Burns – FAQ

Burn-injury-lawyer/Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What causes burn injuries?

The burn injury is just about the worst injury a human being can endure. The skin is the largest organ on the body and is extraordinarily sensitive. Burns can be caused by fire, flash fire, heat, radiation, chemicals, or electricity. Serious burns – especially third-degree or higher burns and those that involve a large surface area – are often caused by massive flash fires, and can be life altering, if not fatal.

Burns are complicated injuries affecting each and every organ system; not only the skin but muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and bone. Burns aren’t just cosmetic: they affect body temperatures and dexterity. Severe burn injury may have far-reaching consequences in terms of emotional and psychological damage for life.

What are Thermal Burns?

These are caused by fire, flame, steam, hot metals, hot oil or grease, hot liquids, fireworks, space heaters, electrical malfunctions, gas-fed water heaters, portable gas cans, and any other fire or explosion. Thermal burns resulting from explosions – such as from gas tanks, water heaters, gas cans, natural gas systems, car accidents, and boat accidents – happen quickly and are severe when fuel and clothing ignite.

What are Inhalation Burns?

A burn injury to the airways can be caused by inhaling smoke, steam, or toxic fumes. People involved in plant explosions and industrial accidents often have inhalation burns, after breathing while running through a fire.

What causes Electrical Burns?

Electrical injuries are caused by high voltage lines, damaged electrical cords, and electrical outlets. The internal injuries that may result from an electrical burn are sometimes difficult, or impossible, to see. The current of electricity is always seeking a “path to ground” and when a human being comes between the source of electricity and the ground, that person will be severely injured.

What are common causes of Chemical Burns?

Chemical burns are often associated with industrial accidents. Any discharge of strong acids or bases can lead to a serious, life-threatening burn injury. In the industrial setting, caustic is often used to clean piping; when this caustic escapes or is blown from a piping system, it can be fatal. Cleaning products, battery fluid, pool chemicals, and drain cleaners can also cause chemical burns. The severity of chemical burns may be deceptive. Hydrofluoric acid, for instance, can eat to the bone before the extent of the burn injury becomes evident.

Burns to the face are more serious because they may affect the victim’s breathing or eyesight. Burns to the hands and feet are serious because they can limit the mobility of fingers and toes.

How are Burns Classified?

The total body surface area (or “TBSA”) refers to the percentage of the body that received the burn injury. Each area of the body is assigned a different percentage. Any TBSA assessment over 15% is generally treated as a life-changing injury with a whole body impairment.

What are the Survival Factors for Burn Injuries?

Children have, by far, the greatest risk of long-term injury due to burns. Those over 65 also have a very serious risk of long-term injury or death as a result of burns. Unfortunately, the ability to recover from a serious burn injury depends, in part, on the health of the patient. Those with pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or a heart condition may have a more difficult time recovering.

How are burns managed?

The first step is, of course, to stop the burning process. In some instances, “stop, drop and roll” will work, but in flash fires involving burned clothing, or any explosions involving an accelerant (like a gas can explosion), stop, drop and roll will not work. Most burns should be doused with a large amount of clean water. In the industrial setting, anyone suffering a burn should immediately run to a safety shower. Water not only stops the burning process but removes debris that could encourage infection from the body. Very cold or icy water should never be applied to someone with extensive burns, as it could send the person into shock. Never apply ointment or lotion to a burn injury; ointment may be applied at later stages to less serious burns.

It is critical, immediately after a burn injury, to assess the victim’s airway. If the victim was burned in a fire, assume that person has an inhalation injury and potentially may have burns to the airway. Any suggestion of a burn injury to the lungs (such as from smoke inhalation) should be considered a medical emergency.

A burn injury is one of the most painful injuries that a person can experience. Burn patients require specialized hospitalization or long-term care for complications. Skin grafts, deformities, dexterity problems, and scarring may require extensive therapy. 

What are Some of the Leading Burn Hospitals?

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