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San Bernardino Burn Injury Attorneys

San Bernardino residents have an especially high risk of wildfires—we can likely recall the numerous forest fires in San Bernardino National Forest in recent years.

Fires and other accidents can result in serious burn injuries that result in long, painful, expensive treatments. Years ago, however, a person who had burns covering half the body often did not survive. Now, thanks to advances in medical treatment, people with burns covering 90 percent of their bodies can survive, though they may suffer from permanent impairments and scars. Surviving any type of burn can be a devastating, painful, and costly experience.

If you have suffered a burn injury, consult an experienced San Bernardino burn injury lawyer at Gomez Trial Attorneys to discuss your legal options.

Causes of San Bernardino Burn Injuries

According to the American Burn Association (ABA), every year, over 450,000 serious burn injuries occur in the United States that require medical treatment. Many of these injuries are the result of the negligent, reckless, or intentional conduct of another party. Up to 10,000 people in the United States die every year of burn-related infections. In one recent year, California was number one in the list of top 10 states at high to extreme wildfire risk.

When people think of burn injuries, they usually think of fire. However, there are many possible causes of burns. Contact with flames, hot liquids, steam, and other forms of intense heat leads to thermal burns.

They often result from fires, auto accidents, and household accidents.

  • Flash burns are just what they sound like—a flash of intense heat for a brief period of time. Explosions of flammable liquids such as gasoline, propane, and natural gas frequently cause flash burns. Clothing may be a protective barrier; however, it can also be dangerous if it is made out of flammable material and can ignite.
  • Flame burns result from exposure to prolonged and intense heat. They often happen in house fires, motor vehicle accidents, the improper use of flammable liquids, or clothing that caught fire from stoves and heaters. Approximately 44 percent of all burn injuries are the result of flame or fire. Flames and fire pose an additional threat because the smoke can lead to respiratory problems.
  • Scald burns, caused by hot liquid or steam, are responsible for about 35 percent of burn injuries. Tragically, 61 percent of scalding incidents happen to children less than five years old. Children often spill hot liquids, scalding themselves. Hot tap water burns cause more deaths and hospitalizations than burns from any other hot liquids.
  • Electrical burns. Exposure to an electrical current, such as exposed wiring frequently causes electrical burns. The electrical contact burns the skin, but the electricity can also move through the body, causing other injuries. Victims may suffer additional injuries if the electrical shock throws them. Electrical burns are often the result of touching a live wire or by an electrical device that short-circuits. Children may suffer electrical burns if they put their finger or an object in an electrical socket.
  • Cold burns. Exposure to extreme cold causes a cold burn. Such exposure can damage your skin, causing the skin and the tissue just below the skin freeze. It can happen when your skin comes into direct contact with something very cold for a long period of time.
  • Chemical burns. Exposure to caustic chemicals causes these burns. Strong acids, solvents, or detergents can cause chemical burns. The burn may happen immediately or may occur due to long-term exposure to chemicals. It is often the result of improper chemical disposal or use, especially around construction sites or in warehouses.
  • Radiation burns. Medical treatments such as X-rays or radiation therapy to treat cancer may cause radiation burns. The ionizing radiation damages skin cells, resulting in redness around the damaged area.
  • Friction burns usually occur when the skin gets dragged repeatedly over a rough surface. It’s both an abrasion and a heat burn. Friction burns are common in motorcycle and bike accidents. In some cases, friction burns can even impact muscle and bone.

These different types of burns can occur from a range of different types of accidents. For instance, a car accident could cause a person to sustain a radiological or chemical burn if a hazardous truck was involved, or the individual suffered a thermal burn from contact with ignited gasoline or a car’s heated metal frame.

Types of Burn Injuries by Severity

A burn injury damages not only the victim’s skin, but in some cases, also damages deeper tissues, muscles, and bones. Burns are defined by how deep they are and how large an area they cover. A large burn injury is likely to include burned areas of different depths. The victim’s pain levels, treatment, and recovery depend largely on the cause and severity of the burn.

The primary classifications, or degrees, of burns, include:

  • First degree burns. These are often the least serious, as they only damage the very top layer of skin. Home treatment is appropriate for some first degree burns.
  • Second-degree burns. Second-degree burns affect the outer layer of skin, called the epidermis, and part of the second layer of skin called the dermis. They are more serious and may require medical attention. Second degree burns often present with blisters and can leave scars.
  • Third-degree burns. These can seriously damage the deepest layers of skin and tissue. Third-degree burns can lead to nerve damage and may require skin grafts.
  • Fourth-degree burns. Prolonged contact with fire can result in the most serious type of thermal burn, referred to as a fourth-degree burn. These are the deepest and most severe of burns, and they may be life-threatening. These deep and devastating burns destroy the skin, as well as the bones, muscles, and tendons.

Treatment and Complications

If you go to a doctor for burn treatment, he or she will assess the severity of your burn by examining your skin. The doctor may advise treating minor burns at home, but treatment for serious burns may involve wound dressings, medications, skin grafts, and therapy. The goal of treatment is to prevent infection, remove dead tissue, minimize scarring, regain function, and control pain levels.

People with severe burns may require treatment at specialized burn centers. They may need skin grafts. Burn injuries may lead to visible scars, and can cause emotional and psychological trauma. Many people also need long-term follow-up care and emotional support. Burn injury treatment is very expensive, costing well over $200,000, even for a moderate injury. Severe burn injuries can cost $1.5 million or more. Complications could cause the cost to exceed $10 million.

