According to Tampa General Hospital, sustaining a burn injury—regardless of how big or small—can have serious implications on a person’s physical and psychological well-being. Not only is the process of recovering from a burn injury long and painful, but there is a likelihood of scarring and disfigurement, which can lead to additional medical treatments and may cause the injured person to suffer humiliation and fear of attention when going into public places.
If you’ve suffered a burn injury in Tampa due to someone else’s negligence, carelessness, or reckless actions, Florida law allows for the recovery of financial and psychological expenses. Contact an experienced Tampa burn injury lawyer for details as to how to seek recovery through a personal injury case.
About Burn Injuries
Burn injuries are tissue damage caused by exposure to fire, heat, chemicals, electricity, sun or other radiation. A burn can be a minor injury needing only first aid at home, or it can be a life-altering event that can result in permanent scarring and disfigurement or even death. Burns are defined by degrees according to how deep the damage to the skin tissue is.
The burn degrees include:
- First degree: This is the most minor level of burn, affecting only the outer layer of skin, known as the epidermis. First degree burns usually produce symptoms such as redness and pain.
- Second degree: Second degree burns affect the epidermis as well as the second layer of skin, which is the dermis. This level of burn will manifest in red or blotchy skin. Blisters may develop and the burn may result in a scar.
- Third degree: This is the most serious level of burn, with damage extending to the fat beneath the skin. A third degree burn may result in brown, black, or white skin in the damaged area and the skin may appear leathery. Additionally, the burn may destroy nerves, resulting in numbness.
- Fourth degree: Fourth degree burns feature all of the symptoms of a third degree burn but the damage extends to the muscles or tendons.
If you experienced a burn, you may wonder if it is serious enough to seek medical treatment. You should always seek medical treatment if the burn covers a large part of the body, or if it is located in a sensitive area such as the face, groin, buttocks, a jointed area such as the elbow or knee, or it occurs on the hands or feet.
Additionally, seek medical treatment if:
- The skin around the burn appears charred, blotchy, or leathery.
- The burn was caused by electricity or chemicals.
- You are having difficulty breathing or the burn involves your airway.
- There are signs of an infection of a burned area, such as swelling, redness, or oozing.
- The burn hasn’t healed within two weeks.
- You experience new signs of injury involving the burn.
- You experience significant scarring from the burn.
Some of the medical interventions that may be required to treat a burn include:
- Water-based treatments used to cleanse the wound
- IV fluids to prevent dehydration
- Medications to deal with the pain and anxiety experienced during burn recovery
- Antibiotic creams used to prepare the wound to close and to prevent infection
- Dressings that keep the wound covered and help it to heal
- IV antibiotics and a tetanus shot to reduce the likelihood of infection
- Breathing assistance for burn injuries that impact the airway, including a tube that is placed through the mouth and down the throat
- A feeding tube for those whose burns affect his or her throat and make eating difficult or impossible
- Primary excisions, which removes dead skin tissue, are performed within 24 to 48 hours on many burns to prepare the area for grafting
- Physical therapy to regain or retain function and mobility in jointed areas that have suffered damage due to the burn
Many burn patients require skin grafting to improve function and reduce the appearance of scarring in the burned area. Skin grafting involves taking healthy skin tissue from one part of the body and transplanting it to the affected area. The preferred areas to take the grafted skin from include the abdomen, hip, thigh, groin, forearm, or the area around the clavicle (collarbone). The graft is generally performed in a hospital, under general anesthesia. Successfully grafted skin will begin developing blood vessels and connecting to the surrounding skin within approximately 36 hours.
Reasons why the graft doesn’t take may include:
- An infection in the grafted area
- A collection of fluid or blood beneath the graft
- Too much movement of the graft on the wound
- Poor blood flow to the grafted area
The donor site where the graft was harvested should heal within one to two weeks. However, the graft itself may take a month or more to heal, during which time care should be taken not to move the area too much or to engage in activities that may involve injuring the graft site.
Plastic surgery is another common procedure used to reduce the appearance of scarring and improve function for burn victims. In one recent year, plastic surgeons performed more than 16,000 burn procedures, with almost 90 percent of burn patients receiving a procedure to benefit the appearance of scarring or the range of motion that has been impaired by the injury. Some of the procedures that may be performed on burn patients include decompression, laser resurfacing, and fat grafting.
Common Causes of Burn Injuries
Burns are caused by different activities and sources, including:
- Heat sources such as ovens, stoves, outdoor grills, or space heaters
- Scalding liquids
- Car accidents where there may be spilled fuel or hot surfaces
- Electricity, including electrical outlets and frayed cords
- Caustic chemicals, such as fuel or acid
- Metal that has been heated by the sun or other sources, such as the buckles on a car seat that has been in a hot car in the summer
- Items heated by electricity, such as irons
Complications From Burn Injuries
One of the more serious aspects of burns is the complications that they can cause. Some of those complications can be life-changing or even life-threatening, including:
- A bacterial infection in the wound that may spread to the bloodstream, causing a sometimes-fatal condition known as sepsis.
