When someone sustains second-degree burns due to the negligence (carelessness) of another, that person can sue the negligent party and others who are liable under the law for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, disability, disfigurement, loss of quality of life, and other damages.

The amount of compensation is based, in part, on the severity of the initial injury and any complications.

Complications of Second-Degree Burns

Complications are rare.  These usually heal spontaneously in 10-14 days unless they become infected. (Note: these are injuries that should be compensated. They are not “superficial” to the victim and cause pain and suffering, emotional distress, and disfigurement.)

Deep burns damage the dermis and generally heal in 25-35 days.  Because the dermis was damaged, new skin covering the wound is weak, prone to blistering and breakdown.  Wound areas can undergo severe scarring, with treatment lasting for at least a year.

In a significant number of these cases, bacterial infection causes these injuries to become third-degree burns.  Infection of the wound area can lead to sepsis and septic shock.  Septic shock is extremely dangerous for the patient, because their blood pressure begins to drop rapidly.

Circumferential second-degree burns can lead to compartment syndrome, where swelling in the tissues below the injury results in a tourniquet effect, stopping blood flow.  This is treated with escharaotomy, an incision in the hard, dead dermal tissue covering the wound.

Fluid loss poses a problem because under-resuscitation and over-resuscitation can both result in serious complications.  Consequences of under-resuscitation are kidney failure and multiple systems organ failure.  Consequences of over-resuscitation are edema and local tissue hypoxia or airway obstruction in severe cases.

The major cause of death in these cases is respiratory tract injury or complications in the respiratory tract.  These include:

  • Inhalation injury
  • Aspiration in unconscious patients
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Post-traumatic pulmonary insufficiency.

Source: Cohn, Stephen M.  (2008). Complications in Surgery and Trauma.  New York: Informa Healthcare USA, Inc. 

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