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Make no mistake about it. A severe burn is a major injury that will change your life and the lives of those you love forever. That is why it is so important to make sure you are getting the best possible healthcare. As a burn survivor, you may not have the strength, focus, time, or inclination to personally manage your healthcare team. You will have to rely on help from your family, your closest friends, and trusted advisors. Reintegration post-burn is a team effort.

I doubt anyone lives their life looking ahead to the possibility that they might one day suffer a severe burn. Most people, if not all, do not research their area burn centers and healthcare professionals until after a burn occurs. Luckily, the American Burn Association (ABA) has done the research for us.

Continue Reading Reintegrating Into Your Life After a Severe Burn: It’s A Team Effort

According to the American Burn Association, nearly half a million Americans suffer thermal burn injuries each year, resulting in approximately 40,000 hospitalizations and 3,400 deaths annually. Despite these alarming statistics, the survival rate is high. This is largely attributable to advances in research, medicine, and technology in the field of burn injury care.

Thermal burns can cause severe damage to the victim’s skin, requiring focused wound care, infection prevention, and even excision and skin grafts. Eschar excision and skin grafting has long been the standard of care. Skin grafting can be accomplished through different methods. An autograft is where skin from a donor site on the same patient is used. One benefit to the autograft is that there is no risk of rejection. However, the donor sites are painful. Moreover, autografts may not be feasible in the case of extensive burns covering large surface areas.

Continue Reading Advances in Technology for Burn Injury Survivors

Severe burn injuries frequently result in more than just physical pain. Survivors often suffer significant psychological and emotional damage, as well. The onset of symptoms of a psychological injury related to a severe burn can appear within a few days or weeks of the injury. However, the symptoms of psychological and emotional trauma caused by severe burns may not become apparent for weeks, months or even years following a burn injury.

For the majority of burn injury survivors, the symptoms will fade within a few weeks or months. However, according to Burn Injury Model Systems, about one third of people with major burn injuries continue to suffer from psychological and emotional distress for years following the injury. In some instances, these effects are permanent and will require ongoing treatment.

Continue Reading Life After a Burn Injury: Psychological & Emotional Pain

This year National Burn Awareness Week is February 1 – 7. This is the 30th anniversary of this important week, which was developed as a vehicle to promote burn awareness and prevention among the general public, as well as high-risk groups, like children and older adults. The goal is always to spread a common message of awareness and prevention, and this year’s message is Scald Prevention. The American Burn Association and National Scald Prevention Campaign provide a wealth of information on this important issue.

High-Risk Groups

Young children and older adults are at particularly high risk for burn injuries. Children have immature motor and cognitive skills, strong dependence on adults for supervision and danger-avoidance, and an inability to self-rescue. Older adults often have decreased reaction times, impaired mobility and may suffer from the effects of a pre-existing health condition.

Furthermore, young children and older adults have thinner dermal layers of their skin compared to members of other age groups. This leads to deeper burns at lower temperatures and shorter exposure times. When exposed to the same quantity of hot liquid, a child will likely suffer burns over a larger percentage of her total body surface than an adult.

Scald Statistics

In 2013, an estimated 68,536 scald burn injuries were seen in hospital emergency departments in the U.S.; 15,588 (23%) occurred to children under age 4 or younger.

Water does not have to be boiling to cause a severe burn. The boiling point for water is 212° F. It takes just 2 seconds of exposure to 148° F water to cause a burn sever enough to require surgery. Hot water heaters should be set to 120° F, or just below the medium setting. A safe bathing temperature is 100° F.

Continue Reading National Burn Awareness Week: February 1-7, 2016

Approximately 33,000 people suffer a burn injury requiring hospital emergency room treatment annually in southern New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. The numbers of burn victims and the extent of their injuries can be staggering. However large the numbers may be, every burn victim’s experience is personal. What can people with severe burns expect as they work to recover from their injuries and put their lives back together?

One of the obvious results of a severe burn injury is physical pain and discomfort. Depending on the severity of the burn, physical pain can continue for weeks, months, and in some cases, for the rest of a person’s life. Physical pain can impact many aspects of a burn victim’s life. The pain can severely limit a person’s ability to work, to sleep, and to do everyday activities. Many burn victims report the pain and anger associated with constant itching as the worst part of the recovery process.

Physical pain can also have secondary effects. For instance, ongoing pain can affect a person’s mood, leading to depression and anxiety. Pain can hamper the healing process, as well. It can inhibit a person’s ability to perform rehabilitation exercises and lead to loss of range of motion.

Continue Reading Life After a Burn Injury: Physical Pain

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 1.1 million people suffer burn injuries that require medical attention every year in the United States. Approximately 50,000 of these burn victims require hospitalization and 20,000 suffer major burns covering 25% of their body surface. Roughly 4,500 burn victims die annually as a result of their injuries and as many as 10,000 people in the United States die each year as a result of burn-related infections.

These statistics are scary, but they demonstrate the devastating consequences of burn injuries and the importance of prevention. There are many different types of burns, and it is important to know how each is classified.

First degree burns are burns to the top layer of the skin. Symptoms include redness, swelling, and pain to touch. There are usually no blisters, and healing usually occurs in 3-5 days. Sunburn is a first degree burn. Other examples of first degree burns include exposure to flash flames or minor scalding from exposure to hot liquid.

