Articles Posted in The Danger of Hot Water Burns

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Back in August 2011, a grandmother’s summer holiday at a luxury seaside hotel in Great Britain ended in tragedy when she was scalded to death in a hot bath.

Unfortunately, severe burns from scalding hot water happen too often among children and seniors alike. The worst part is that these incidents are almost always preventable.

Evelyn Cowley, 88 years old, was enjoying her annual family holiday when she took a bath in her hotel room. But for some reason, she immersed herself in water that had a temperature of more than 120 degrees Farenheit. As a result, she suffered third degree burns to half her body, mostly to her lower limbs and her back and arms.

Cowley was no ordinary senior citizen. She was a decorated RAF officer, who served during the Second World War. She died in the hotel room’s bath at some point between saying goodnight to her two sons and breakfast time the next morning. Her son came to wake her in the morning and heard the bathtub water still running, then found her dead in the tub.

The water coming into the tub had been heated in the hotel’s boiler to 140 degrees-which is much too hot for human contact–and the water came out of the tap at around 125 degrees, said a hotel spokesperson. But he added that heating the water to that temperature was a precaution to stop the spread of Legionnaires’ disease–an often deadly form of pneumonia caused by a specific bacteria that grows quickly in stored hot water.

Two days after Cowley’s death, an investigator recorded a temperature 130 degrees from water running from the bath’s tap. He said: “I could only hold my hand under for about two seconds.” The investigation also found that there was not a warning sign for the hot water posted in the bathroom. The hotel did note, however, that this was not a legal requirement.

An autopsy showed Cowley died as a result of extensive burns, which could have been caused as a result of her dementia. The local coroner said: “She died accidentally, and dementia could have caused her misjudgement of immersing herself into the water.”

The coroner also said it was possible that she suffered a mini-stroke when she entered the hot water, but tests were inconclusive.

The lesson here is that seniors and the elderly, as well as children, must be closely monitored when they are going to use hot water to bathe or to cook. It is very easy to spill scalding hot water onto the skin when handling it, and the burns can be so severe that skin graft is necessary to heal the wounds–and death is certainly possible too.

If you or someone you know does suffer an injury such as third degree burns or smoke inhalation, you should call Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, New York so that the personal injury attorneys in that firm can determine whether another party has legal liability for injury suffered, and if the injured party has a strong legal case.

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When the frightening possibility of receiving a 3rd-degree burn enters into most people’s minds, they tend to think that such a severe burn can only be gotten from having a flame touch the skin for several seconds or more. But the possibility of getting a burn that penetrates and does damage beyond all the layers of skin in one area of the body–which is the simplest definition of a 3rd-degree burn–is greater than simply being exposed to a flame.

Take the recent case of a Fort Lauderdale man who was severely burned by an unusual source. One recent morning, the man decided to have a cigarette, but he lit up while sitting next to a medical oxygen tank that he used to help his breathing. Unfortunately, because there was a stream of oxygen flowing through the mask–and oxygen is a very powerful accelerant of fire–the tank literally blew up in the room. In an instant, the heat from that explosion badly burned the man, even though there was no fire after the explosion.

It can be the same way with natural gas, which is used in many homes for appliances and for heating. If a source of natural gas is leaking in a home or any enclosed space, it does not even take an open flame to cause a huge superheated flash–just a spark from an appliance switching on could ignite the gas, causing a flash that can literally destroy all the layers of skin on any exposed body part, or even melt clothing onto skin that is covered! Larry Kramer, a partner in the law firm of Kramer & Pollack LLP in Mineola, NY, has had clients who received 3rd-degree burns from natural gas being ignited; these burns can happen in just a fraction of a second, and not necessarily from any fire afterward.

Here’s another scenario for 3rd-degree burns that you might never have thought about: Hot liquid spilling onto the skin. In fact, on January 27, a jury in Georgia awarded $1.2 million to a woman who said she was scalded by 190-degree water that shot out of a convenience store’s cappuccino machine. The woman, 52 years old, was burned on her hand and arm as she held her cup near the machine at a QuikTrip convenience store one night in late 2007. A part of the machine had been removed for cleaning, without her knowledge, when she attempted to use the machine. The company which owns QuikTrip wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press after the verdict that the woman’s injury resulted from a rare accident, and that the firm has since replaced the cappuccino machines at all its stores.

This incident only took a second or two, but the woman now needs to take prescription pain medication regularly, and might now need an electronic implant to correct nerve damage in her hand and forearm caused by the 3rd-degree burns. The woman’s attorney noted that most of the money she will receive from the verdict will go towards these and other future medical expenses.