- Multi-system organ dysfunction, which may occur with severe or infected burns and can cause progressive damage to the body that may result in death.
- Post-burn seizures, which commonly affect children, and are often the result of an electrolyte imbalance resulting from dehydration, low levels of oxygen in the blood, or infection.
- Fluid loss, including a loss of blood volume known as hypovolemia.
- A dangerously low body temperature, also referred to as hypothermia.
- Hemolysis, which is the destruction of red blood cells that may result in damage to the kidneys.
- Respiratory issues that may develop from breathing in hot air or smoke.
- Scarred skin that is prone to drying, cracking, itching, or may sunburn easier.
- Keloids, which are an overgrowth of scar tissue that may result in ridged areas or impaired joint movement.
- Bone and joint problems which may result from the tightening of the skin due to scar tissue.
- Psychological impacts due to the pain of both the burn and the treatment of it, as well as the change in body image due to scarring.
Can Burn Injuries Be Prevented?
While it is impossible to prevent any sort of accident from happening, there are some things you can do to prevent yourself and your loved ones from being injured by fire, electricity, or exposure to caustic chemicals. These preventative measures include:
In the Home
- Never leave food cooking on the stove unattended. Care should be taken with boiling liquids as well, particularly around children who may pull the pan from the stove and spill scalding liquids onto themselves.
- Never smoke in bed. After smoking indoors, be sure that the cigarette is completely extinguished.
- Install smoke detectors on every floor of your house, and directly outside of every bedroom that will wake you if there is a fire in your home while you are sleeping. Change the batteries in your smoke detectors each year and avoid “borrowing” the detector’s batteries for another purpose. Many people set a date, such as tax day, to remember that their smoke detector batteries are due to be changed.
- Keep emergency information and other important phone numbers in a safe and easily accessible place.
- Make sure you have two exits from every room in your house. Windows can be used as emergency exits. Practice your escape plan annually and ensure that others—even children—also practice getting out of the home in the event of a fire.
- If you’re experiencing a fire at your home, do not call the fire department until after you’ve gotten yourself out of the home. Advise the dispatcher if there is anyone still trapped inside the home. Do not hang up from the call until the dispatcher tells you it is all right to do so.
- Never re-enter a burning building to search for people or pets who may be trapped inside.
At the Workplace
- Always use protective gear when working with chemicals or hot liquids.
- Become familiar with the various exits and the company’s fire escape plan. Remember that you may have to find your way out of the building in the dark.
- Keep workplace exits clear of debris and ensure that the exits remain unlocked when there are people in the building.
- Make sure you are aware of what the fire alarm or smoke detector at your place of business sounds like so you can react appropriately when you hear it.
- Establish a meeting place outside of the building where everyone needs to go to be accounted for.
- Respond to every alarm as though it were a real fire. If you hear an alarm, exit the building immediately and close the doors as you go.
In All Buildings
- Remember that smoke rises. Crawl low to the ground to avoid inhaling smoke that could render you unable to leave the building.
- If possible, cover your nose and mouth with a moist cloth to avoid smoke inhalation.
- Before opening a closed door, feel the door knob and the area around it. If the area is warm or hot, choose another escape route. If it is cool, open the door slowly. If the room begins filling with smoke, quickly close the door and use a different exit.
- Never use an elevator during a fire. If electricity to the building goes out, you will become trapped inside.
- Call the fire department for assistance if you are trapped inside of a building. If you are unable to access a phone, open a window and call out to others outside.
- Close as many doors as possible between yourself and the fire. If possible, block the space beneath the door with wet rags to prevent smoke from entering the room where you are.
Motor Vehicle Safety
- Have regular maintenance performed on your vehicle by a professional mechanic.
- Look for leaks. Many fluids used in vehicle operation are flammable. All leaks should be promptly repaired.
- Know the warning signs of an electrical problem, such as a fuse that blows more than once.
- Be aware of rapid changes in fuel or fluid levels or engine temperature.
- Avoid transporting gasoline or other flammable liquids and never transport them in the passenger compartment of a vehicle.
- Collisions are a major cause of vehicle fires. Drive safely to avoid a collision.
Tampa Burn Injury FAQ
Suffering severe burns in an accident due to another party’s negligence can leave you with many questions. If you have specific questions that relate directly to your claim, an experienced Tampa burn injury attorney can help answer those questions and ensure that you have accurate information concerning your injuries and your legal right to compensation following a serious accident. Here, we provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions that we hear from burn injury victims.
