Most of us have experienced more than a few burns in our lifetimes, whether from touching a hot stove or iron, or simply taking a sip of coffee without waiting for it to cool. Most of the time we can brush it off as a minor annoyance, the trade-off that comes with harnessing the power of fire.
These minor accidents we’re all familiar with are typically small first degree burns, also known as “superficial” burns, which cause only shallow, temporary (albeit painful) damage. Not all burns are so harmless, however.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 50,000 people are hospitalized with severe burns every year in the U.S, and 4,500 of these people die of their injuries. In and out of the hospital, as many as 10,000 people per year die of burn-related infections. In fact, the National Safety Council identifies burns as the sixth most common cause of preventable death in the U.S.
What Is a Third Degree Burn?
First, second, and third degree burns refer to the first, second, and third layers of the skin. A third degree burn, also known as a “full-thickness” burn, is a burn that has destroyed the epidermis and dermis, penetrating into the subcutis. Fourth degree burns destroy the subcutis as well, causing damage to the muscles, tendons, and even bones.
There are several types of burns, all of which can vary in severity, or “degree.” The most common burns, and the ones most people think of first, are thermal burns. Thermal burns are caused by direct exposure to fire, steam, or other extreme heat sources. However, chemical burns, radiation burns, and electrical burns can also reach first, second, third, or even fourth degree damage.
Third degree burns may have a leathery texture to them, with patches of white, brown, or black discoloration. Because the nerves in the upper layers of skin have been destroyed, the burn may be numb instead of painful, or pain may be limited to shallower burns surrounding the most heavily affected area.
Severe burns depress the immune system, often leading to life-threatening infections. Other common complications include dehydration, hypothermia, and joint problems caused by the shortening of damaged muscles and tendons.
How Do Third Degree Burns Happen?
Children have an elevated risk of burn injuries, particularly those that happen at home as a result of cooking accidents, excessively hot running water, or house fires. These kinds of accidents cause two deaths and 300 emergency room visits among American children every single day.
While adults are better able to assess and avoid the danger of burns, the workplace can add a plethora of additional burn hazards, especially in the case of food service workers. In fact, the Burn Foundation notes that the majority of workplace burns serious enough to require hospitalization are related to food preparation. Teens are at particular risk, being inexperienced and frequently employed in high-capacity fast food restaurants with deep fryers that can reach temperatures of up to 500 degrees.
Workplace burns commonly happen when safety rules are not properly taught or enforced, or when employees are tired, sick, under the influence, or under pressure to work faster.
How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones from Burns
To protect children (and yourself) from burns at home, the CDC recommends:
- Installing smoke detectors near every bedroom and testing them regularly
- Making a fire escape plan and practicing with the whole family
- Keeping children away from cooking appliances
- Never leaving a hot stove unattended
- Testing tap water to ensure temperatures remain under 120 degrees
The Burn Foundation similarly offers safety tips for food service workers and management, which are useful for anyone who spends time in a kitchen:
- Use protective gloves when handling hot pots.
- Wear non-slip shoes or covers.
- Never move a pot containing hot oil.
- Only extinguish grease fires by sliding a cover over them.
- Avoid reaching over hot surfaces.
- Use barriers to prevent contact with hot surfaces.
- Read and follow all appliance instructions.
Of course, knowing these safety tips is one thing; implementing them is another, especially if an uncooperative landlord or employer has a say in the situation. Sometimes, your safety may not be within your control, or protecting yourself might involve reporting a safety violation or hazard to the appropriate authorities.
What to Do If You’ve Been Burned
If you or a loved one has sustained a third degree burn, do not apply cold water or other first aid treatments as you would for minor burns. Simply elevate the burn if possible, keep it clean with lint-free fabric, make sure the patient’s airway is clear, and get to a hospital immediately. Even a small third-degree burn carries a risk of shock and will require professional medical care.
When Your Burn Injuries Are Caused By Someone Else’s Negligence.
Once your immediate medical needs are met, take a moment to consider what circumstances led to your injury. Don’t immediately assume that you’re at fault, especially if you were burned in a space where you don’t control what safety precautions are and aren’t taken. If your burn might have been prevented if someone else had behaved more responsibly – such as if a company had installed a machinery differently, designed a product differently, or inspected its facility – you’ll need to contact a legal expert like those at the Stoddard Firm.
Third degree burns never heal completely, and recovery is often a years-long process at best. Treatment will typically include surgical skin grafts, and depending on the size and location of the burn, you may need occupational therapy to recover the use of complex affected joints. The medical expenses can stack up quickly, especially if the damage prevents you from returning easily to your former job.
At the Stoddard Firm, we have extensive experience recovering large sums of money for victims of burn injuries. The key to a full verdict in a burn injury case is being able to both accurately explain the severity and impact of the injury to the jury. For example, at the Stoddard Firm, we ask burn injury clients to take a photograph of their injury every two weeks. We then blow those photographs up on large boards for trial and have the injured victim walk through each stage of the recovery with the jury.
