The Most Common Causes of Burn Injuries

Injury & Accident Attorney Serving Nearby Areas of Columbus & Fort Benning, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama

Posted: February 1, 2021

Burns are one of the leading causes of accidental injury and death in the U.S. In fact, someone in the U.S. is burned seriously enough to require treatment roughly every minute, according to data collected by the National Fire Protection Association.

All burns should be treated with care, as they can result in serious and life-threatening complications, including smoke inhalation, heart attack, infection, muscle damage, and organ failure, especially without proper medical attention.

While most people associate serious burn injuries with house fires, there are many different circumstances, inside the home and out, that can result in burns.

Burns are commonly sorted into three categories, depending on what caused them. These are thermal burns, chemical burns, and electrical burns, with 7% of burns sorted into “other causes,” which includes radiation burns, among others.

Thermal Burns

Roughly 86% of patients requiring medical treatment suffer from thermal burns. Thermal burns are caused by sources of heat and are the broadest and most common category. Examples of thermal burns include burns from fire and explosions (43% of all burns), scalding injuries from hot liquid or steam (34% of burns), and contact with extremely hot objects, such as hot metal or glass (9% of burns).

Burns from Defective Products

Sometimes victims are burned through other people’s negligence. For example, they may be injured by defective products that heat up faster than they should and to higher temperatures than is safe, or which are flammable when they should not be. Examples include products that use lithium-ion batteries, which are prone to overheating and exploding, such as hoverboards, vape pens, and cell phones.

Another example of defective products that regularly cause burns is fireworks. When fireworks are defective, they could go off too early, causing severe burns. Fireworks are also considered defective (meaning you could be eligible to file a lawsuit) if the instructions for use were incorrect, causing your injury.

Burns from Hot Liquids

Hot liquids, especially drinks, are another common source of burns. And when those are drinks purchased from a restaurant or other food vendor, they can be an example of negligence on the part of the seller.

The “McDonalds Hot Coffee Case” is probably the most famous example. A lot of people dismiss this case as the prime example of a “frivolous” lawsuit, but it’s actually a perfect example of negligence!

Most people suffer third-degree burns if exposed to liquid that’s 150-degrees Fahrenheit for as little as two seconds. McDonalds’ policy was to sell its coffee at 190-degrees Fahrenheit, and the woman who brought the lawsuit suffered burns so severe she required reconstructive surgery! Furthermore, McDonalds knew full well that their coffee was dangerous. They had already received more than 700 reports of prior serious injury from their coffee, and already settled a large number of lawsuits for those injuries before this one!

If you’ve been burned by superheated liquid that should have been safe to consume, you may also be entitled to compensation for your injuries.

Burns from Home or Building Fires

Victims can also be injured or killed in fires because the construction company, property owner, or a contractor created conditions that allowed a fire to happen. For example, the house wasn’t built according to fire code, necessary repairs or maintenance weren’t made or were made incorrectly, or basic fire safety wasn’t implemented (lack of working smoke alarms or fire extinguishers, inadequate or blocked fire exits, etc.).

In these cases, the negligent party can be held liable for burn victims’ medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering from their injuries.

Electrical Burns

Approximately 4% of patients admitted for burn treatment suffer from electrical burns. As the name implies, electrical burns are burns caused by electrocution.

Although electrical burns are typically treated the same way as thermal burns, electrocution can cause a large number of other potential injuries and complications, including breathing problems, problems with vision and hearing, cardiac arrest, seizure, broken bones (from falling), and weakness, numbness, or tingling in the limbs.

Electrocution is sometimes no one’s fault, such as when someone is struck by lightning. But more often is it caused by negligence on someone else’s part.

Electrocution can be caused by:

  • Poor wiring
  • Overloading an outlet by plugging in too many devices at once
  • Downed power lines
  • Contact with power lines that aren’t sufficiently insulated
  • Touching energized equipment that is not grounded

Although this is not a comprehensive list, these are some of the most common ways electrocution occurs.

Electrocution is more common at work than in the home, and most common for construction workers, utility workers (especially electrical and telecommunications workers), roofers, tree service workers, and so on.

Chemical Burns

Approximately 3% of patients admitted for burn treatment suffer from chemical burns. Chemical burns can occur in the workplace, or even in the home. For example, many common household cleaners are capable of causing serious chemical burns.

Burns from Common Products

Some of the most common products that cause chemical burns are:

  • Bleach
  • Ammonia
  • Chlorine
  • Teeth whitening products
  • Car battery acid
  • Concrete mix
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Skin, hair, and nail products

Burns from Airbags

Another common source of chemical burns that many people are unaware of is airbags. Airbags are able to inflate so rapidly because of a chemical reaction­—when the crash sensor in your car is triggered, it ignites a chemical inside the airbag, which when heated turns into a gas and inflates the airbag.

Unfortunately, when airbags are inflated the chemicals released can burn the skin. Airbags can cause second- and even third-degree burns; burns to the hands and arms are the most common, but people can also suffer burns to their chest, neck, and thighs after an airbag deploys. When you are hit by another vehicle hard enough to set off the airbags, you can likely get compensation for any burn injuries you receive from the at-fault party. 

How to Reduce Your Risk of Burn Injuries

Many burns, especially burns in the home, are entirely preventable. To protect yourself, and those around you, take these steps.

  • Regularly change the batteries in your home’s smoke detectors.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen.
  • Never leave small children in the kitchen unsupervised.
  • Never leave a room with a source of heat on and unwatched (ex: stovetops, hair straighteners, and space heaters).
  • Install anti-scald devices on tub faucets and shower heads – hot tap water causes more scalding injuries than any other hot liquid.
  • Keep all household cleaners and other chemicals secured in a cabinet out of reach of children and pets.
  • Always wear protective gloves and long sleeves when cleaning with caustic chemicals.
  • Throw out power cords that have cracked insulation or exposed wire. 
  • Always plug major appliances directly into the wall outlet, not a multi-plug adaptor.
  • Call an electrician if an outlet feels warm to the touch.

After a Serious Thermal, Electrical, or Chemical Burn, Call the Law Offices of Gary Bruce

Burns are extremely painful, take a long time to heal, run a risk of serious complications including infections, and often leave scars or disfigure victims. They sometimes require expensive treatment, like skin grafts. If you were burned through someone else’s negligence, you deserve compensation not only for the pain you went through, but also for all your medical expenses and lost wages.

Our Georgia and Alabama burn injury attorneys know how to calculate how much you may be owed after a serious burn injury that wasn’t your fault. Contact us today for a free consultation

Category: Personal Injury
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