of all the injuries suffered and result in a loss of self confidence, loss of self worth, depression, anxiety, feelings of inferiority, feelings of insecurity, withdrawal, a loss of interest in socializing, and an overall emotional injury that renders the client almost dysfunctional.
The Law Offices of Fernando D. Vargas works with highly qualified and experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, and other healthcare professionals to help evaluate and treat their clients’ psychological and emotional injuries.