If an individual suffers a severe burn injury by the fault of another, there are important considerations when evaluating damages. The pain a burn victim suffers is likely obvious and can be conveyed easily to a jury or opposing party. However, burn injuries are unlike broken bones or soft tissue injuries, and require important examination to maximize a claim against another party.
For a burn injury case, the physical injuries to a burn victim are the primary and obvious source of recovery. However, it is important to understand the severity and classifications of burns in order help a jury understand the variance of appropriate treatments, the pain involved, long-term effects.
These are non-deep burns that are painful. They can include first or second-degree burns. First-degree superficial burns cause damage above the basal layer of the epidermis. Second-degree superficial burns are extremely painful, and cause:
They heal by “re-epithelialization from skin adnexa,” meaning that either the skin naturally heals the wound or may require plastic surgery. The deeper the burn, the slower it heals.
These range from second to fourth-degree. Deep burns generally require skin grafting and can lead to hypertrophic (raised) scars if they are not grafted.
Attorneys should recognize the interplay between insurance coverage for burn victims on the front end, and possible damages sources from a defendant who caused a burn. Burn victims must be operated on quickly to achieve good results. Long-term, burn victims can require unique care that should be accounted for when arguing to a jury. At-fault parties will attempt to have experts claim that burn victims are healed or cannot be treated further at the time of trial. Often, they will purposefully avoid discussions of prosthetics and elective surgeries to make a burn victim “whole” again. In Texas, lawsuits must generally be filed within two years of the date of a burn injury. This means that treatment can be ongoing at the time the case reaches a jury. Your attorney should understand life-care planning and be able to consult experts that can calculate future damages so that you can afford all necessary future care.
Aside from the extensive list of physical injuries and ailments that result from burns, burn injuries are mentally devastating. Often a burn victim will be treated by medical staff immediately, without regard to the psychological damage that follows. The trauma of a burn injury can lead to serious social and psychological consequences, and deeply impact the quality of life for burn victims regardless of physical healing. Treatment for burns often requires isolation, which can increase the likelihood of the onset of psychological disorders. Moreover, bodily disfigurement in burn victims can cause mentally burden a victim long after treatment for the physical ailments is complete. An analysis of psychological well-being in a burn victim is vital to maximizing compensation. Your attorney should be prepared to analyze treatment for psychological disorders and guide a jury to understanding the unique disorders commonly associated with burns.
The prevalence of psychological disorders in burn victims is staggering. The American Journal of Clinical Dermatology reported that 90% of burn victims experience stress symptoms within one week of the injury. Within 3-6 months of the burn injury, up to 33% of burn victims experience symptoms that indicate PTSD. the After one full year, 45% of burn victims develop sings of chronic stress that can be categorized as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
PTSD stems from a triggering event, like a severe burn. Injuries that require long-term medical care, like burns, often exacerbate the psychological problems and can affect mental recovery. The development of PTSD in situations like this is can be vicious, and can be worsened by a lengthy recovery.
Medical professionals trained to treat burns are often not fully trained to screen for psychological issues. Therefore, it is important to seek out qualified psychologists and/or psychiatrists to help identify and treat non-physical injuries. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM) lays out the diagnostic criteria that must be met to diagnose PTSD. In burn victims, it is likely that some or all of the criteria are found. While the list is large, some common effects of PTSD in burn victims are:
Did you suffer a burn? Schedule an appointment with us at 210-342-2777.
* Information obtained from www.morrowsheppard.com
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