Treatments may include:

  • Water-based treatments.
  • Intravenous fluids to prevent dehydration and organ failure.
  • Pain and anxiety medications. Burns can be incredibly painful.
  • Drugs that fight infection.
  • Specialty wound dressings.
  • Burn creams and ointments. These may be used in less serious cases to help prevent infection and prepare the wound to close.
  • Follow-up treatment for physical and occupational therapy.

Complications of San Bernardino Burn Injuries

Burns are considered catastrophic injuries. They can result in serious, life-altering conditions and disfigurement.

Physical complications may include:

  • Respiratory issues. Inhaling smoke and hot ash can damage the lungs. It may also burn the mouth and tongue, as well as the throat, larynx, and esophagus.
  • Infections. Burn sites are open wounds and can easily become infected or even lead to sepsis.
  • Contractures. Scar tissue from burns may tighten up as time passes. This tightening, known as contractures, can make movement painful or breathing difficult.
  • Compromised immune systems. If a burn injury results in organ damage or infections it may affect the immune system.

Other common complications from burn injuries may include:

  • Psychological complications,
  • Disfigurement,
  • Skin breakdown,
  • Skin graft failure.

San Bernardino Burn Injury Lawsuits

A burn injury lawsuit may allow the victim to seek money damages for physical injuries and financial losses in a San Bernardino civil court. However, there is a time limit to how long the victim has to file a claim. Legal theories often used in burn injury lawsuits include:

Negligence. Negligence “A failure to behave with the level of care that someone of ordinary prudence would have exercised under the same circumstances.“ The injured person must prove that:

  1. The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  2. The defendant breached that duty; and
  3. The defendant’s breach was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff’s harm.

Product defects. When a defective product causes a burn injury, the company that produced or sold the product may be liable for damages, even if no individual person was negligent. Product liability laws seek to protect consumers from dangers, defects, or malfunctions that cause harm. In California, the law regarding dangerous or defective products is strict product liability. This means that a person or entity who designs, manufactures, or distributes the defective product is strictly liable for any injuries that result when the consumer uses the product in a reasonably foreseeable way. These laws may be applied if there are manufacturing defects, design defects, or warning defects.

Premises Liability. Property owners throughout San Bernardino, residential and commercial alike, have a duty of care to maintain their property in a safe condition, make needed repairs, and/or give adequate warnings about any hazards. If a burn accident happens on someone else’s property due to a dangerous condition, the property owner may be liable for damages.

Burn Injuries Suffered on the Job in San Bernardino

If someone is injured at his or her worksite, or during the performance of work duties, they usually receive compensation by filing a workers’ compensation claim. With workers’ comp, the employee does not have to file a lawsuit or prove negligence. However, in some specific circumstances, the employee may file a San Bernardino burn injury lawsuit.

What Damages Are Available After a San Bernardino Burn Injury?

In a San Bernardino burn injury lawsuit, the injury victim is looking for money to pay for their losses caused by the accident. In California, compensatory damages for an accident or injury fall into two basic categories:

Economic Damages for Burn Injuries

Economic damages are those that the court can calculate by reviewing records or documents, such as medical records, or lost wages.

They include money the injured party has spent out-of-pocket, or money they will have to pay in the future, such as:

  • Medical bills,
  • Burn unit treatment,
  • Skin grafting procedures,
  • Rehabilitation,
  • Lost wages,
  • Lost earning capacity, and
  • Property damage.

Non-Economic Damages for Burn Injuries

It is harder to put a price tag on non-economic damages, but the harm is still real and painful.

They can include money damages to cover the injured person’s losses, such as:

  • Loss of function or other physical impairment,
  • Emotional distress,
  • Disfigurement,
  • Scarring. Burn injuries can lead to permanent, severe scarring,
  • Pain and suffering,
  • Loss of enjoyment in life, and
  • Loss of consortium.

Punitive Damages

In some specific sets of circumstances, a plaintiff can also sue for punitive damages.

Punitive damages, or exemplary damages, are intended to punish the perpetrator, but they are generally limited to cases where the defendant’s actions were:

  • Extremely reckless,
  • Malicious,
  • Oppressive,
  • Fraudulent, or
  • Intended to cause harm.

What Are the Damages if a Loved One Dies in a San Bernardino Burn Injury Accident?

If a fire or burn injury accident kills someone, the victim can no longer file a San Bernardino burn injury lawsuit on their own behalf. Instead, certain family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. A wrongful death lawsuit will allow the surviving family to receive compensation and hold the perpetrator accountable.

In most cases, family members who are eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Spouses;
  • Registered domestic partners;
  • Children;
  • Grandchildren (if the children are deceased); or
  • Anyone else entitled to the decedent’s estate under the laws of succession in California.

The money damages available in a wrongful death lawsuit include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses,
  • Loss of services the deceased would have provided,
  • Loss of companionship, and
  • Loss of financial support the deceased would have provided.

Have You Suffered a Burn Injury in San Bernardino?

John Gomez, San Bernardino Burn Injury Lawyer

Burn injuries are often catastrophic. You may require surgery, painful treatments, medication, and years of therapy. Your entire life may be altered, and your quality of life diminished. No amount of money can make up for the pain and loss associated with this severe type of trauma. If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury, you should consult a knowledgeable, experienced San Bernardino burn injury attorney as soon as possible. For further information or a free consultation, call Gomez Trial Attorneys at (619) 237-3490 or contact us online.

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