Thinking about a severe burn injury may make you shudder. Yet tens of thousands of people suffer from moderate to severe burns annually in the U.S. Often, the wounds are work-related. In just the year 2013, more than 16,000 thermal burns from industrial accidents were reported to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, of the many thousands of workers who lost time on the job in the 2000 to 2013 time period, around 32,000 of them suffered burn injuries.
According to the American Burn Association, the survivor of a burn accident in which 40 to 60 percent of their body is burned will spend an average of 54 days in the hospital, at a cost of $780,000. The care for a person who experiences a severe burn, even one without complications, can top $1.6 million. Clearly, medical bills for a burned person can be astronomical.
Why Do Burn Injuries Generate High Medical Bills?
Serious burns damage many bodily systems and create multiple medical problems, which make them more expensive to treat.
Some of the many injuries that can occur from a significant burn are:
- Skin damage
- Muscle, ligament, and tendon damage
- Nerve damage
- Bone damage
- Internal organ damage, such as to the lungs
- Eye/vision damage
- Contracture (a shortening or stiffening of connective tissue).
Serious burn injuries mean that a multitude of medical specialists must treat the victim, requiring:
- General, plastic, and reconstructive surgeons
- Pain management professionals and anesthesiologists
- Wound-care specialists, including those who debride the burn (remove tissue impeding healing)
- Therapists of all types: physical, occupational, speech, and psychological
- Social workers and others who help the burn victim and their family adjust to their new life.
Other common medical expenses involve medications, from painkillers to antibiotics, along with blood and plasma transfusions, specialized dressings for the wounds, and pressure bandages which limit scarring and contracture.
A burn victim who is transferred to stay in a burn treatment medical center will also experience increased costs.
Medical Complications Add to Costs
Serious burns create a multitude of medical problems. Should complications arise, expenses can skyrocket. Even a burn considered moderate, not severe, that develops medical complications can run up costs of $200,000 or more.
Complications, unfortunately, occur more often than you might think.
The top five burn complications with their costs and frequency are:
- Scarring, disfigurement, and contracture, which mean an additional $35,000 in costs. Around two-thirds of people hospitalized with burn injuries experience one or more of these complications.
- Psychological difficulties arising from burns, which add up to $75,000 in treatment costs. Approximately 57 percent of victims suffer from psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after a moderate to serious burn.
- Skin breakdown, or what is known as “fragile skin,” can add over $100,000 to treatment costs. Skin breakdown occurs in 55 percent of cases.
- Infections of all types—cellulitis, septicemia, pneumonia, and others—can add $120,000 to costs. Over one-third (35 percent) of hospitalized burn victims experience one or more infections, and sometimes organ failure due to the infections.
- Skin graft failure or wounds that are slow to heal happen almost one-third (32 percent) of the time and can translate into an additional $110,000 in costs.
Medical costs also rise when the burn involves an inhalation (breathing system) injury, a corneal (eye) injury, or creates chronic pain.
Non-Medical Costs Can Also Be Substantial
After the burn victim is released, the family vehicle or the home may require costly modifications. Additionally, medical equipment such as walkers or wheelchairs, orthotics, and prosthetics, along with home health care, can cause mounting bills.
But the costs don’t end there. If the burn victim is disabled for a long period of time, or permanently, lost income can be a significant problem; benefits, wages, bonuses, and commissions can all be counted. Lost wages and benefits can easily reach into the seven figures, depending on the burn victim’s age and circumstances. When the family breadwinner can no longer do their job, everyone suffers financially.
Burns can happen to our children, spouses, parents, and siblings. When a burn is serious, the costs are counted both in dollars and in emotional trauma. When a burn is due to someone else’s negligence, they should be the ones to shoulder the financial costs that the victim and their family undergo. But burn injury costs are never limited to monetary ones.
Seeking truth. Securing justice.
If you or someone you care about is a victim of serious burns caused by someone else’s carelessness, you may be entitled to financial compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, physical disability, reduced mental health, disfigurement and emotional pain and suffering. If you’re considering a burn injury lawsuit, it’s important to talk with an attorney with significant experience in South Carolina personal injury law.
The Louthian Law Firm has been trying — and winning — severe personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in South Carolina since 1959. Keep in mind that there is a three-year statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident or have otherwise incurred a personal injury, don’t delay. Contact the Louthian Law Firm today so that we can start the journey to justice right away. The initial consultation is always free. To speak with a burn injury attorney, call us at 1-803-454-1200. If you prefer, use our online contact form.
Bert Louthian has been practicing law in Columbia with his father, Herb, since 1985. After receiving his Juris Doctorate from the University of South Carolina, Bert launched his legal career in his father’s firm. With 80 years of legal experience between them, Louthian Law, P.A. remains Family-Owned and Family-Focused.
Bert understands that when life goes wrong – when you or someone you love gets hurt or suffers a loss, it can feel like nothing will ever be right or fair again. He gets up and goes to work every day to prove that feeling wrong – and does everything in his power to make things right again.