Burn Injury Lawyer Kenneth LaBore

Elder Abuse Burns
Elder Abuse Burns

Nursing homes across Minnesota have an obligation to comply with minimum care standards established by state and federal regulations.   Many times the explanation for a burn injury, which occurs to residents of Minnesota nursing homes, assisted living and other types of elder care facilities is related to a corporate organization which is focused on maximizing profits at the expense of safety.   Many of the burn injury incidents resulting in serious injury or deaths could have been prevented with increased numbers of attentive and well qualified staff providing additional supervision.

Minnesota law requires that a nursing home must have on duty at all times a sufficient number of qualified nursing personnel, including registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nursing assistants to meet the needs of the residents at all nurses’ stations, on all floors, and in all buildings if more than one building is involved.  This includes relief duty, weekends, and vacation replacements.

Minnesota Rule 4658.0015 states that a nursing home must operate and provide services in compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws, regulations, and codes, and with accepted professional standards and principles that apply to professionals providing services in a nursing home.

Minnesota Rule 4658.0105 mandates that a nursing home must ensure that direct care staff are able to demonstrate competency in skills and techniques necessary to care for residents’ needs, as identified through the comprehensive resident assessments and described in the comprehensive plan of care, and are able to perform their assigned duties.

Pursuant to federal regulation, 42 CFR §483.25 (h), Accidents; the facility must ensure that:

(1) The resident environment remains as free of accident hazards as is possible; and
(2) Each resident receives adequate supervision and assistance devices to prevent accidents.

According to Minnesota Statute 626.5572, Subd. 3. Accident. Accident” means a sudden, unforeseen, and unexpected occurrence or event which:

(1) is not likely to occur and which could not have been prevented by exercise of due care; and
(2) if occurring while a vulnerable adult is receiving services from a facility, happens when the facility and the employee or person providing services in the facility are in compliance with the laws and rules relevant to the occurrence or event.

Despite the state and federal regulations designed to protect vulnerable adult, there are still an unacceptably high number of preventable burn incidents in nursing homes but the most common involve hot water scalding burn injuries in bathtubs or showers, or thermal burns due to the misuse of hot packs, or injuries due unsupervised smoking of resident, especially when on Oxygen Burn Injuries.

Whatever the nature of the burn, the underlying reason may well be due to nursing home neglect.  Since the residents of Minnesota nursing homes residents are considered vulnerable adults it is the duty of the nursing home facility to assess the resident for risks and then keep them safe from those preventable risks, such as smoking in bed or with an oxygen tank on providing oxygen to the resident at the same time.

Prevent Burn Injury – Request Nursing Home Smoking Policies

Minnesota Administrative Rules 4658.0135 POLICY RECORDS.

Subpart 1. Availability of policies.

All policies and procedures directly related to resident care adopted by the home must be placed on file and be made available upon request to nursing home personnel, residents, legal representatives, and designated representatives.

Subp. 2. Admission policies.

Admission policies must be made available upon request to prospective residents, family members, legal representatives, and designated representatives.

Questions regarding Oxygen Burn Injuries Burn Injury Accidents, from Smoking:

Did the resident require supervision when smoking?

What were the resident’s risks?

Dementia, Medications, Oxygen?

Did the facility have a designated supervised smoking area?

Was there a facility sign out sheet for cigarettes and lighter?

How does the facility monitor for return of cigarettes and lighter?

Often an employee is over burdened due to insufficient staffing levels or not trained for example to check the temperature of a bath which results in the burn.  Serious burns or other injuries from falls, can also occur when a resident is left alone without proper supervision in the tub or shower.   Extended exposure to even moderately hot water temperature can cause serious burn injuries to elderly people due to reduced thickness and other changes in the skin.  If you or someone you love has been a victim of a nursing home burn, no matter what the situation, it is important to contact a nursing home elderly abuse lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

Minnesota Elder Burn – Nursing Home Burn Injury

Burns are often more frequent in the elderly. This is because their skin is a lot more sensitive to touch and a considerably thinner.  Furthermore, many elderly due to physical constraints and/or medication have a reduced reaction time and diminished senses when exposed to water which is too hot.  In many instances, a burn will occur simply because the patient does not have the ability to pull away.  It is the responsibility of the nursing home to ensure this never happens and that the water is not too hot for the resident or that they are not exposed to hot water for long durations in time.

In some instances, a burn can be the beginning to other traumatic falls  or accidents.  If a patient is trying to get out of a scalding hot bathtub, they may suffer a serious fall and injury including broken bones or fractured limbs.   If this is the case, you are looking at a serious nursing home neglect lawsuit.