1. How much compensation should I expect to receive after a Tampa burn accident?
You suffered burns due to another party’s negligence. Now, you likely have substantial medical bills to go along with your injuries. Worse, you cannot work, which means you do not have any income coming in. How much compensation should you expect to recover?
The compensation you ultimately receive for your injuries will depend on several factors.
Talk to an experienced Tampa burn injury attorney to discuss the details of your accident, but most people, when filing a Tampa burn injury claim after a burn accident, will include the following:
- Medical expenses. Burn injuries often carry with them high costs. Severe burns can quickly top the million-dollar mark in terms of medical treatment, and that’s with no complications. As a burn victim, you may need to stay in a special burn unit, where the hospital takes extra care to prevent the risk of infection in open wounds. You may require several surgeries and skin grafts, including plastic surgery to help restore a normal appearance. Not only that, many burn victims undergo long-term psychological therapy, as well as physical therapy, to help restore strength and flexibility around a joint after a burn.
- Lost wages. After severe burns, many victims cannot return to work as usual. In fact, you may spend weeks or even months out of work. Burns compromise the body’s skin, which provides important layers of protection against infection. Your doctor may recommend not going back to work until you go through a substantial recovery period, since exposing yourself to unnecessary infection risk could raise the risk of complications.
- Pain and suffering. Burn pain often proves one of the most difficult types to treat. Even after physical pain from those injuries subsides, many victims suffer from ongoing psychological trauma due to permanent changes in their appearances related to those burns, as well as trauma from the accident itself.
While you can claim all of these factors as part of your Tampa burn injury claim, keep in mind that the insurance policy that covers the liable party may limit the compensation that you ultimately receive for your injuries. Even if the cost of your medical expenses and lost wages exceed the coverage offered by that policy, the company may offer no more than the policy’s limits. Talk to an attorney to learn more about how those policy limits may influence your claim, including the amount of compensation that you seek for your injuries.
2. Does the liable party pay my medical expenses directly?
No. If you file a personal injury claim following a Tampa burn accident, you will pay your own medical bills up-front, and the liable party will make payment to you in the form of a settlement or award, which you can then use to pay your medical bills.
As the injured party, you ultimately bear liability for any medical expenses that you face while recovering from your injuries. This includes immediate emergency treatment after the accident as well as the ongoing costs of therapy. Your health insurance—or in the event of a car accident, your personal injury protection insurance—can offer some compensation for your medical expenses. Ultimately, however, you must ensure that your bills get paid.
If you need to wait for a Tampa burn injury claim to wrap up before paying medical bills associated with your burns, an attorney can draft a letter of protection that will demonstrate your intent to pay your medical bills once you receive compensation through your claim.
3. Who bears liability for my Tampa burn injuries?
Burns can occur in a variety of different accidents. Electrical burns, for example, occur most often in premises liability accidents or construction accidents. Car accidents, chemicals that were not properly disposed of, premises liability accidents that relate to stoves tipping over or improper fire alarm installation, and product liability accidents can all cause substantial burns.
Talk to an attorney to get a better idea of who caused or contributed to your burns. If your attorney can identify multiple parties that share liability in your Tampa burn accident, you can file a claim against each party, which may increase the total compensation that you ultimately receive.
To establish liability, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant:
- Owed the plaintiff a duty of care at the time of the accident,
- Negligently or otherwise violated that duty of care, and
- That the violation caused the accident that led to the plaintiff’s injuries and damages.
An attorney will help assess all parties that contributed to your accident and the duty of care that they may have owed to you at that time.
4. I suffered burns in a construction accident, and the construction company’s insurance representative contacted me to offer a settlement. Should I take it?
Settlement offers often look tempting. They provide injured individuals with quick money that they can use to pay their medical bills. Quick settlements also may prevent injured individuals from ending up stuck in long, drawn-out legal battles. However, individuals should consider settlement offers with skepticism and contact an attorney to discuss the details. Unfortunately, insurance companies are unlikely to have an injured individual’s best interest in mind.
Often, insurance companies will contact injury victims, especially those who suffered severe injuries, soon after their accidents. At that time, injured individuals may have no idea how much their medical expenses will rise. In fact, burn injury complications can substantially increase victims’ recovery times and raise their medical bills as well. Not only that, but insurance companies that use this tactic will also usually push for a fast response, without giving you time to consider whether the offer is fair.
Accepting the insurance company’s initial offer could end up limiting your ultimate compensation, particularly in the case of burn injuries, which can leave you with substantial medical bills and ongoing complications, the extent of which you may not realize at the time that the insurance company makes its first offer.
Before accepting any settlement offer, talk with an experienced Tampa burn injury attorney with experience representing burn victims. That attorney will give you a better look at how much compensation you should seek for your injuries, including when to accept a settlement offer and when you should continue negotiating for a larger compensation package.