We also know how to explain your treatment to the jury. Burn injuries are typically treated with multiple surgeries, and so the Stoddard Firm hires expert medical illustrators to create diagrams showing each step of each surgery. These medical illustrations are then approved by the injured person’s treating physicians and explained to the jury. These medical illustrations often bring home the level of pain that you – the injured victim – were forced to endure.
The Stoddard Firm will also depose (interview under oath with a videographer) your treating physicians and have them explain the extent of your injuries, the work done to improve your condition, any lifelong conditions (such as keloid scarring or debilitating contractures), and the cost of future care. Most Georgia serious burn injury victims are life flighted to Grady Hospital’s Burn Center in Atlanta Georgia or to Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta Georgia. Physicians at these facilities typically do a great job treating patients, but these physicians often are not well versed in advocating for those patients in the Courtroom. After all – your doctor did not go to law school. At the Stoddard Firm, we make sure your physicians are well prepared for these under oath interviews that are later shown to the jury. It’s merely an issue of patiently sitting down with the doctor well in advance of the deposition, going through medical records, asking detailed questions, and reminding the doctor to avoid medical jargon. Few lawyers take the time to do this – we do –and it often makes a huge difference.
If you have a serious burn injury, you need a serious burn injury lawyer. At the Stoddard Firm, we can help. Reach out to us online or at 678-RESULT for a free consultation on how we can help you get the support and compensation you need.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have a case?
If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you could have a personal injury case. Every situation is different, so there’s no way to know if you have a case without consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney. If you are badly injured or a loved one has died, we are happy to speak with you and investigate the matter at no charge.
How do I pick the right attorney?
You’ll want to look for several qualities when choosing who will represent you. Your attorney should meet with you instead of sending an investigator, and he/she should be available throughout the process instead of having you consistently talk to a legal assistant. Your attorney should have a low number of cases so he/she can devote significant time to you and your case. Your attorney should have experience handling cases with facts similar to yours, and your attorney should have a proven track record with similar claims. Your attorney should also be able to devote significant money to your case so that he/she can hire experts, travel the country finding witnesses, and depose whomever is necessary to achieve justice. It’s also important to make sure your attorney is the right fit on a personal level, which is why you should take advantage of a free consultation.
What do I need to bring with me to the consultation?
For your free consultation, bring all relevant documents that you’ve collected regarding your case. If there are police reports, bills or correspondence from insurance companies, you’ll want to bring those items to the consultation so an attorney can learn as much about your case as possible.
How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
There is a time limit on how long a person has after an injury to begin a lawsuit. This window is called a statute of limitations. For most personal injury cases in Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years from the time the injury was suffered. However, there are exceptions and subtleties that might change the amount of time you are afforded. Sometimes the period can be as short as 6 months, and other times it can be much longer than two years. Determining the statute of limitations requires a detailed analysis of the facts of your case.
What do your services cost?
A consultation with the Stoddard Law Firm is free. In most circumstances, we earn no fee unless we win your case. If your claim is successful, we take a percentage of the recovered amount.
What has to be proven in a premises liability case?
A successful premises liability claim must show that a hazardous condition exposed you to an unreasonable risk of harm and that the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care to maintain a safe premises. Common examples include slippery floors, unstable structures, broken handrails, stairs not built to code, scalding apartment shower water, natural gas explosions, electrical shocks, and improperly fenced swimming pools. There are several factors that can make or break a case, which is why it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can thoroughly investigate the situation.
How is negligent security different from premises liability?
Negligent security is a type of premises liability. These claims arise when a person is assaulted on someone else’s property by a third-party. Owners of apartment complexes, hotels, gas stations, and other retail establishments can sometimes be held liable if their inadequate security practices contributed to the attack. Such practices include failure to warn of prior crimes, inadequate lighting, broken access gates, broken locks, and failure to provide security guards.
How can an attorney help me?
Whether your injury was mild or severe, proving fault for premises liability can be a complex process. The standard of care owed by the property owner is made up of many factors and, in some cases, the hazardous conditions may no longer exist. A skilled premises liability attorney knows how to gather and preserve the necessary evidence – and how to defend you against accusations that you should have known about the dangerous condition.
How do I choose an attorney?
There are a lot of lawyers out there, so it’s important to select one that you feel comfortable with and who inspires confidence. Choose one who has experience with the type of claim you have, is qualified, has a good reputation in the legal community, and seems dedicated to helping you win your case.
How do I pay an attorney?
The Stoddard Firm handles litigation on a contingency basis. This means we accept a percentage of the amount we recover for you. If your claim does not have a successful resolution, we do not collect any fee. We are also pleased to offer free consultations.