Smoke Inhalation Injuries

Fire smoke is very dangerous due to the amount of toxic substances which it contains. Fire has been associated with 3 different types of inhalation injuries. Many of times a fire survivor will have suffered inhalation injuries and external burns. Obviously the chance of these injuries being fatal increase significantly when combined. The three types of inhalation injuries are:

1.) Trauma from Heat Inhalation

A lung burn occurs when hot air is directly inhaled. Typically, this type of thermal inhalation injury affects only the upper airways, because the trachea shields the lung from thermal inhalation. Steam has a greater chance at being inhaled beyond the upper airways and into the secondary airways because it has a greater thermal capacity than dry air. Thermal inhalation can also take place through the nose causing damage to the mucous membranes.

2.) Trauma from Systemic Toxins:

Our pulmonary systems ability to absorb oxygen Sis affected by systemic toxins. Inhalation of systemic toxins can result in an unconscious state or lead to confusion when faced with a fire. Systemic toxin poisoning can cause permanent damage to organs including the brain. Carbon Monoxide poisoning can appear symptomless up until the point where the victim falls into a coma.

3.) Trauma from Smoke Inhalation:

Smoke inhalation can be looked past by the untrained persons and hidden by more visible injuries such as burns as a result of fire. When external burn injuries don’t present, smoke inhalation must still be taken into consideration as a fire escapee can collapse due to major smoke inhalation. In fact 60% to 80% of fatalities resulting from burn injuries can be attributed to smoke inhalation.

First Degree Burns

The last time you had sunburn would be an example of a First-degree burn. This type of burn is red and very sensitive upon touch. Also, the skin will appear lightened where light pressure is applied. First-degree burns are of minimal tissue damage and are considered surface (epidermis) burns. These burns will typically cause pain, redness and swelling.

Second Degree Burns

This type of burn is more serious than a first-degree burn. A Second-degree burn affects both the epidermis (outer-layer) and the dermis (under lying layer of skin). This type of burn typically causes redness, pain, swelling and blisters. Often these burns will affect sweat glands and hair follicles. When not properly treated, a second-degree burn can result in swelling and decreased blood flow in the trauma tissue.

Third Degree Burns

A third-degree burns goes a layer deeper than a second-degree burn. Therefore it affects and causes trauma to the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis. Typically the skin becomes charred or will have a translucent white color. With this type of burn there will be coagulated vessels visible just below the skin surface. Burn areas of the third-degree burn can be numb or very painful. Third-degree burns are very slow to heal due the severe trauma to the skin tissue and structures. Scarring with third-degree burns is almost certain.

My husband, a banker, lost his life in a very bad car accident. It is very saddening and my family and I are very worried about how we will get by financially, without my husband’s support! Can we expect to be compensated for our loss?

New Jersey’s Wrongful Death Act was written to provide compensation to survivors for their financial losses which may have resulted due to the unexpected loss of a loved one. Generally speaking, the most significant recovery stems from the lost financial support. Compensation from lost financial support will be calculated based upon the financial contributions the decedent reasonably might have been expected to provide to the surviving family members had he or she lived. The amount of compensation will be adjusted for inflation, as well as discounted to adjust for the present value of future earnings.

While loss of support is one aspect of the recovery one can expect in a wrongful death suit in New Jersey, other recoverable damages include:

  • Loss of companionship
  • The value of domestic services such as housekeeping, childcare and other household chores
  • The pecuniary value of parental guidance and care which the decedent would have provided to his/her family, including developmental nurturing, coaching, education and guidance
  • Hospital, medical and funeral expenses that would have otherwise been provided for by the decedent.

What if I lost my child as the consequence of a terrible accident?

Losing a child is painful beyond words. However, the New Jersey courts have recognized that children and parents have a special relationship. Of course, this relationship would reasonably be expected to change with time as the parents and children age. With that being said, a recovery in a wrongful death suit will be calculated by taking into consideration the changing needs between the parent and child as they grow older including companionship, monetary support and guidance.

After losing a loved one, you may be thinking of all of the emotional pleasure that was derived from the relationship between the deceased and the survivors; unfortunately, this is not a compensable loss recognized by the Wrongful Death Act. However, emotional distress, distinguishable from emotional pleasure, may be compensable under another claim of action called negligent infliction of emotional distress. A lawsuit based under this legal theory is often referred to as a Jaffe claim due to the seminal case Portee v. Jaffee, 84 N.J. 88, and requires the plaintiff to prove certain elements. These elements include:

  • The death or serious injury of a family member was caused by the defendant’s negligence.
  • A marital or intimate familial relationship between plaintiff and the injured person existed.
  • The plaintiff actually observed the death or injury at the scene of the accident and resulted in severe emotional distress to the plaintiff.