Unfortunately, deaths and serious burn injuries from fires occur all too frequently. Each year in the U.S., more than 450,000 serious burn injuries occur.

In just one year, the number of people who died from fire or smoke inhalation reached 3,275. (1) “The odds of a U.S. resident dying from exposure to fire, flames or smoke is 1 in 1442,” according to the American Burn Association. (2)

The New York Post reported that in New York City 88 people died in fires during 2018. That number was up from the previous year’s total of 73. (3)

And, the U.S. Fire Administration data for 2017 indicate that in New York there were 1.4 deaths and 18.1 injuries per 1,000 fires. (4)

Even when you survive your injuries, your life will never be the same. Your recovery can take weeks, months, or even years. If you have received burn injuries, you are probably facing multiple treatments as you try to recover.

What Is a Burn Injury?

“Burns are tissue damage that results from heat, overexposure to the sun or other radiation, or chemical or electrical contact,” says the Mayo Clinic. (5)

Burn victims can suffer serious and painful injuries that may be life threatening, debilitating, or have complications. Besides the vision many people have of burns due to a large fire breaking out, there are different causes and types of burns.

Types of Burns

There are several types of burns: (6)

  • Thermal burns from touching hot objects, such as heat, fire, steam, grease, or scalding water.
  • Chemical burns from exposure to acids or alkalis, such as detergents, paint thinner, lye, or gasoline.
  • Friction burns from hard objects rubbing against the skin, such as scrapes or abrasions.
  • Electrical burns from electrical currents running through the body, such as lightning strikes or touching “live” wires.
  • Radiation burns from cancer treatments, X-rays, and prolonged exposure to sunlight.

Burn Severity and Symptoms

Burn severity is measured in terms of degrees, your age, and the percentage of skin area affected by the burn, among other factors, explains The Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center (MSKTC). (7)

Mayo Clinic adds, “Burn symptoms vary depending on how deep the skin damage is. It can take a day or two for the signs and symptoms of a severe burn to develop.” (8)

  • First-degree burns happen when damage is limited to the first layer of skin (epidermis). With first-degree burns, you may have pain and your skin gets red but does not break. Healing takes place within 3 to 5 days and normally leaves no scar, nor infection. (9) (10)
  • Second-degree burns damage the epidermis and the second layer of skin (dermis). They are painful. With these second-degree burns, your damaged areas swell, appear red, and blister. Damaged skin grows back, but there can be scarring.(11) (12)
  • Third-degree burns go through the epidermis and dermis to the underlying fat, muscle, and deeper tissues. Damaged areas can appear charred ― looking black, brown, white, or deep red ― and your skin may have a leathery appearance. Nerves in the affected areas may be destroyed and become numb to touch. These burns require significant treatment to heal.(13) (14)
  • Fourth-degree burns destroy skin, fat, muscle, and even bone.(15)

Treatment Options

Treatments for serious burn injuries range from medications and wound dressings to therapy and surgery. Treatments may take months and require follow-up care besides physical and occupational therapy. Treating a burn injury can be expensive and painful. (16)

According to the Mayo Clinic, serious burn victims may require a procedure where a breathing tube (tracheostomy) is inserted into a hole created in your neck so you can breathe. You may also require a feeding tube and intravenous (IV) fluids to prevent dehydration and organ failure. Antibiotics, along with pain and anxiety medications, can be administered intravenously. (17)

Other serious burn treatments include: (18)

  • Wound cleansing using ultrasound mist.
  • Creams and ointments to prevent infections.
  • Dressings to prepare your wound to heal.
  • Plastic surgery to improve appearance and flexibility of your affected joints.
  • Skin graft procedures using sections of healthy skin to replace scarred or damaged tissues in deep burns.
  • Tetanus shot.

With some serious burn injuries, unhealthy tissues must first be removed before healing can begin. This may require another surgical procedure.

Debridement Complications

Debridement is a procedure to remove unhealthy tissue from a wound to promote healing.

Some of the reasons for debridement are to: (19)

  • Clean away crust, dirt, and debris.
  • Decrease scarring by creating a neat wound edge.
  • Help severe burns or pressure sores heal.
  • Remove dead cells or infected areas.
  • Take a sample of tissue for testing.

Yet every procedure has risks and complications. Some risks and complications with debridement include: (20)

  • Bleeding.
  • Delayed healing.
  • Infection.
  • Loss of healthy tissue.
  • Pain.

In serious burn injuries that cover a large area of the body, skin grafts may be necessary.

Skin Graft Surgery

“Skin grafts are thin layers of skin that surgeons take from an unburned area and then surgically place on the burned area,” explains MSKTC.

There are several types of skin graft procedures: (21)

  • Autografts: healthy skin from one area of the body used to replace damaged skin in another area.
  • Split-thickness skin graft: a type of autograft where the damaged skin is replaced with healthy skin taken from the epidermis and a thin layer of the dermis.
  • Full-thickness skin graft: a type of autograft where damaged skin is replaced with healthy skin that includes both the epidermis and dermis layers.
  • Allografts and homografts: temporary grafts to cover a wound where donor skin comes from another person or a cadaver.
  • Xenografts: temporary grafts that use skin from a pig.
  • Meshed grafts: a technique where the donor skin is perforated with tiny holes so the skin can expand as a type of mesh to cover a larger area.
  • Sheet grafts: when graft skin is placed directly on the damaged area without being meshed.

