Written By: Allan L. Ziffra, Esq.
Some of the most devastating injuries sustained by victims of motorcycle accidents, auto accidents or truck accidents include severe burns, typically caused from a ruptured gas line, gas tank or radiator. These injuries have devastating effects on the victim’s life (as well as the lives of their family) because the recuperation and rehabilitation process is extensive and the physical and psychological scars are often deep and long lasting.
A victim of a motor vehicle crash can sustain serious burns in a variety of ways. Some of the most common burns include:
1) Contact burn – a type of burn that results when the skin comes in contact with a hot object. This can typically occur when a motorcyclist is in a motorcycle crash and is subsequently trapped under the engine or exhaust pipes of the motorcycle, which can be extremely hot;
2) Flammable liquid burn – a type of burn which is caused by coming in contact with a burning liquid such as gasoline which has a flash point of below 100 degrees;
3) Combustible liquid burn – a type of burn which is caused by coming in contact with a burning liquid such as diesel fuel which has a flash point of above 100 degress;
4) Respiratory burn – a type of burn which is caused from inhaling hot gas or burning particles;
5) Scalding – the most common type of burn that can result from an auto accident. It typically comes about when the radiator of the motor vehicle is ruptured, causing hot liquids or steam to escape into the driver’s compartment.
Degrees of burn injuries
The seriousness of a burn injury depends on how deep the injury is and how much of the body has been burned. It is common for a motorcycle accident or automobile accident victim with a large burn to have burns of different depth. The seriousness of burn injuries are usually classified in degrees:
1st degree or superficial burns: the skin is red and unbroken and there is minimal danger of infection as the damage is limited to the outer layer of skin called the epidermis.
2nd degree or partial thickness burns: the damage extends through the top layer of skin. With a second degree burn, the skin can regrow and heal unless it becomes infected and turns into a third degree burn.
3rd degree or full thickness burns: a third degree burn destroys all three layers of skin. It also destroys hair follicles, sweat glands and the region where new skin cells are formed. A third degree burn cannot heal by itself and skin grafting is necessary.
4th degree burns: a fourth degree burn extends through the skin and into the underlying tissues, such as ligaments and muscles. These burns are often life threatening.
Third and fourth degree burns can have a devastating impact on a victim’s life. Medical bills will be extensive, hospital stays will be long, rehabilitation will be grueling and the effects on the person’s long term physical and psychological wellbeing will be serious.
How an attorney can help represent a burn victim
When an individual has been severely burned as a result of the negligence of another or by a defective product, it is important for the victim and/or their attorney to preserve evidence and document the victim’s injuries and recovery process in order to maximize the victim’s recovery.
The following is a list of steps that an attorney (or other representative) must take in order to properly represent the victim of an auto accident, motorcycle accident or other type of accident that results in severe burns:
1) Investigating the fire scene. In many severe burn injury claims, there may be multiple parties other than a careless driver who could be responsible for the victim’s injuries. Negligently designed gas tanks, fuel valves, or safety devices could be the cause of the fire and subsequent burn. If this is the case, a claim for product liability may be presented. Preservation of negligent products and other evidence is vital for not only the investigator to determine the cause of the fire, but is also vital in proving a negligent design or negligently constructed vehicle.
2) Calling on the assistance of expert witnesses. A severe burn injury case usually requires the assistance of numerous expert witnesses on both the liability and damages side of the claim. A fire cause and origin expert, an accident reconstruction expert, a mechanical engineer, or a metallurgist are just a few examples of the types of expert witnesses that may be necessary to prove how and why a fire occurred. In addition, medical experts, rehabilitation experts, life care plan experts, and economists are just a few of the expert witnesses that may be necessary in order to document and evaluate the damages sustained by a burn injury victim.
3) Recommending a psychological evaluation. All serious burn victims carry significant and often disabling physical scars. However, It is also important to diagnose a burn victim’s psychological scars and disabilities. Fear, shame, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are just a few of the psychological injuries that a burn victim can suffer. A psychological evaluation of a burn victim by a qualified expert will document the victim’s psychological injuries and provide a basis for other experts to give opinions regarding future medical care, lost wages, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.
4) Documenting the victim’s rehabilitation. Serious burn victims may need rehabilitation on many levels. This could include not only physical therapy and psychological therapy, but may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and other types of therapies. Rehabilitation is often lengthy and very painful. Documentation of this type of therapy by an accident attorney is the single best way to demonstrate to an insurance company or a jury what a burn victim has undergone.
5) Creating a “Day in the Life” Video. Often times, capturing the burn victim’s life after they undergo methods of recuperation and rehabilitation is vital for their case. Serious third and fourth degree burns are so devastating to the victim of an automobile accident, motorcycle accident or truck accident that it forever changes their life. The physical and psychological disability that comes along with losing fingers, toes, lips, ears or other portions of their body will forever change the way that they live. Documentation of the victim’s life by video will establish the client’s story. It is hard to imagine how painful a physical therapy session is for burn contractures without seeing it on video. Likewise, daily morning processes of lubricating, stretching, grooming and dressing speaks volumes about the impact when shown through a video.
Burn injuries from auto crashes, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents or defective products can devastate a person’s life. Hiring a personal injury attorney that has experience with serious burn injuries is often recommended for a burn victim to receive competent representation.
The Daytona Beach accident attorneys at Rue & Ziffra, P.A. have over 25 years of experience in representing the victims of serious automobile accidents, motorcycle accidents, truck accidents and product liability claims who often suffer from burns.
Rue & Ziffra, P.A., proudly serves areas throughout Volusia County and Flagler County, Florida, including, Port Orange, Daytona Beach, New Smyrna Beach, Edgewater, Ormond Beach, Palm Coast, Flagler Beach, DeLand, Deltona, Bunnell, Orange City, Sanford, Orlando and Leesburg.
The above entry is NOT LEGAL ADVICE and should not be intended or construed as such. It is intended only as general information. No individual reading it should act upon it. Reading this entry does not create any relationship between Rue & Ziffra, P.A. and individuals reading it. If you have questions or concerns, please seek professional legal counsel.
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