What are the Long-Term Effects of Burn Injuries?
Posted in Personal Injury on September 17, 2023
Severe burn injuries can have a lasting impact on a victim’s life. Not only is the initial recovery often excruciating, but the long-term effects can leave individuals disabled, disfigured, and unable to continue the activities they enjoyed before the injury occurred. Here, we want to examine some of the most common long-term effects of severe burn injuries.
Burn Classifications According to Severity
Burn injuries are classified based on their severity, and they range from first-degree burns to fourth-degree burns:
- First-degree burns. These are considered superficial burns and only affect the epidermis, which is the outermost layer of skin. These burns will often present as red, dry, and painful areas of the skin but usually have no blisters. The most common example of a first-degree burn is a mild sunburn. Long-term damage associated with these types of burns is rare.
- Second-degree burns. These are considered partial thickness burns and involve damage to the epidermis and the lower part of the skin, the dermis. The Burnside will likely look red and be swollen and painful, likely accompanied by blisters.
- Third-degree burns. These are considered full-thickness burns and completely destroy the epidermis and dermis. These burns typically go into the innermost layer of skin, called the subcutaneous tissue. Types of burns may look charred, blackened, or even white.
- Fourth-degree burns. These are the most severe types of burns a person can sustain, and they go through both layers of skin, the underlying tissue, and even into the deeper tissue and bone. Typically, there is no initial pain associated with these injuries because the nerve endings get destroyed.
The degree of burn is only one way to determine the severity of a burn and individual sustains. Aside from discovering the degree of burn, medical professionals need to know how much of a person’s body is affected. Typically, this is represented by percentages. For example, you may hear a medical professional say that a person has sustained second-degree burns over 20% of their body.
Often, individuals sustain various levels of burns over different portions of their bodies. For example, a burn injury victim may have third-degree burns over 5% of their body but second-degree burns over 10 to 15% of their body. The course of treatment for these types of burn injuries will vary depending on their severity and how much of the body they cover.
Long-Term Effects of Severe Burns
Burn injury victims could have persistent health problems related to the injury, including the following:
- Scarring or disfigurement. Severe burn injuries can leave individuals with significant scarring and disfigurement. Hypertrophic scars raise the skin around the burn injury and are a common complication. Scars can limit a person’s ability to function and negatively affect their body image.
- Contractures. This is a severe complication of a burn injury and occurs when a burn scar thickens, matures, and tightens. This can constrict a person’s movement, particularly if the burn occurred over a joint. Contractures can lead to additional medical issues for the patient and interfere with the healing process.
- Fatigue. A 2021 study assessed the relationship between burn injuries and fatigue. The study found that burn patients experience a much higher risk of developing chronic fatigue than those without a burn injury.
- Hypothermia. Individuals who sustained burn injuries may lose some of the ability to regulate their body temperature, which is essential for supporting regular bodily functions. Hypothermia can negatively impact the healing process, prolong hospitalizations, and lead to significant discomfort for a patient.
- Itching. Burn patients often experience itching around the injury site for years after the initial injury and recovery occurs.
- Pain. Controlling pain is a major challenge for burn injury victims. Pain can keep burn injury victims from carrying out their day-to-day activities, from sleeping well at night, and from fully recovering.
- Emotional and psychological problems. It is not uncommon for burn injury victims to experience significant emotional and psychological problems resulting from the initial injury as well as the ongoing recovery process.
Is Compensation Available for Long-Term Burn Damages?
Individuals who sustain burn injuries caused by the negligent actions of others may be able to recover compensation for their losses. This not only includes compensation for the initial burn injury and the recovery process but also the possible long-term burn damages a person is likely to incur.
Because there is not necessarily a linear path toward recovery for burn injury victims, any burn injury settlement or jury verdict should take into account the future medical expenses the victim is likely to incur. Additionally, any final settlement or verdict should take into account the non-economic damages associated with long-term burn recovery. This includes recovering compensation for a victim’s physical pain and suffering, emotional and psychological trauma, as well as loss of quality of life damages.
There is no set amount of compensation paid to burn injury victims. Rather, there are several factors that will be taken into account when calculating economic and non-economic damages. These factors include the severity of the injury, the length of the recovery time, whether or not there was any shared fault, insurance carrier limitations, and more. Your attorney may be able to give you a ballpark estimate of what type of compensation to expect if your claim is successful.
Do You Need an Attorney?
We strongly encourage all burn injury victims to reach out to a skilled attorney as soon as possible. Burn injury claims can be incredibly challenging, particularly when dealing with aggressive insurance carriers and at-fault parties. A skilled Nashville burn injury lawyer can get involved in the case quickly and help their client every step of the way. An attorney will conduct a complete investigation into the incident, help determine liability, and handle all negotiations with other parties. Importantly, an attorney will factor in all of the short and long-term expected expenses to help ensure their client receives the compensation they are entitled to.