5. Does it matter if the party that caused my injuries had insurance coverage?
Even if the party that caused your burns did not have insurance coverage, you can still file a Tampa burn injury claim. You may, however, receive significantly less in compensation from a business or private entity that does not carry insurance designed to compensate injured individuals after an accident. Such an insurance policy not only protects the liable party, but it also offers significant compensation to injured individuals.
6. When should I contact an attorney about my Tampa burn accident?
Ideally, you want to contact a Tampa attorney as soon after your accident as possible. Investigating the accident soon after it occurs can help uncover critical evidence and information. Construction sites change every day. Evidence from an auto accident can quickly disappear. Even witnesses may prove less reliable as time goes by after an accident: Memory proves more unreliable as more time passes, especially memories of traumatic events, like an accident.
As a victim of severe burn injuries, that means you should contact an attorney as soon after your accident as possible. Even if some time has gone by, you may still have the right to file a Tampa burn injury claim. Always contact an attorney, even if you fear that the statute of limitations has run out or that you cannot find enough evidence to prove liability for your accident. While an attorney can collect more evidence more easily in the days immediately after the accident, your attorney may still find significant evidence that supports your claim and helps your recover compensation for your injuries.
7. If I contact an attorney quickly after my burn accident, will I also receive compensation quickly?
As a burn accident victim, you may need compensation quickly to take care of your medical payments or manage your living expenses. Unfortunately, even if you contact an attorney quickly, it does not necessarily mean that you will receive compensation for your injuries just as quickly. Many victims, in fact, find that it takes considerable time to receive a fair settlement from the insurance company.
Consider the following:
- Your attorney needs time to put your claim and your case together. It may take time to gather all the evidence related to your claim. You do not want your attorney to rush the process of gathering evidence, since this may prevent you from receiving full compensation for your injuries.
- You may need time to recover before you know what your life will look like following your Tampa burn accident. Severe burns can leave you with long-term limitations and scarring, both of which can impact every area of your life. Not only that, but you may also need to allow time for your recovery. Complications during your burn recovery can add to the expense associated with your accident. This may raise the amount of compensation you ultimately receive. You may also fail to accurately gauge how long you will remain out of work until you can return. Your attorney may advise waiting until you move further through the recovery process before officially filing your Tampa burn injury claim. By allowing just a little more time to pass, you can often give the liable party a better picture of your real expenses, which can make it easier to put together a compensation package that accurately reflects your needs.
- The higher your claim, the longer it may take for the insurance company to settle. Insurance companies often try to limit their financial liability as much as possible, even after a severe accident. Burns frequently result in high medical expenses, which means you will file a larger claim than someone who suffered a less-significant injury. As a result, it may take longer for you and the insurance company to negotiate a settlement that proves acceptable to both parties. The insurance company may even try to drag the process out in the hopes that you will settle for a smaller amount.
8. Will I have to go to court to settle my burn injury claim?
Most burn injury claims settle out of court. Ultimately, going to court increases legal expenses for both you and the insurance company, and most insurance companies want to avoid that if at all possible. If you do have to take your claim to court, however, having an attorney by your side can prove incredibly beneficial.
Usually, burn claims go to court due to an inability to reach an agreement through negotiation or mediation. By the time you go to court, you will likely already have been through several rounds of negotiation with an insurance company that refuses to issue adequate compensation, based on the terms of the policy and the extent of your burns. An attorney can help you understand the potential benefits and drawbacks of taking your claim to court.
9. I have enough expenses to deal with due to my medical bills. What if I can’t afford a burn injury attorney?
Contact a burn injury attorney before assuming that you cannot afford one. Many Tampa burn injury attorneys understand the budget considerations that go along with serious injuries, including burns, all too well. An attorney may take your case on a contingency basis; instead of asking for payment throughout the claim, the attorney will take a percentage of your claim as compensation. Other attorneys will help work out a reasonable, affordable payment arrangement that will make it possible for you to handle that added expense, even with your medical bills to consider.
Many burn victims find that working with an attorney significantly increases the amount they ultimately receive in compensation for their injuries, even after they cover their legal fees. An attorney will, in many cases, prevent you from accepting an offer that minimizes your compensation and provides you with valuable advice that can have immeasurable benefits to your claim. Contact an experienced Tampa burn injury attorney today.
Call Our Tampa Burn Injury Attorneys Today
If you received a serious Tampa burn injury due to an accident that someone else caused, you may be eligible to receive compensation for your injury-related expenses and the impacts of the injury to your quality of life through a personal injury lawsuit. Motor vehicle accident victims who have suffered serious burns in a Tampa car accident often can meet the serious injury threshold, which allows for the compensation of more of your expenses.
Let us provide you with the information you need about the legal process of recovering expenses from your injury. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you can write to us using our online contact page.