When people think of vehicle accidents, they often think of broken bones, whiplash and internal injuries that can result from collisions at high speeds. One type of injury that does not get enough attention is burns. Our skin is our body’s largest organ, and when it is burned, the entire body is affected in many ways.

A burn to any part of your body can impact you on many levels, and lead to repeated surgeries, extensive rehabilitation, lost work time, and much pain and suffering. That’s why if you are burned in an auto accident, you should contact a car accident lawyer to help you seek compensation for medical costs, lost wages and suffering—expenses that will zoom far higher than you anticipate.

The skin does so much more than simply cover our flesh. That’s why when it is adversely impacted, as by a burn, much can go wrong with our health. Here are several functions of the skin, all of which can be altered after a burn:

The skin has three layers with increasing complexity as you unpeel them: the epidermis (outer layer), the dermis (sweat glands, hair follicles, nerves and blood vessels) and the hypodermis (larger blood vessels and nerves).

Burns can reach the hypodermis layer of skin and beyond, and not simply through fire. Extreme heat or contact with electricity can cause burns, which will produce blisters, swelling and skin loss, in some cases. Even contact with hot liquids or objects, which can occur in vehicle accidents, can cause a fairly severe burn. Certain chemicals that spill after accidents can also burn the skin, such as flammable gases and liquids. Finally, loose wires, in contact with gasoline, can produce sudden fires that can cause your vehicle to catch on fire instantly. If you are unable to exit the vehicle, you can easily be touched by the flames.

Most people know that burns come in degrees, but what do those degrees stand for?

First-degree burns are classified as superficial and produce only inflammation of the skin. They make the skin red, tender and mildly painful with some swelling. A typical sunburn would fit into this category. First-degree burns often heal in one week.

Second-degree burns take it to another level. They are deeper and cause clear blisters to form, along with much greater pain. These usually take several weeks to heal.

Third-degree burns affect all layers of the skin and kill the impacted areas. That’s why people who suffer third-degree burns need skin grafts. The skin will be stiff, white or brown without grafts. These dry, leathery areas can reveal a lack of circulation in that part of the body, which could lead to amputation in extreme cases.

Fourth-degree burns touch below even the hypodermis and damage muscle and bone. The charred, dry skin will cover an area that now has little or no function.

One of the tricky matters about burns is that they can develop into more serious conditions over time, which can have an ever-growing impact on your health. In other words, burns are not static. What you might think is a minor burn could evolve into something much more serious. That’s another reason why it’s a good idea to be evaluated immediately by a medical professional after a vehicle accident, and to contact a competent car accident lawyer to plan how to recoup medical costs (past and future) after what seems to be a minor burn.

For example, a first-degree burn can become a second-degree burn as it sinks into the second layer of the skin over several hours time. As the skin becomes inflamed and fluid builds up at the burn area, the epidermis can burst into a blister and open the body to infection in an unusual manner. That is a common complication with burns.

Only the epidermis has the capability to regenerate, so if the burn advances to the second and third layers of the skin, it will result in permanent damage to your largest organ. Your skin will never be the same if you suffer a third-degree burn.

Also, the size and location of your burn can mean a much more serious condition, such as shock or death. A burn on the face can block your airway and hinder your breathing. Burns on your limbs or digits can restrict blood flow, which will result in a deadening of those areas if left unchecked. The worst burns will require surgery and rehabilitation, or amputation, with a focus on fluids being pumped into the body to reverse the effects of the burn. Again, a seemingly minor burn can develop into a more serious condition with time, as the burn spreads into deeper layers of skin.

Nearly 4,000 people die each year from burns, and another 50,000 require hospitalization for their burns. Some of those burns, obviously, are caused by vehicle accidents.

Insurance companies are reluctant to pay out more for a personal injury claim as a result of an accident than is necessary at the moment. Thus, if your burn continues to bother you and require ongoing treatment, you will be left alone to handle the bill. Let a car accident attorney fight for you to get the compensation that you will need. S/he has a sound knowledge of personal injury litigation and understands that burns can cause much more trouble and expense than first thought.


By S.P. Karoll

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