Burn Injuries and Worker’s Compensation

Posted on Monday, June 26th, 2017 at 11:34 am    

Many North Carolina and Virginia workers suffer serious burn injuries at work. While employers are required to follow a variety of federal, state, and industry standard guidelines – employees in both states are entitled to workers compensation benefits regardless of employer fault. In serious burn injury cases, the employer’s insurance company or self-insurance is required to pay for all the reasonable surgeries, doctor visits, and medications the employee needs to be able to manage the pain and be able to maximize the chances of recovery. If multiple skin grafts are needed and the burns are deep and extensive, the cost for the medical care can become quite expensive.

There are three basic types of workplace burns:

  • Thermal burns. These can be from a stove, steam, hot liquids, industrial equipment, or other causes
  • Electrical burns. These usually occur from some sort of electrical current or spark
  • Chemical burns. These can be caused by an product the worker uses that has caustic or toxic components such as cleansers.

Whenever a worker suffers any type of burn injury, it is crucial to get medical help as soon as possible. The burn victim should immediately contact the supervisor and then get emergency help.

Thermal burn injuries

If a person’s clothing catches fire, the first priority is to be able to put out the flames. The person should be helped to stop, drop, and roll. All burned clothing should be removed from the worker. The worker should then be given something to wrap their body in such as a jacket or blanket. All burn victims who catch fire will need emotional help as well as physical help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), any jewelry, belts, and rings should be removed immediately because burned areas often swell.

There are three types of burns – first, second, and third degree

  • First-degree burns. These burns involve the skin’s top layer. Sunburn is a classic example. Signs include redness, sensitivity to touch, and mild swelling. Treatments include wet cool compresses or immersing the skin in fresh, cool water until the pain ebbs. The burn should be covered with a sterile non-adhesive bandage or sterile gauze. Ointments should be avoided because they can cause infection which can lead to serious complications. Some over-the counter medications may be used to help reduce the swelling and ease the pain. Most first-degree burns heal with time though if the first-degree burn covers a large portion of the body or the employee is elderly, emergency treatment should be sought.
  • Second-degree burns. These burns penetrate into the second layer of the skin. Deep skin reddening, blisters, leaking fluid, pain, and possible skin loss are likely symptoms. The skin should be immersed in fresh water for 10-15 minutes. The blisters should not be broken and ointments should be avoided because, again, they can cause infections. Burned arms and legs should be elevated. Steps should be taken to help avoid shock. This includes laying the burn victim flat and elevating the feet and covering the victim with a blanket. If a head, neck, back, or leg injury is suspected – then the shock position should be avoided. The best course of action for second-degree burns is to get immediate emergency medical assistance.
  • Third-degree burns. These burns penetrate the skin completely and can damage underlying tissue also. The skin can appear leathery and dry, charred, or have discolored patches. Breathing issues can be a real problem. Emergency help is mandatory.

Electrical burn victims

Electrical jolts, shocks, or burns often aren’t visible like thermal burns – though the damage is often deep underneath the skin. The electrical burn can cause heart problems and even cardiac arrest. Many electrical burn victims suffer breathing problems and loss of consciousness in addition to heart problems.

The best treatment is to seek immediate medical help. In addition, care should be taken to remove the burn victim from any electrical source by using an object that doesn’t’ conduct electricity. The source of the electricity that caused the burn should be cut off. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) may be required.

Chemical burns

Mining and other industries are especially prone to cause serious chemical burns

According to the Mayo Clinic,, strong acids, lyes, paint thinners, and gasoline are among some of the causes of chemical burns. If an employee has a chemical burn:

  • The chemical that is causing the burn should be removed.
  • Dry chemicals can be brushed.
  • Wet chemicals need to be treated more carefully. The person removing the chemical should wear gloves and take other precautionary steps so they don’t get burned as well.
  • Any contaminated clothing or jewelry should be removed.
  • A stream of cool tap water should be run over the burn.
  • Loose fitting bandages or gauze should be applied.
  • Some over-the-counter pain relievers may help.
  • Your doctor may give you a tetanus shot.

If the employee is in shock (is pale, fainted, or has difficulty breathing), the chemical burn is deep (penetrating the first layer of the skin), or the burn involves the eyes, hands, feet, face, buttocks, groins, or a major joint – then emergency medical help should be called for.

Recovery for Scarring and Disfigurement from Burns

Often, there are terrible scars or disfigurement left on the skin as a result of severe burns. Unfortunately, under the laws in North Carolina and Virginia, separate recovery for scarring or disfigurement is extremely limited, unless the scarring is so severe that it interferes with one’s ability to work, such as restriction in the range of motion or limited use of the disfigured area that prevents you from returning to work. In that regard, such cases are treated just like a regular comp case.  

In Virginia, if you are able to return to work, you are only entitled to a maximum of 60 weeks of temporary total disability payments for scarring and disfigurement.

In North Carolina, if the disfigurement is on the head or face, the maximum payment is $20,000.00. Elsewhere on the body, it’s only $10,000.00.

Also, as with all workers compensation cases, there are no payments for pain and suffering. All payments are determined by statute.  

Speak with an experienced North Carolina and Virginia Worker’s Compensation Lawyer Today

Burn injuries can require long-term medical care. Employees may not be able to return to work for months, years, or, in severe cases, never. North Carolina and Virginia attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been helping injured workers get their benefits and legal recoveries for over 26 years. He has helped thousands of employees get their full workers’ compensation benefits. For help now, please phone us at (888) 694-1671 or complete our contact form.

