You might only think of heat or flames when you think about burn injuries. But burn injuries happen any time a chemical reaction damages your skin cells.
Burns can range in severity from minor superficial injuries to disfiguring injuries that can kill or permanently disable you.
Here is an overview of burn injuries and the compensation you can seek for them under Florida law.
What Are Your Skin’s Functions?
Your body’s largest organ is your skin. The skin performs several functions, including:
Your skin protects your body from many outside contaminants, including chemicals, dirt, radiation, and microbes. Without the barrier of your skin, your body would work overtime to eliminate these contaminants.
Your skin is the first line of defense for your immune system. It blocks bacteria, parasites, and viruses from entering your body. When microbes enter your body, the body rushes immune cells to the wound to try to trap and eliminate them.
The skin also prevents fluids from leaking from your body. When your skin gets damaged, you risk dehydration as water evaporates from your body.
Your skin cooperates with a layer of fat to keep your body warm. It also includes sweat glands to keep your body cool.
Your skin provides your sense of touch.
Touch includes many sensations your brain needs to regulate your body, including:
These sensations get picked up by nerve endings in the skin.
Vitamin D Production
Your body needs vitamin D. Most of the vitamin D you need gets produced in your skin. Chemicals in your skin react to sunlight to produce vitamin D.
What is the Structure of Your Skin?
Your skin has three layers.
The epidermis provides the barrier between your body and the outside world. It provides a thin, water-resistant, microbe-resistant layer of protection for your body.
The dermis contains hair roots and sweat glands to help your body regulate its temperature. Oil glands in the dermis keep your skin soft and pliable.
The dermis contains the blood vessels that provide oxygen to the skin and deliver immune cells when the skin gets pierced. It also has nerve endings to collect tactile information from the outside world.
The hypodermis contains fat cells that cushion your skin, insulate your body, and store energy. The hypodermis also contains the connective tissue that holds your skin to the underlying muscles.
How Do Burn Injuries Occur?
Burns result from chemical reactions that damage or destroy tissue. While most people are familiar with burns from heat or combustion, burns can come from many different types of chemical reactions.
Some types of burn injuries include:
Thermal burns can happen when there is contact between the skin and something hot. Hot solids, liquids, or gasses can cause a thermal burn. A thermal burn usually does not appear charred or blackened.
Combustion happens when your flesh catches on fire. These burns have a characteristic charring of the skin. In addition to the burn injury, you can also suffer from smoke inhalation.
These burns often happen due to open flames or burning premises. But they can also happen from fireworks, flares, or explosions.
Radiation from the sun or other sources of radioactivity can burn the skin. Radiation is highly energetic and damages skin cells by knocking electrons out of the molecules making up the cells.
You have experienced a radiation burn every time you get sunburned. One unique danger of radiation burns is that if the DNA of the cells gets damaged, a cell can turn cancerous.
Caustic chemicals can react with the skin and cause a chemical burn.
Some types of chemicals that cause chemical burns include:
- Alkalines, like lye
- Oxidizers, like bleach
The chemical reaction that causes the burn will vary depending on the chemical. These types of burns can accompany lung damage or blindness if the chemical gets into the air or splashes into your face.
Electrical burns happen when an electric current flows through your body. Typically, you can trace the path of the current because you will get burns where the current entered and exited your body.
How Do You Rate the Severity of Burn Injuries?
Your treatment and prognosis will depend on the severity of your burn. Doctors rate burns on a three-degree scale.
First-degree burns only affect the epidermis. These burns cause pain, redness, and swelling. But they usually heal in less than a week without medical treatment.
First-degree burns rarely leave a scar. And you will probably not experience any complications after a first-degree burn.
Second-degree burns damage the epidermis and dermis.
These burns will cause:
A second-degree burn can develop an infection because the dead epidermis flakes or peels away, exposing your dermis to micro-organisms. Second-degree burns can also leave a scar where the dermis regrew.
Third-degree burns destroy your epidermis and dermis. These burns pose a serious risk to your health because you have lost the full thickness of your skin.
As a result, you are exposed to:
- Blood loss
Paradoxically, third-degree burns may not cause you any pain because the nerve endings have been destroyed. But you will still face many complications from your burns and the treatment you receive for them.
Scars happen when regrown skin lacks the smoothness and elasticity of your original skin. Contractures happen when scars prevent your joints from moving because of the thickness of the scar tissue.
How Do You Recover Compensation for Burn Injuries?
If your burns resulted from someone else’s negligence, you could seek injury compensation. If you prove liability, you can recover compensation for your financial losses due to medical bills, lost income, and diminished earning capacity.
You can also recover compensation for your non-economic losses like your pain, mental anguish, disfigurement, and inability to perform activities.
Burn injuries — particularly second-degree and third-degree burns — can have severe effects, including pain, long-term disabilities, and permanent disfigurement. To discuss the compensation you can seek for your burn injuries, contact the Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.