As we discussed in our last post, serious or fatal burn injuries can be the result of a variety of accidents, but the victims all share the same terrible and grueling aftermath. From a medical perspective, no matter the accident, all burns are “… tissue damage caused by heat, sunlight, electricity, chemicals, or nuclear radiation.”
The care, treatment, and recovery from a severe burn injury take a long time no matter the cause of the burn. And the costs facing the burn accident victim and their families can be financially overwhelming.
Burn injuries involve significant emergency care and treatment, of course. However, for those who have been seriously burned in an accident, it is likely that they will face months if not years of hospital care and rehabilitation.
Additionally, they will likely need intensive and long-term mental health counseling and treatment to deal with the psychological trauma and emotional harm that result from a burn accident.
The life of a victim suffering from severe burns is forever altered, as are the lives of his or her loved ones. The burn accident interrupts and destroys lives, for months or years if not for a lifetime.
Financially, the burn victim can face what amounts to another catastrophic event. The costs and expenses of his or her physical and mental care will be very expensive.
See, Hop, m. jenda & Polinder, Suzanne & van der Vlies, Cornelis & Middelkoop, Esther & van Baar, Margriet. (2014). Costs of burn care: A systematic review. Wound Repair and Regeneration. 22. . 10.1111/wrr.12189.
Burn Victim Care and Treatment
The reality of dealing with monetary concerns in the care and treatment of a severe burn victim can be extremely stressful on both the burn accident victim and his family. It’s almost impossible to imagine how difficult these financial circumstances can be, coming as they do alongside the horror of the burn accident itself.
Accordingly, it is imperative that the burn accident victim and his loved ones begin an investigation into the causes of the burn accident as soon as possible, to learn what companies or individuals may have legal liability for the accident and its resulting harm.
They must also be alert to the continuing course of treatment for the burn victim. It is possible that additional legal claims may exist for improper care and treatment of the burn victim that are independent from any claims based upon the accident itself.
Burn Liability Claims
Legally, burn accidents may be the result of several things that allow the burn accident victim to file legal claims for damages against those who caused the incident to occur. Claims may be filed based upon:
- Product liability
- Defective product
- Gross negligence
- Supervisor liability for employee (respondeat superior).
Claims may exist as well for any failure in the proper care and treatment of the burn injury victim in the aftermath of the accident. These may include liability based upon:
- Medical malpractice
- Hospital malpractice
- Nursing care or hospice care malpractice or neglect.
Burn Injuries: Costs and Expenses
Burn victims suffering serious burns (third degree, fourth degree) not only need immediate care but they will have intensive medical needs for an extended time period. There will be hospitalizations. Likely, there will be several surgeries.
Surgeries, Pain Care, and Other Treatments
Often, this will occur in a burn center where burn injuries are exclusively treated. In other situations, this will occur in local or urban hospitals with specialized care providers. Additionally:
- Pain will be intense and chronic; pain specialists will need to be involved.
- Plastic surgeons will be needed to help with the burn scars as well as burn disfigurement.
- Physical therapists will be there to help with rehabilitation.
- Psychologists or psychiatrists will be treating for depression and anxiety.
- Surgeons with special expertise in dealing with debridement and skin grafting will be needed.
Common Complications for Burn Victims
If there are complications in the burn victim’s care, treatment, or recovery, he or she may also need:
- Emergency care to help with breathing should his throat swell due to burns suffered in the face / neck areas (windpipe closes)
- Emergency care to help with nutrition because the burn victim cannot swallow or otherwise absorb nutrients (feeding tube; intravenous (IV) feeding)
- Emergency blood transfusions because of burn injuries to the circulatory system
- Emergency response to infections resulting from the injuries (or from neglect) that includes sepsis and pneumonia, both of which are potentially fatal
Claims for Compensation after Burn Accident Injury
Since burn accident victims face such extensive and intensive care and treatment needs both immediately and in the long term, it is vital not only (1) to determine the parties who are liable under the law for these claims but (2) to calculate the amount of compensation that will cover both the immediate costs as well as the long term care needs of the burn victim.
Obviously, this involves more than gathering the current medical provider invoices for a total. In severe burn cases, expert analysis is needed to assess the individual burn victim’s current state as well as his or her future prognosis. This is not an easy task. See, e.g., Sánchez JA, Perepérez SB, Bastida JL, Martínez MM. Cost-Utility Analysis Applied to the Treatment of Burn Patients in a Specialized Center. Arch Surg. 2007;142(1):50–57. doi:10.1001/archsurg.142.1.50
Medical expertise is needed to calculate the long-term care needs of the burn victim. What surgeries will the victim likely need over the course of his lifetime? These medical experts must assess not only things like surgeries and hospitalizations, but things like home health care needs, potential home renovation costs (ramps for wheelchairs, etc.) and psychological counseling needs.
Pain alone may be a complicated issue to assess insofar as life-long financial needs. See, Burn Injury Pain: The Continuing Challenge, Summer, Gretchen J. et al., The Journal of Pain , Volume 8 , Issue 7 , 533 – 548.
Financial or economic expertise is needed to estimate the future value (assessing inflation, currency rates, etc.). What amount of money set aside now will be sufficient to cover those surgeries in the future? It is key that the burn victim have adequate funding for medical needs decades in the future, if needed.
Economists may provide expert testimony not only on things like lost wages, but also lost future earning capacity and the costs of being re-educated or trained in order to enter a new kind of work or livelihood.
Filing Claims for Justice: Burn Injury Victims
When someone has been seriously hurt in an accident and suffered severe burns, they face a complicated and stressful future.
Not only will the burn victim and his loved ones deal with the physical realities of the burn injuries and their care and treatment, they must also face the financial realities that accompany these burn accidents.
If there are those who are legally liable for the accident which caused the burns, then under the laws of Indiana or Illinois as well as federal law, the burn victim may have legal avenues for justice with compensation to cover his care and treatment costs.
Burn injury cases are complicated both in establishing liability as well as calculating damages. The claims must establish the cause of the burns and the reason that the defendant(s) are liable for the accident. The claims must also establish with reasonable accuracy the long term costs for care and treatment that the burn injury victim will need in the future.
Burn victims face complicated futures, with complex care and treatment needs. Under the law, accidents caused by negligence or defective products or medical malpractice can hold defendants responsible for covering those expenses, providing justice for the accident victim and their family.
Please be aware of the dangers of burns and burn injuries. Let’s be careful out there!