Car accidents can range from minor fender-benders to serious head-on collisions or T-bone accidents that result in devastating injuries and fatalities. When a serious car accident causes catastrophic injuries, the victim often faces extensive medical treatment, surgical interventions, and years of rehabilitation. In some cases, the injury is so severe that the victim suffers permanent physical and emotional impairments. Burn injuries are just one example of a catastrophic injury that can occur in a serious car accident. Although cuts, lacerations, broken bones, and traumatic brain injuries are what most people think of when discussing car accident injuries, burns are among the most common car accident injuries in the United States.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Car Accident-Related Burn Injuries?
It is quite uncommon for a vehicle to catch on fire, but it can happen. For example, if the vehicle’s fuel delivery system or gas tank is defective, it can rupture, causing flammable gasoline to ignite when it comes in contact with one small spark. If the vehicle occupants are trapped in the car, they can suffer catastrophic burns even if rescue workers are able to free them from the vehicle. Other, more common causes of burn injuries associated with car accidents include the following:
- Exposure to extremely hot debris
- Direct contact with a live current
- Contact with a hazardous chemical that leaked from a vehicle involved in the accident
- Explosions involving a nearby vehicle
- Deployment of the airbag
- Exposure to hot oil or other liquids, or scalding hot steam
What are the Different Types of Burn Injuries?
The skin plays an extremely important role, as it is the body’s largest organ. The skin regulates the body’s temperature, helps prevent dehydration, and protects the body from germs. Each of the skin’s layers can be damaged by burns, but the severity of the burn is determined by the layer of skin that is damaged. The following are the different types of burn injuries that can occur in a car accident:
- First-degree burns: These affect the top layer of skin, which is called the epidermis. Although these burns can be quite painful, and the skin can become red and swollen, they can usually be treated with cool water, bandages, and over-the-counter pain medication. They generally heal on their own without further treatment.
- Second-degree burns: These affect the top two layers of skin, including the epidermis and the dermis. They are also quite painful and can cause swelling and blisters. The skin may have a glossy appearance and start to leak fluid. It is recommended that the injured victim seek medical attention to treat the burn.
- Third-degree burns: These are very serious burns that reach the third layer of skin known as the subcutaneous layer. The skin may become dry and leathery, or appear white, brown, or black. The victim may suffer permanent damage to tissue, blood vessels, and nerves. These injuries require immediate medical attention.
- Fourth-degree burns: These burns cause damage to all layers of the skin, as well as muscle and bone. Because of the extensive damage to skin, tendons, nerves, and muscles, these often cause permanent damage and may require amputations. These burns are extremely serious and can be fatal.
What are the Common Symptoms of a Burn Injury?
Symptoms can vary based on the type and severity of the burn injury. If a car accident victim starts to show any of the following symptoms, he or she may be suffering from a burn injury:
- Faint pulse
- Slipping in and out of consciousness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shallow fast breaths
- Loss of alertness
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Trouble standing due to weakness
If emergency medical technicians have not yet arrived at the scene, and any of the car accident victims are exhibiting any of the above symptoms, they should be encouraged to drink small sips of water. Those assisting the victim should avoid rinsing the area with cold water or applying any lotions, ointments, or sprays to the skin. The injured victim should not be moved until first responders can take over.
What Health Complications Can Burn Injuries Cause?
Minor burns can usually be treated, and the victims will recover completely with no lasting impact on their life. However, the more severe the burn, the more likely it is that it can cause permanent injuries and devastating scarring. In addition, serious burns can increase the risk of other potentially life-threatening health complications, including the following:
- Infections: When any of the layers of skin are damaged, the body becomes more susceptible to infections, including an infection at the burn site.
- Sepsis: This is a potentially fatal infection that occurs when a serious infection spreads into the bloodstream.
- Respiration issues: These can occur from smoke inhalation or damaged nasal passages.
- Other complications: Serious burn injuries can also cause fluid loss, pulmonary embolisms, deep vein thrombosis, permanent scarring, and amputation. If the injury requires extensive skin grafting and plastic surgery, which resulted in significant scarring that changed the person’s appearance, he or she may suffer significant emotional and psychological distress.
Who is Liable for a Car Accident-Related Burn Injury?
There are a number of factors to consider when determining liability for a car accident that caused serious burn injuries, including whether the other driver involved in the accident was negligent, and if the vehicle had a defective product that caused the burn injury. If the injured victim believes that the other driver was negligent, he or she must be able to prove the following:
- The other driver owed the victim a duty of care.
- The other driver breached the duty, either by their actions, or failure to act.
- The breach in care resulted in the injury.
If the car accident victim believes that the burn injury was caused by a defective product, he or she may pursue a products liability claim against the car manufacturer. The following are the three types of product liability claims:
- Design defect: This occurs when a product is manufactured correctly, but it is based on an incorrect or unsafe design. Unfortunately, this affects an entire product line rather than a singular product.
- Manufacturing defect: This occurs when a product is damaged or assembled incorrectly during the manufacturing process. This generally only affects one product.
- Inadequate warning: If a product is designed and manufactured properly, but the packaging or labels do not provide the necessary safety warnings about possible dangers or risks of incorrect use, the consumer may file a products liability claim.
Whether the accident was caused by a negligent driver or a defective part, the burn injury victim will need to gather as much evidence as possible to prove fault. If the victim is physically able to do so, he or she should take pictures of the damage to the vehicles, the skid marks on the road, the location of the accident, and the damage caused by the fire or other material that caused the burn. In addition, it is highly recommended that the victim write down as many details about the accident as possible. If there were witnesses who saw the accident happen, they should be asked if they would be willing to provide a statement and provide their contact information.
How can a Lawyer Help Me Seek Compensation?
Burn victims often face a long and painful road to recovery, which means it is crucial that they receive the financial compensation necessary to get the treatment they need. This can include multiple surgical procedures, skin grafting, physical therapy, and occupational therapy. A serious burn injury will likely prevent the victim from being able to return to work for an extended period, so a catastrophic injury lawyer will be able to secure compensation for lost wages and disability benefits if the victim is no longer able to work in any capacity.
Ultimately, a lawyer will work closely with the car accident victim to protect his or her legal rights and determine who is responsible for causing the accident. In addition, the dedicated legal team will communicate with the insurance companies to negotiate the best possible settlement amount. Insurance companies will resort to a range of tactics that prevent them from paying costly settlements. Experienced catastrophic injury lawyers are all too familiar with these tactics and will be prepared to reject a settlement offer that is too low. Having a dedicated and compassionate legal team on their side allows the burn injury victim to focus their physical and mental energy on recovering from the injuries.
Los Angeles Car Accident Lawyers at ACTS Law Advocate for Victims of Burn Injuries
If you or a loved one suffered a serious burn injury resulting from a car accident, do not hesitate to contact the Los Angeles car accident lawyers at ACTS Law. These injuries can be extremely painful and require extensive, long-term medical treatment and procedures that can quickly become very costly. We will work tirelessly to fight for the financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. Our dedicated legal team will continue to advocate for you until you are completely satisfied. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 833-ACTS-LAW or contact us online.
With offices in Los Angeles and San Diego, we proudly serve clients throughout Southern California.