In an average year in the U.S., there are more than 200,000 car fires, which result in several hundred deaths. In fact, more people die every year in car fires in America than die in apartment fires. Surviving victims, many who suffer serious burn injuries, number in the tens of thousands. Truck accidents contribute a significant portion of accidents involving fires.
Fuel tanks punctured in rear-end collisions, sparks from shorted or severed wiring, and fluid leaks from hoses or lines damaged in a wreck are common sources of ignition in a truck-auto accident. Regardless of the source, car fires often spread quickly, engulfing a vehicle in flames before the driver and passengers can escape. It is not uncommon for victims who have been thrown from the vehicle or rescuers who attempt to assist accident victims to suffer burn injuries from these dangerous, high-temperature fires.
Burns are classified according to their location, depth and the extent of tissue damage they inflict as well as by factors such as the victim’s age. For adult victims, burn specialists use a tool called a “Rule of Nines” chart that divides the body into regions representing 9 percent of its surface area in order to determine the total body surface area that has been burned. For children, a burn’s total surface area is determined using a Lund-Browder chart, which accommodates the fact that children’s body proportions differ from those of adults.
The three general categories of burns in ascending order of severity are: first-degree, second-degree, and third-degree. First-degree burns are distinguished by redness and touch sensitivity, which causes the skin to appear blanched when gentle pressure is applied. These burns are characterized by minimal damage to the epidermis or skin surface. Nevertheless, first-degree burns are extremely painful and require first aid and diligent follow-up care to heal properly.
Both the epidermis (outer layer) and the dermis (under layer) of skin are affected by a second-degree burn. These burns are identifiable by the redness, swelling and blisters they cause and by the accompanying excruciating pain. Sweat glands and hair follicles are often damaged by second-degree burns and moreover, when not properly treated, a deep second-degree burn can develop into a third-degree burn.
A third-degree burn causes enormous damage and affects the epidermis, dermis, and the deepest layers of tissue, the hypodermis. Destruction of tissue in a third-degree burn leaves the victim’s skin with an ashen or translucent white appearance due to the charring of the skin. Numbness is common in third-degree burns and any pain felt is likely due to accompanying second-degree burns. As one might imagine, recovery from a third-degree burn can be torturous and slow. Third-degree burns usually result in extensive scarring, leaving victims in need of years of medical treatment including cosmetic repairs.
Two major types of surgical procedures are currently available to aid victims of severe burns: dermabrasion and skin grafts. Dermabrasion does more than improve the appearance of scar tissue. It is an advanced surgical procedure that helps restore function and minimize disfigurement in damaged tissue. A skin graft is a surgical procedure wherein a section of the patient’s own skin is removed and transplanted to a damaged area.
Treatment for burn victims is a constantly evolving medical field. When a client of ours has suffered a burn in an accident, we consult directly with medical professionals to discuss the best treatments available – treatments such as the new tool called the “liquid knife,” which utilizes a stream of fast-moving water to treat burns without damaging adjacent, healthy cells. This amazing tool may enable younger burn victims to grow up without scars.
One of our greatest strengths as a firm is our expertise in dealing with the many legal and medical ramifications of injuries sustained in trucking accidents. As you may know all too well, an accident with a big rig often involves serious injuries and even fatalities. We aren’t doctors, but we consult with the medical professionals who treat our clients. It is crucial that we thoroughly understand the diagnosis and prognosis of each injury, the optimal approach to treatment, and the extent of recovery that can be hoped for so that we can convey essential understanding of medical complexities to jurors who need it in order to render a fair verdict.