Head Injuries, Concussions, and Workers’ Compensation

Head trauma of all types is a very common workplace injury. An employee can suffer a head injury due to a slip and fall, an automobile or truck accident, a piece of equipment that doesn’t work, or an object that falls from above. Head injuries can happen to:

  • Construction workers
  • Manufacturer employees
  • Police officers
  • Firefighters
  • Truck drivers
  • Anyone who uses a car for their job
  • And any worker anywhere

Common head trauma tests

The brain is made of soft tissue which can be easily damaged. Inside the skull is a cerebrospinal fluid layer that helps protect the brain from the skull. A concussion happens when a blow to the head causes the brain to pass through the fluid and strike the skull.

If a head injury, concussion, or brain trauma is suspected; your physician will conduct several types of tests:

  • The doctor will take an oral history to determine what caused the blow to the head
  • The doctor will conduct a variety of physical tests to determine the loss of any physical or cognitive function
  • The physician will likely order several imaging tests including:

 

      • A CT scan. This test will help determine if you have any hemorrhaging or a skull fracture
      • An MRI (Magnetic Resolution Imaging). This test is use to evaluate the function of the brain.

 

  • An EEG test (Electroencephalography)-electrodes are placed on the head and measure electrical activity in the brain over time.

 

    • Brain PET Scan- (positron emission tomography)-this can give the physician real-time visuals of metabolic processes taking place in the brain.

Head trauma victims will often be seen by several doctors such as a neurosurgeon, a neurologist, and a psychiatrist , psychologist, or a neuropsychologist. Other professional help can include social workers, speech and language pathologists, recreational therapists, and a traumatic brain injury nurse specialist.

Some milder head injuries can heal within days, weeks, or months. In serious cases, the first thing an emergency team will examine is that the employee/patient has an adequate supply of oxygen and blood. They will also work to make sure the patient’s blood pressure is monitored.

Some serious traumatic brain injuries which can last a lifetime. Symptoms can include:

  • Pain
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of bodily functions
  • Loss of memory
  • Poor concentration
  • An inability to make decisions
  • Impulsiveness
  • Inability to communicate or speak
  • Inability to understand what is being said when you are spoken to

According to the Mayo Clinic, medications can include:

  • Diuretics which reduce the amount of fluid in tissues and, if given intravenously, can help reduce pressure inside the brain
  • Anti-seizure medications to he help avoid any additional brain damage
  • In some severe cases, drugs that actually induce a coma may be used to reduce swelling and pressure on the brain case.

Surgeries can include:

  • Removing blood clots (subdural hematomas)
  • Repairing a fracture to the skull
  • Draining cerebral brain fluid
  • Creating a window in the skull

Head trauma victims may need the following types of treatments:

  • Physical therapy. This will address the ability of the patient to perform physical tasks such as walking, feeding oneself, sleeping, personal grooming, bowel and bladder functions, and other daily functions. The physical therapist will also help with any pain issues, strength, posture, and balance.
  • Occupational therapy. This therapy will address the ability of the worker to do his former job. It can include the ability to lift and carry objects, perform repetitive tasks, bend, stretch, and manual dexterity. The occupational therapist will also help with the ability to bank and handle budgets.
  • Psychological therapy. Many head trauma patients need help coping with their physical difficulties, depressions, and anxiety. Their family situations are often put under tremendous strain as they often say they no longer recognize the behavior of the brain injury victim.

What to do after a head injury

Head injury symptoms often don’t show themselves right away. If an employee suffers any blow to the head for any reason, the best course of action is to see a physician right away. The sooner the condition is treated, the better the chances for a recovery will be. Also, delay in treatment can be taken as a sign or proof that the injury happened outside of work. Employers and insurance companies will look for any excuse to say your injuries are not work-related.

Your work status and benefits

You should be paid for all of your medical bills until you reach a state of Maximum Medical Improvement. This means that your hospital, therapy, and other bills will be paid until it is clear than additional medical treatment will not help you get any better.

The amount of income you receive will depend on the extent of your recover

  • If you are able to return to your normal job, you will receive 2/3rds of your lost wages up to the time that you are able to return to work
  • If you can return to a different type of work that is less strenuous, because you have a permanent partial disability, you will receive
    • 2/3rds of your lost wages until you can return to work
    • An additional allocation to reflect that you cannot earn the same income as before the blow to your head because you need to work at a less strenuous job (Temporary Partial Disability)
  • If you cannot return to work at all, you will receive 2/3rds of the average weekly wages up to the maximum amount of weeks that North Carolina or Virginia law allows, which, in the most severe cases of brain injury, could mean permanent and total disability , or lifetime compensation.

You may also be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. Many serious brain injury victims need occupational therapy or behavioral therapy to be able to return to their original job. In some cases, the worker can be retrained to do another job. For example, a construction worker who suffers a brain injury when a piece of equipment falls on his head from several stories up, may never be able to do physical labor again. A lot will depend on what the testing reveals are the extent of any permanent cognitive impairments you may have as a result of your brain injury.

Contact a trusted Virginia and North Carolina work injury lawyer now

Lawyer Joe Miller Esq. has helped thousands of employees get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. In some cases, he helps workers obtain a long-term settlement of your claim. He works with your medical providers to understand each and every treatment, test, and surgery that will be required and each type of therapy that help you improve your life. He cares about your recovery and your ability to pay for your medical bills and getting paid a regular income. For experienced help, please call (888) 694-1671 or fill out the contact form.