Severe burn injuries can be life threatening, debilitating, and require years of treatment after the initial incident.
We have represented a number of individuals who have suffered severe burns, including burns caused by fire, explosion, electricity, and chemicals. We have seen firsthand how painful and difficult it is to recover from a severe burn. We have helped burn survivors recover compensation from those responsible for these devastating types of injuries.
Severe and Life Threatening Issues Associated with Burns
Severe burns can compromise a person’s airway, necessitating that the person be quickly intubated in order to make sure their body receives the oxygen it needs to survive. Exposure to smoke or chemicals can also impact a person’s lungs, such that emergency treatment is required in order to save their life. In some cases, burn victims suffer from hypothermia, which is an extremely low body temperature. This dangerously low body temperature can cause vital organs to shut down. The first organs affected by low body temperatures are the heart and brain. If the body is not brought to a normal temperature soon, the brain may suffer irreparable damage.
Even after the life threatening conditions are stabilized, the long term affects of a severe burn injury can require lifelong treatment and assistance.
From the first moment of the injury burn survivors often experience extreme pain. The pain is caused not only by the thermal or chemical source of the burn, but also by the very processes that the body uses to heal. It is essential that people affected by a burn receive ongoing care to manage this pain throughout the recovery process.
Infections and Debridement
Because burns strip away a person’s protective layer of skin, the resulting flesh may be more susceptible to bacteria until new skin is able to grow. Even burns that are treated properly can result in infections during the recovery process. Infections that are not caught right away can enter the blood stream and sometimes cause a potentially fatal form of sepsis. In some rare cases, infected parts of the body may have to be amputated.
When burns become infected, they often begin to swell. This swelling can put dangerous pressure on the tissue beneath, including nerves and blood vessels. Debridement is often required, which is a process by which burned tissue is removed from the body and the wound is cleaned to prevent further damage or infection. Debridement methods may be surgical, chemical or manual – as simple as removing blisters in the hospital, or complex enough to require surgery. This process can be very painful and may require additional time in the hospital.
Deep second- and third-degree burns often require skin grafts. These grafts cover burn wounds to keep them clean and safe while they heal. There are many different types of skin grafts to address different concerns. Depending on the size of the burn, these grafts may require multiple surgeries and an extensive healing process.
Joint and Muscle Issues
Once the skin has healed from the burn, it may be scarred. These scars can tighten the skin, tendons and muscles near a joint. Because joints have to be able to flex, the tightening can reduce a person’s mobility and even cause daily joint pain.
Our firm represented a woman who suffered severe burns to her hands. In addition to pain and other symptoms, she experienced “contractures,” or permanent shortening of her muscles. Contractures can lead to ongoing mobility issues and affect muscle function.
Long Term Care
When a person suffers severe burns, even after the burns heal and the medical treatment ends, many have to be very careful about exposure to the sun or everyday household chemicals due to the sensitivity of the area that was burned. In addition to their physical injuries, burn victims also sometimes suffer from the horrible memory of the events that led to their burn and require ongoing counseling and therapy.
Experienced Help Is Essential
Every burn injury is unique, and survivors will often require a customized program of long-term care to heal. People affected by burns in West Virginia may have a long recovery process full of a wide range of potential complications. Getting back to normal life can be a painful, uphill battle. No one should fight that battle alone.
Because no two burn injuries are the same, it is wise to work with an attorney who has prior experience in handling burn injury cases to ensure the best possible outcome.