Burn injuries often are overlooked as potential consequences of car accidents. Yet many people have sustained burn injuries during vehicular accidents and sometimes die of them.
When one car crashes into another, one or both vehicles might rupture a gas line or the fuel tank and create a fire. A passenger might suffer a serious burn from contact with a hot object, such as an exhaust pipe, which is a common occurrence with motorcyclists.
A personal injury from a burn also might occur from scalding hot liquid from the cooling system spraying onto one or more passengers. Battery acid or another caustic fluid might leak onto a passenger and cause burns.
It even is possible for a downed power line to contact a vehicle and cause electrical burns. No matter how it occurs, auto insurance should pay up to policy limits for the costs to treat any passengers as third-party claims.
An at-fault driver would have to rely on health insurance to pay medical bills. However, a driver who is not at fault also could file a claim that should be paid by the offending motorist’s auto insurance coverage. Underinsured motorist coverage also might help to pay costs.
Four Degrees of Burn Injuries
Burn injuries could be superficial, moderately damaging, or life-threatening. They can cause extensive scarring and cellular damage that require medical treatment, which might include hospitalization, skin grafts, and plastic surgery.
Burn injuries can be very painful and require medication to control pain and promote healing. Medication also might be needed to fight infection and prevent sepsis from becoming a serious medical issue.
The following gives a closer look at the four degrees of burns and the types of damage that they might cause.
First-degree burns. A first-degree burn is minor and damages only the outermost layer of your skin. A first-degree burn generally is easy and affordable to treat and likely would not require extensive medical care or missing time from work.
Friction from the seat belt rubbing against your skin or very brief contact with a warm to hot object during the accident might cause a first-degree burn. Such injuries often heal naturally with relatively little medical treatment required.
Second-degree burns. When a burn penetrates the outer layer of skin and damages the secondary layer below, it becomes a second-degree burn. Such burns are significantly more severe and require more extensive medical treatment.
Second-degree burns could cause infection and require daily changes of bandages to help stave off potential sepsis. A second-degree burn might require one or more skin grafts and several weeks of healing.
You could miss work for a month or more when dealing with a second-degree burn. The costs can rise rapidly when you have second-degree burns across a significant portion of your body.
Contact with hot metal, such as an exhaust pipe or a catalytic converter, could cause a second-degree burn or worse during an accident.
Third-degree burns. A third-degree burn penetrates your skin’s first and second layers and affects the innermost layer. Third-degree burns can damage nerve endings, which can help to reduce the pain that otherwise would accompany a typical burn injury.
A third-degree burn usually requires extensive surgical procedures, including skin grafts, to help promote healing. The burn definitely will require hospitalization and time spent in the intensive care unit.
Even after you leave the hospital, you will need ongoing treatment to help prevent infection and restore movement and other physical capabilities. You also might need plastic surgery to help restore your former appearance.
Fourth-degree burns. Fourth-degree burns are the most severe and deadliest of all burns. The burns affect all three layers of your skin plus the muscle, soft tissue, and even the bones beneath the skin.
Fourth-degree burns often cause fatalities, disfigurement, and a temporary or permanent disability. If you initially survive fourth-degree burns caused by a car accident, you will spend a long time in the hospital and require ongoing treatment afterward.
The direct cost to treat fourth-degree burns could total hundreds of thousands of dollars for accident survivors. The indirect costs can go much higher and greatly exceed any available amount of auto insurance coverage.
A combination of health insurance and auto insurance might help to cover the combined total of direct and indirect costs.
Burn Injuries Can Be Very Costly
In 2016, medical researchers found the average cost to treat a burn injury in the United States is $24,000. The cumulative total in 2016 was $1.5 billion annually. Indirect costs, such as loss of income and productivity, totaled five billion dollars in 2016.
A general rule is a day of hospitalization for every one percent of your body that suffers from burn injury. If about 20 percent of your body suffered burns, you could spend about three weeks in the hospital. Hospital stays for burn injuries often include time in the intensive care unit, which can be very costly.
Maryland and Virginia insurance laws each require drivers to carry a minimum of $30,000 in bodily injury coverage per person and $60,000 per accident. With an average cost of $24,000 to treat injuries and related costs possibly totaling about three times that amount, it is easy to exceed auto insurance policy limits.
Uninsured motorist coverage always is a big help when dealing with direct and indirect costs of burn injuries. An experienced car accident lawyer can be invaluable in holding accountable parties liable and making insurers pay for your legitimate claims.
Bowie Car Accident Lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King Help Clients with Burn Injuries
If you sustained a burn injury in a car accident, reach out to the Bowie car accident lawyers at the Law Offices of Duane O. King. Our experienced legal team will investigate the cause of your accident and fight to secure full and fair compensation for your injuries and other costs. Call us today at 202-331-1963 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Washington DC, Alexandria, Virginia, and National Harbor, Maryland, we work with clients in Prince George’s County, including Laurel, Beltsville, Adelphi, College Park, Greenbelt, Mitchellville, Woodmore, Greater Upper Marlboro, Springdale, Largo, Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Suitland, Seat Pleasant, Clinton, Oxon Hill, Temple Hills, and Fort Washington.