Burns and Medical Negligence
With few exceptions, we all want to present our best and most attractive face to the world. We may not want to admit it, but most of us care what other people think of us and how other people perceive us. Public perception matters in many professions, or when we’re meeting new people.
When you suffer a burn injury, you not only experience significant physical pain but you also can experience serious mental and emotional distress when the burn causes scars and disfigurement. Being scarred or disfigured by burns can shake your self-confidence and create anxiety about being in professional or social environments, and your relationships with your spouse or your friends might be affected.
You also may find that you can no longer work in your chosen profession if you’ve been disfigured by a burn, especially if it’s a job that involves being the public face of your employer. Losing your employment can shatter your financial life on top of everything else you’ve suffered.
When you’ve suffered a burn because of negligence by a medical provider, you may feel a sense of betrayal. You placed your trust in your doctor or in the hospital and its staff to make you well when you were vulnerable because of illness or injury. You’re likely also frustrated that you’re racking up medical bills because of someone else’s mistake.
You may have options for seeking compensation through a medical malpractice claim. A malpractice claim may allow you to recover payment of your medical costs and lost wages, and compensation for your pain and suffering, disability and disfigurement, and loss of normal life. If you want to consider pursuing a claim against the provider who caused your burns, an experienced medical malpractice attorney can help.
Burn Injuries Caused by Malpractice
Most people think of burns being caused by a fire or an action like touching a hot stove. Burns can actually take any of several different forms, with different root causes. When burns are caused by medical negligence, they may fall into one of the following categories:
- Radiation Burns — Radiation is used to treat some forms of cancer, but comes with its own set of serious risks for a patient. When too much radiation is used, or the doctor has insufficient experience or expertise with using radiation to treat cancer, radiation burns may be the result. Radiation burns can kill tissue — which is actually how it fights cancer cells — but when misapplied it may be healthy cells that are damaged or die. Radiation burns can be excruciating for someone already battling very serious illness.
- Laser Burns — Lasers are becoming more and more common as a surgical tool because they allow for very precise procedures that theoretically reduce the possibility for error and minimize the recovery time and scarring for patients compared to open surgeries. However, the use of lasers does come with risks, especially in the hands of providers who don’t have sufficient experience or training in handling the laser. Burns or scarring also are commonly seen in cosmetic laser hair removal procedures performed in places like “medical spas” by nurses or technicians who don’t have sufficient education or training.
- Chemical Burns — Some harsh or hazardous chemicals may cause painful burns to the skin. A patient may come into contact with dangerous chemicals, such as industrial cleaning solvents, if they’re not properly stored in a hospital or medical facility.
- Electrical Burns — Electrical burns can be caused by exposed wires or faulty equipment. If the hospital or medical facility doesn’t properly maintain the premises or the equipment and a patient is burned, the facility may be liable for malpractice.
- Thermal Burns — Thermal burns are caused by heat sources such as open flames or scalding liquids. Fire may break out and burn someone when flammable oxygen is used near heat sources, such as surgical cauterizing tools. Also, some surgical instruments are sterilized using heat in a process called autoclaving. When an autoclaved instrument isn’t properly cooled before being used on a patient, serious burns may be the result.
Negligent Treatment of Burns
Sometimes a doctor or hospital may not cause the burn, but may be liable for malpractice for failing to properly treat a patient who comes in with a burn. Some common ways that treatment of burns may be negligent include:
- Dermabrasion Errors — Dermabrasion is the process of scraping and smoothing over scar tissue to repair scarring and disfigurement from burns. Removing the damaged skin helps new skin cells grow. When that process goes wrong, infection or additional disfigurement may result.
- Skin Graft Errors — A skin graft is a surgical procedure that involves removing healthy skin from one part of the body and transplanting it to the part of the body that has been scarred and disfigured by a burn. Sometimes a surgeon may improperly perform a skin graft, or might make a mistake during the surgery. The consequence of a skin graft error may include infection, scarring, or loss of sensation to the affected area.
- Failure to Treat Infections — Infections are a serious concern for any vulnerable patient admitted to a hospital. When a person is burned, they may be more at risk for infection. When a doctor, nurse, or medical provider fails to adequately monitor a burn patient for signs of infection and quickly treat the infection, the infection could aggravate the burn and cause other problems. Serious infections can be fatal.
Consequences of Medical Negligence
A severe burn is one of the most painful injuries that a person can suffer. A burn can cause damage to skin, muscles, nerve endings, blood vessels, or internal organs, depending on the type and nature of the burn. Burns can take a long time to heal and may require surgical intervention or skin grafts. Even then, a burn patient may be left scarred and disfigured for life. Burn patients are prone to infections, and infections can make burn injuries worse.
Burn patients also may experience depression because of the chronic, lingering pain associated with a burn. Scarring and disfigurement can affect a person’s perception of him or herself and impair the person’s ability to live a normal life. Scarring or disfigurement also may lead to loss of employment if the person works in a job that involves dealing with people.
If you have been impacted by burns that involved medical negligence in Illinois, we recommend that you consult with an experienced Chicago malpractice lawyer who works throughout the state on cases like these. At Staver Accident Injury Lawyers, P.C., our attorneys are adept at handling these cases with care and compassion for our clients while also fighting to win the best possible outcome. Call us today for a free consultation: (312) 236-2900.