Grafting procedures are surgery that can pose risks and complications.

Risks & Complications

Skin grafts pose risks of complications in several areas. These include surgical risks, and complications with the grafted skin itself, among others.

Surgical risks may include: (22)

  • Allergic reactions to the anesthesia.
  • Breathing problems.
  • Bleeding.
  • Blood clots.
  • Infection.

Complications with the skin that has been grafted: (23)

  • Loss of grafted skin.
  • Loss of skin sensation.
  • Slow healing.
  • Uneven skin surface.

Other risks and complications: (24)

  • Chronic pain.
  • Increased skin sensitivity.
  • Scarring.

Compensation for Burn Injuries

If you have suffered a serious burn injury while at work, at an event, on the roadway, or even at home, you may be entitled to compensation. The cause of your burn injuries impacts who should be held responsible.

For example, if you suffer from overexposure to the sun due to sunbathing, you are accountable for your own injuries.

However, if you suffer a severe burn from a tanning bed that has malfunctioned, the business that owns and operates the tanning bed could be held responsible for your injuries. The tanning bed manufacturer may also be liable if the bed is defective.

If you are in a building or other structure and get caught in a fire that severely burns you, many groups could be held responsible, including the owner of the building.

If you or anyone you know has suffered a burn injury, contact us for a free case evaluation.

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In personal injury cases, like burn injuries, the cause of the burn injury matters. If you have been injured due to the actions or negligence of someone else, you may be due compensation.

Causes of Burn Injuries

The Mayo Clinic and MSKTC list causes of burns as contact with: (25) (26)

  • Chemicals.
  • Electricity.
  • Explosions.
  • Flames.
  • Grease.
  • Hot metals or glass.
  • Radiation.
  • Scalding by hot liquids or steam.

Importantly, if what caused your burn injury was a violation of the New York City Fire Code, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.

Fire Code Violations

The New York City Fire Code is extensive and detailed. For example, it dictates the construction, accessibility, and even number and location of fire exits in buildings. (27)

Some topics covered by the New York City Fire Code include: (28)

  • Building services and systems.
  • Fire protection systems such as fire alarms, smoke detectors, and sprinklers.
  • Storage of hazardous materials.

These are only a few topics covered in the New York City Fire Code. It is intended to help prevent fires and save lives. When the Fire Code is ignored or otherwise violated, you may have grounds for a lawsuit against building owners and businesses.

However, there are other justifications for a lawsuit, such as either the lack of fire prevention measures at all, or they were carelessly adhered to.

Fire Prevention Measures Not Used

Fire prevention measures should be in place in any building or business. These measures need to be diligently observed by building owners, employers, managers, and employees.

Yet many fires can be traced back to preventive measures done incorrectly or never even implemented. When that happens and you are injured in a fire, a lawsuit may be warranted.

For example, say that the cause of a fire in which you were burned was due to an electrical hazard. There might have been a problem with the building’s wiring, or it could be due to equipment malfunctions and frayed electrical cords.

It is the responsibility of the building’s owners to ensure the building’s wiring and electrical outlets are regularly checked and maintained.

If the fire is found to be due to equipment failure or frayed electrical cords connected to that equipment, the owner of that equipment ― the business ― is responsible.

Businesses and managers should regularly check, maintain, or replace equipment and electrical cords as needed. If they do not, the business and its management can be held liable.

Other fire prevention lapses that businesses and managers may be held accountable for are: (29)

  • Blocked or nonworking smoke detectors and sprinkler systems.
  • Emergency exits that are not well lit or lack posted signs and diagrams.
  • Failure to use non-sparking tools.
  • Improper ventilation of storage and work areas.
  • Inaccessible electrical control panels.
  • Inadequate or leaky storage of chemicals and combustible substances.
  • Insufficient fire extinguishers of the appropriate type and number.

Fire prevention lapses that employees may be responsible for include: (30)

  • Allowing fire exits to become blocked.
  • Failing to practice good housekeeping ― allowing a workspace to become cluttered and not using waste bins effectively.
  • Not using designated smoking areas and disposing of cigarette butts appropriately.
  • Failing to comply with procedures for handling and storing chemicals and combustibles.

Filing a Burn Injury Lawsuit

Most states have a limited window of time for you to file a lawsuit to gain compensation for personal injuries. This window of time is called a “statute of limitations.”

Once this window has closed, you will not be able to file a lawsuit or make any claims against the parties responsible for your injuries. So you want to take any legal action sooner, rather than later.

The statute of limitations varies from state to state. According to the laws of New York, CPLR 214(5) sets the statute of limitations for personal injury claims at 3 years, beginning from the time your injuries were sustained. (31)

If you or a loved one has suffered serious burn injuries in New York, do not wait. Contact Weitz & Luxenberg as soon as possible. You need attorneys who are experienced in litigating large personal injury cases who can go up against large companies.

Weitz & Luxenberg has an experienced and knowledgeable legal team with a track record of success in these types of cases.

Weitz & Luxenberg’s Track Record

The Weitz & Luxenberg legal team has won large verdicts and settlements for our clients.

Here are just a few of our cases: