Burn injuries from a car accident affect victims physically, psychologically, and mentally. When burns result from a car fire accident caused by another driver’s negligent, reckless, or even intentional actions, victims may pursue a personal injury claim for past and future medical care expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.
Common Causes of Burn Injuries in the Car
It is not common for a vehicle to burst into flames after a car accident, but it can occur in a few scenarios, such as when the impact causes the fuel tank to leak, or a vehicle is struck by an aircraft making an emergency landing. With so many electric vehicles on the road, there is also an increase in incidents where vehicle owners and first responders are being caught off guard by electric vehicle battery fires - which are difficult to extinguish.
Burn injuries can also occur in many different instances when a vehicle does not catch fire, including:
- When an airbag is deployed (release of an aerosol of sodium hydroxide during airbag deployment).
- When explosions occur inside the vehicle, such as from lithium batteries.
- When chemicals are leaked during an accident (gasoline, battery acid, coolant, oil, etc).
- When vehicles have electrical problems after car accident.
Some of the most common burn injuries that we see that arise from sources other than a vehicle fire include:
- Scald burn injuries: When steam or hot fluids are present.
- Inhalation burns injuries: When smoke or chemical gasses are inhaled
- Electrical burn injuries: When charged wiring and/or metal is present, or contact is made with downed high-voltage power lines.
In a serious accident, such as a high-speed head-on collision caused by a distracted driver whose vehicle migrates into oncoming traffic, burn accident injuries may be combined with other serious car accident injuries, including broken bones, spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries.
Different Degrees of Burn Injuries
The heat from thermal, chemical, electrical, or electromagnetic energy can cause burns. Accident victims’ burn injuries are divided into classes based on the extent of damage to their skin. The different degrees of burns are:
- First-degree burns: Skin is red and dry, but not blistered. Only the top layer of skin is affected. A common example of a first-degree burn is a mild sunburn.
- Second-degree burns: Skin has some blisters and some thickening. In some cases, skin grafting is necessary to repair the wounds.
- Third-degree burns: Skin is thickened throughout and has a whitish, leathery appearance. Damage may be so extensive that nerves may be damaged and there may be no pay. This type of burn is most susceptible to infections, blood loss, or shock. Emergency medical care is necessary.
- Fourth-degree burns: A third-degree burn that extends beyond the layers of the skin and into muscles, tendons, and bones. Fatality rates for fourth-degree burns are high.
According to the American Burn Association, about 96.8% of people treated in burn centers survive their injuries. If your skin is burned in a vehicle accident, get medical attention immediately. If not treated, burn injuries can lead to serious complications including infection, dehydration, permanent scars, amputation, and even death. An emergency room doctor or burn specialist can evaluate your burn injury degree, and determine if you need to be admitted to a burn center for additional care.
Common Symptoms of Burn Injuries after Car Crashes
Symptoms of crash and burn injuries will vary based on the severity of the burn and the type of burn (thermal, chemical, electrical, etc.). Some common symptoms of burn injuries include:
- Redness (erythema), swelling, and mild to severe pain
- Blisters on the skin
- White, thickening appearance of skin
- Shallow breaths or difficulty breathing
- Faint pulse, weakness, or trouble standing
If burn injuries are suspected after a car accident, the victim can take small sips of water. Lotions or ointments should not be applied to the skin until a qualified healthcare provider has a chance to evaluable an injury.
Possible Health Complications after Car Accident Burn Injuries
Complications during burn injury recovery are always a possibility. Even when treatment protocols are followed exactly, and a victim receives prompt medical care at a burn center or emergency room, they still may suffer complications, including:
- Infections: Burn sites can become infected, either when the injury occurs or anytime during the recovery and healing process.
- Sepsis: Sepsis is a potentially life-threatening complication of severe infection and a leading cause of death in burn injury patients.
- Fluid loss: Burn injury victims are at risk for intravascular fluid loss. Capillary leakage syndrome from burns can lead to severe hypovolemia ( a state of low extracellular fluid volume) and massive edema
- Respiratory problems: Burn victims with inhalation injuries from smoke or chemical inhalation may experience acute respiratory distress syndrome and respiratory failure.
Burn and fire injuries survival rates have risen dramatically in the last 50 years, largely due to improvements and advances in first responder care for burn victims and initial burn management immediately after an injury. The medical profession now understands that care provided to a burn victim in the first few hours after a burn contributes to the final outcome.
Burns from a Car Accident: Psychological and Emotional Impact Injuries
It is common for victims of car accidents who suffer burn injuries to feel anxious, depressed, and upset in the aftermath and healing process. Emotional effects of a burn injury can include everything from mild anxiety to severe PTSD:
- Feeling fearful of being involved in another accident.
- Feeling depressed about the extent of an injury.
- Feeling hopeless about the future.
- Having feelings of rage or anger.
- Self-consciousness and embarrassment.
Most burn centers have psychologists and psychiatrists who can address mental health needs after an accident. If you pursue a personal injury claim for your burn injuries from a car accident, you may be compensated for your psychological and emotional injuries, in addition to your physical injuries.
Burn Injury Treatments after Car Accidents
Treatment of burn injuries will vary widely depending on the severity of the burn, where on the body the burn is located, and how much of the body the burn covers. Burn injury treatment may include:
- Covering the burned area with sterile bandages
- IV fluids
- Pain medication/pain management
- Skin graft surgery.
- Plastic and reconstructive surgery
People who suffer a burn injury from a car accident may have mild, severe, or life-threatening burn injuries, and critical soft tissue conditions. The more severe and extensive a burn injury is, the greater likelihood a burn injury victim will need specialized treatment.
Recovery can be complicated when car accident burn victims have chronic conditions such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney disease.
Who Is Liable for Car Accident-Related Burn Injuries?
Some parties may be liable for car accident burn injuries in Indiana.
- Another driver: The most common scenario is a crash involving another driver. If your burn injuries resulted from another driver’s negligence or recklessness, the other driver will be liable for your injuries. Typically, the other driver’s insurance policy will cover a bodily injury claim for burn injuries.
- A driver’s employer: If your driver was driving a company-owned vehicle and caused your vehicle accident while working, you may have a claim against the driver’s employer.
- A trucking company: If you were involved in a car vs. truck accident caused by a negligent truck driver, the trucking company may be liable for your burn injuries.
- Your vehicle’s manufacturer: If an accident resulted from a defect in your vehicle, the vehicle manufacturer may be liable.
- City, county, or state agency: If the city, county, or state agency in charge of maintaining a road is negligent and causes a dangerous condition that causes an accident, they may be liable for their negligence or contributory negligence.
In all states, including Indiana, victims of car accidents have a limited window of time to pursue a negligence claim. In the interest of preserving evidence and maximizing available compensation, car accident burn victims are urged to speak with a lawyer promptly following fires, accidents, and other incidents.
How to Protect Your Financial Recovery after a Car Crash Leaves You Burned
If you are a burn victim as a result of a car crash, your choice of a lawyer may be the most important choice you make. Do not let an insurance company dismiss or downplay your injuries and push you into a settlement that is far less than you deserve. Burn victims have a long road ahead and may be entitled to substantial compensation for all that they must endure.
An Indiana personal injury lawyer at Stracci Law Group who understands burn injuries and accidents can illustrate how your injuries will affect you in the short term, long term, and for the rest of your life, and aggressively advocate for the maximum compensation available. Contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.