How Do Burn Injuries Occur?
Burns can be caused by numerous types of incidents ranging from car accidents, workplace accidents, accidents involving chemicals, explosions and thermal or electrical related burns and burn accidents in public places, like in a restaurant, for example. In some cases, more severe burn injuries can cause permanent nerve damage and damage to the tendons and ligaments especially in cases where physical contact is made with fire, heat, chemicals, electricity or radiation. This can lead to scarring and in some cases reduced mobility which has a profound effect on a person’s day to day life.
Who is Liable?
If you have sustained an injury that was caused by another person’s negligence then you may be entitled to make a claim. It is important to determine who was liable for the cause of the accident and your injuries prior to making a claim.
Burns can be classified into three groups based on their severity. Determining the severity of your burn injury is an important step in the process of making a claim. In general, burns are divided into three categories.
First Degree Burns
These are minor injuries which only damage the top layer of the skin. The most common cause of minor burns would be scalding. In general, these burns do not need to be treated by medical care and the skin may appear blotchy. There may be a small amount of pain also. First degree burns would be the most common type and generally do not leave the injured person with any long-term injuries or scarring.
Second Degree Burns
These are a bit more severe and can damage the deep layer of the skin down into the dermis. This can lead to damage to the blood vessels and nerve endings. The skin often becomes red and blistered which in some cases can cause minor scarring. Second-degree burns can often lead to infection if not treated correctly. If a second-degree burn covers more than 10% of the body it can cause the injured person to go into shock as a result of fluid loss.
Third Degree Burns
These are the most serious and severe type of fire burns. They can damage all three layers of the skin down into the layer of tissue which lies beneath the dermis. In many cases, these severe burns can cause skin loss which often leads to the need for skin grafting surgery. It is common that no pain may be felt due to damage to the nerves. These burns can leave permanent scarring and take a long time to heal.
Common Burn Injury Symptoms
- Red and blotchy skin
- Peeling of the skin
- Loss of fluid
- Pain in the affected area
- Reduced Mobility
Burn injuries can be sustained in many types of accidents, the most common being, road traffic accidents, accidents at work (particularly in industrial or construction focused roles) or in any public place. Some of the common causes are:
Electrical burns can be very dangerous, the human body acts as a conductor for voltage and can happen at work or at home by a defective product or in any public place. These burns can be caused by a number of different causes: Exposed electrical wires, poorly maintained electrical equipment and machinery, for example. There are different degrees of electrical burns:
- Low Voltage Burn – a low voltage electrical burn is classified as a burn from contact with a power source with 500 volts or less. This voltage is not high enough to cause tissue damage but can cause mild, superficial burns. Depending on the contact time, they can be more serious.
- High Voltage Burn – this burn can be severe as the injured person makes contact with a high voltage supply of electricity which can damage tissue and move through the body. On the outside the effects of the burn may not seem as bad as you might think, most of the damage caused by high voltage burns will be sub-dermal (underneath the skin).
- Oral Burn – this is caused by biting on an electrical cord. This would usually happen with children where they bite on an exposed electrical cord. In this instance, electric current would pass throughout the child’s mouth leading to injury or possibly deformities.
- Flash Burn – this is caused by an electrical arc that touches the skin. As the temperature of the arc is very high it can cause burns to appear in a fraction of a second. These burns will mostly be superficial and the skins will be damaged but subdermally there should be no significant damage. Of course, this can depend on the length of time exposed to the arc.
- Arc Burn – this is caused by electricity passing from one place to another. Arc burns can cause affect a person without contact, they burn at an extremely high temperature (up to 4000 degrees Celsius). This is hot enough to start a fire on a person’s clothing, leading to injury. In some cases, if the arc wave is high enough it can cause a pressure wave which might throw a person off their feet and cause injury.
- Flame Burn – where objects are in contact with an electric current, a flame can be produced which causes a fire to start. A person whose clothing was in contact with an arc or flash of electricity may catch fire and experience a flame burn as a result.
The type of burn that a person may sustain in work, at times, will be dependent on what job they have and what environment they are working in. Some common workplace burn injuries are:
- Electrical burns from contact with electric currents caused by defective products or faulty electrical equipment.
- Thermal contact burns from contact with overheated machinery or tools
- Chemical burns from contact with corrosive substances, acids or oils.
- Contact with direct heat sources such as welding and other construction activities
A chemical burn is irritation and destruction of tissue caused by either direct contact with a chemical or exposure to the fumes of a chemical. Chemicals burns are common in the workplace and there are a number of aspects that an employer must adhere to in order to ensure that an employee is not injured by a chemical while at work. An employer must:
- provide protective clothing to those who are handling, working with or near dangerous corrosive chemicals. For example, and depending on the chemical in use; safety gloves, protective face masks, safety glasses, overalls, jackets, aprons – all of which protect the individual from exposure to chemicals. An employer who does not provide such safety gear may be held liable for an injured employee.
- Provide training to the employee on the use of the tools being used to handle the chemical.
- Have procedures and precautions in place to help prevent burns from happening. Warning signs and caution notes should be visible to those working with chemicals to constantly remind them of the dangers. A first aid box should contain eyewash, burn cream and other after burn products.
An employee must also remember that they have an obligation to also adhere to safety regulations and procedures surrounding the use of the chemicals in work and if they are seen to be acting negligently then they may be held liable for the accident, not the employer.
Road Traffic Accidents and Car Fires*
A car fire is a common occurrence following a road traffic accident. An accident may occur due to driver negligence or a defective car part, in both cases, a fire can ignite causing fire burn injuries.
Structural fires generally occur as a result of faulty wiring in a building. These fires can spread quickly and lead to fire injuries for those inside.