Preventing Burn Injuries When Bathing in Nursing Homes

The safest bathing temperature is approximately 100 degrees. However, often bathtubs are often filled with water that is much hotter due to either the neglect and irresponsibly of the nursing home staff members or due to a malfunction or improperly set water heater.  Also, staff member may fill a hot bath, leave the room and the place the patient in the bath without even checking the water temperature.   Burn injury as a result of exposure to hot or scalding water is a function of tempature and time.   The higher the temperature the less time it will take to sustain permanent injuries.  Anything over 120 degrees can cause third degree burns with water that is over 140 degrees can cause serious damage in less than 6 seconds.

It is the nursing staff’s duty to monitor and supervise their residents when taking a bath or using a medical device such as a hot pack.  If there is a problem with plumbing of a nursing home facility leading to unsafe water temperatures, it should be repaired rather than exposing the residents to the risk of burns.   Additionally, there are certain devices that should be used to ensure that burns do not occur. Anti-scald devices can automatically turn the water off when the temperature reaches above a certain temperature say 110 degrees.  This will help prevent burns from scalding water for all patients.

Burn Injury What are burns?

Burns are a type of traumatic injury caused by thermal, electrical, chemical, or electromagnetic energy. Smoking and open flame are the leading causes of burn injury for older adults, while scalding is the leading cause of burn injury for children. Both infants and the elderly are at the greatest risk for burn injury.

What are the different types of burns?

A burn injury usually results from an energy transfer to the body. There are many types of burns caused by thermal, radiation, chemical, or electrical contact.

  • Thermal burns – burns due to external heat sources which raise the temperature of the skin and tissues and cause tissue cell death or charring. Hot metals, scalding liquids, steam, and flames, when coming into contact with the skin, can cause thermal burns.
  • Radiation burns – burns due to prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun, or to other sources of radiation such as x-ray.
  • Chemical burns – burns due to strong acids, alkalies, detergents, or solvents coming into contact with the skin and/or eyes.
  • Electrical burns – burns from electrical current, either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC).

What are the classifications of burns?

Burns are classified as first-, second-, or third-degree, depending on how deep and severely they penetrate the skin’s surface.

  • First-degree (superficial) burns First-degree burns affect only the epidermis, or outer layer of skin. The burn site is red, painful, dry, and with no blisters. Mild sunburn is an example. Long-term tissue damage is rare and usually consists of an increase or decrease in the skin color.
  • Second-degree (partial thickness) burns Second-degree burns involve the epidermis and part of the dermis layer of skin. The burn site appears red, blistered, and may be swollen and painful.
  • Third-degree (full thickness) burns Third-degree burns destroy the epidermis and dermis. Third-degree burns may also damage the underlying bones, muscles, and tendons. When bones, muscles, or tendons are also burned, this may be referred to as a fourth-degree burn. The burn site appears white or charred. There is no sensation in the area since the nerve endings are destroyed.

Burns that are more severe and extensive require specialized treatment. Because the age of a burn victim and the percentage of the body’s surface area that has been burned are the two most important factors affecting the prognosis of a burn injury, the American Burn Association recommends that burn patients who meet the following criteria should be treated at a specialized burn center:

  • Individuals younger than 10 years, or older than 50 years, with partial- or full-thickness burns over 10 percent or more of the total body surface area (TBSA)
  • Individuals 10 years of age or older, but younger than age 50, with partial- or full-thickness burns over 20 percent or more of the TBSA
  • Any age with full-thickness burns covering 5 percent or more of the TBSA
  • Burns of the face, hands, feet, or perineum (groin, or genital area), or burns that extend all the way around a portion of the body
  • Burns accompanied by an inhalation injury affecting the airway and/or the lungs
  • Burn patients with existing chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease, or multiple sclerosis
  • Suspected child or geriatric abuse
  • Chemical burn
  • Electrical injury
  • Scald burns
  • Grease burns
  • Tar burns
  • Radiation burn

The Effects of Burns

A severe burn can be a seriously devastating injury — not only physically but emotionally. It can affect not only the burn victim, but the entire family. Persons with severe burns may be left with a loss of certain physical abilities, disfigurement, loss of a limb, loss of mobility, scarring, and infection. In addition, severe burns are capable of penetrating deep skin layers, causing muscle or tissue damage that may affect every system of the body.

Burns can also cause emotional problems such as depression, nightmares, or flashbacks from the traumatizing event. The loss of a friend or family member and possessions in the fire may add grief to the emotional strain of a burn.

Contact a Burn Injury Lawyer For a Free Consultation

A lack of care is often to blame for burns in nursing homes.  Contacting an experienced nursing home neglect attorney can assist you in ensuring that the facility is held accountable for a burns sustained to yourself or loved one and that neglectful burns are not sustained by others.  Kenneth LaBore has years of experience in nursing home neglect and elder care abuse cases and can provide you with the assistance with your nursing home burn injury case. Contact Kenneth LaBore locally at 612-743-9048 or toll free at 1-888-452-6589, by email at KLaBore@MNnursinghomeneglect.com or fill out the  contact form on this page.