Each year, there are over 2 million burn injuries reported nationally. According to the National Institute of Health, nearly 40% of all burn victims sustain significant and/or permanent disabilities from their injuries. Statistics show that nearly 50% of all burn injuries could have been avoided. The cost to treat burn victims can range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, burn victims experience horrific physical pain and suffering, not to mention the emotional and psychological injuries and scarring that ensue. Unfortunately, burns are one of the more common injuries giving rise to litigation in light of the vast number of ways that these injuries occur. For example, people can be burned while on the job (electrocution, chemical burns). Others have been burned as a result of a household fire that was started by a defective household appliance or product. Still others are burned following a car collision. Some are burned due to a household fire that started because a house or its wiring was not built properly to code. Finally, some suffer surgical burns while under anesthesia in the operating room – caused by the use of electro-cautery devices, instruments that reach several hundred degrees. Other types of devices that cause burns include lasers, overhead and fiber optic light sources, drills and burrs. Lasers in particular have been known to create small areas of intense heat that burn through anything in their path and ignite things such as surgical tubes, clothing, patient hair and swabs. These devices form part of a trifecta of elements needed for a flash fire: oxygen, alcohol prep and an ignition source (the electro-cautery device). The fire hazard has been heightened by the increased use of things such as disposable drapes, antiseptic skin agents and cloth/paper drapes. These fires can be prevented through a number of means such as: using the lowest possible inspired oxygen concentration that still ensures adequate oxygen saturation or administering oxygen along with a nonflammable gas such as helium or nitrogen.
There are also a variety of less obvious substances that can cause fires as well including the dermatome glue used in harvesting of skin grafts and gastrointestinal gases. Hydrogen and methane gases are also extremely flammable gases produced by bacteria in the intestinal tract. When these areas are operated upon and the gases released, an increased risk of a surgical fire increases, especially in the oxygen rich environment of an operating room.
As noted above, our Medical Malpractice / Wrongful Death team routinely and successfully handles all manner of cases in which our clients have sustained serious burn injuries. For example, our team represented the family of a woman who suffered extensive burns and later died when her home hospital bed malfunctioned, caught fire and burned her house down. In addition, we settled a medical negligence case against a doctor in which our client suffered a serious surgical burn case after a woman caught on fire while she was being operated upon. In the latter case, our team was able to demonstrate that burn injuries not only result in tremendous pain, suffering and emotional distress (along with significant medical care and bills), but also that they can result in the need for a lifetime of care. Finally, our lawyers have also handled cases in which the care and treatment that a client received for his/her burn injuries was in adequate, or fell below what is called the standard of care, resulting in increased injury on the one hand or death on the other. For all of these reasons, if you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury we urge you to call our team for a free consultation.