Continue Reading Burn Injuries: Statistics, Classifications, & Causes

Effective September 1, 2015, new child passenger safety laws will go into effect in New Jersey.  These new laws were designed with enhanced safety in mind – specifically on improving protections for young children riding in cars.  So what are these new rules?

  1. Every child under 2 years old and weighing less than 30 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness.
  2. Every child under 4 years old and weighing under 40 lbs. must be secured in the back seat of a vehicle in a rear-facing car seat with a five-point harness until the child grows larger than the height and weight standards set by the manufacturer.
  3. After a child outgrows the manufacturer’s height and weight standards, the child may begin sitting in a front facing child seat with a five-point harness.
  4. Every child under 8 years old and less than 57 inches in height must be secured in a rear-facing or forward-facing child seat with a five-point harness or a belt-positioning booster seat.
  5. Any child older than 8 years old or taller than 57 inches in height must be properly secured by a regular adult seat belt.

Continue Reading New Jersey’s New Child Passenger Safety Laws: What Parents Need to Know

Grocery stores and other large retailers generally have plans, policies and procedures designed to keep their customers safe. Unfortunately, far too often store employees either do not know or do not follow corporate safety policies. This is why thousands and thousands of people are injured in grocery stores here in New Jersey every year.

Many people feel an intense loyalty to “their” grocery store and spend large portions of the family budget on groceries. Stores like ShopRite expect to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars from each of their customers over the course of a lifetime. Is it too much to ask for customers to actually be kept safe while they shop? Sadly, for many grocery stores and other large retailers, the answer is yes. In my experience, corporate profit is frequently more important than customer safety.

Grocery store owners know there are “problem areas” in every grocery store. These include the produce department, floral department, frozen food aisles, checkout areas, entrances and exits, to name a few. These are high traffic areas where there is often water or slippery produce on the floor.

Grocery store owners and operators have a legal obligation to exercise reasonable care for the safety of their customers. Store owners must take steps to correct or give warning of dangerous conditions (like water on the ground), so long as the owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition. Furthermore, the grocery store owner must make inspections of the store to try to find dangerous conditions. Store employees are typically required to conduct “floor sweeps” to check for dangerous conditions, like spills or tripping hazards. This is where most grocery stores fail their customers because employees do not perform regular “floor sweeps” or follow any inspection schedule. This means that dangerous conditions frequently go unnoticed, and that is why thousands of people are injured in grocery stores each year. Of course, this is not the only area where grocery stores fail to keep their customers safe from harm. Other causes of customer injuries will be explored in some of my upcoming posts.

Continue Reading What Should You Do If You’ve Been Injured At a Grocery Store?

In 2009, the San Francisco based ride sharing app, “Uber,” was founded.  When the app was launched in 2010, it changed metropolitan travel.  As of December 16, 2014, Uber was available in 53 countries and more than 200 cities worldwide.  For anyone unfamiliar with Uber, it is a mobile app that allows users to submit a trip request which is sent to crowd-sourced taxi drivers.  Without a doubt, the rise of Uber marks an exciting alternative to the traditional yellow cab when it comes to getting from Point A to Point B in most major U.S. cities.  However, along with the many benefits to Uber come both real and potential problems for Uber customers and the public.

First, Uber has come under fire because of safety concerns associated with the manner in which Uber drivers are notified of fares.  When a customer submits a ride request from their mobile phone, Uber routes that request to drivers on the street.  The Uber driver then receives a message on their mobile phone, alerting them of the fare.  The driver then has 15 seconds in which to respond to accept the ride request.  Drivers may be temporarily suspended from Uber for ignoring these ride requests on their cell phones.  The obvious safety concern involves the distraction caused to the Uber driver by the company’s cell phone notification system, which presents a financial incentive to drivers to respond to cell phone requests while driving.

On New Year’s Eve in 2013, a six-year-old girl, Sophia Liu, and her mother were struck by an Uber driver in San Francisco.  Tragically, the young girl was killed.  The family filed suit against Uber asserting that Uber is responsible for the crash because its app is distracting to drivers and leads to inattention while driving.  Specifically, the suit alleges that Uber drivers “must respond quickly to a user request for service by physically interfacing with the app, thereby leading to distraction.”

You don’t need an expert to tell you that distracted driving is unsafe.  It is a major cause of car wrecks in the United States.  One of the questions that has arisen alongside crashes involving Uber drivers is whether Uber will take financial responsibility for the negligence of its drivers and provide compensation for injured victims of distracted driving.

There is currently concern that innocent people who are injured in car crashes caused by Uber drivers may be denied compensation when both the driver’s private insurance company and Uber’s insurance carrier deny or disclaim coverage.  The problem is that Uber does not operate like a traditional taxi cab company, which would be required to carry commercial auto insurance for its fleet of cabs.  Uber often hires private car owners to transport Uber customers.  These drivers may or may not have their own private auto insurance policies.  The risks associated with taking a ride from an uninsured driver are obvious.  However, even Uber drivers who have private auto insurance may not actually have insurance coverage for their customers because most private auto insurance policies contain exclusions for commercial use of the vehicle.

When that happens, the injured customer looks to Uber for coverage under its $1 million insurance policy.  Unfortunately, Uber’s insurance policy may be deemed “excess” coverage, which is only triggered once the Uber driver’s private insurance policy is exhausted.  Currently, there is dispute over whether an “excess” policy, such as Uber’s, would provide any coverage for an uninsured Uber driver or for an insured Uber driver whose private policy excludes coverage for commercial use of the vehicle.  This issue will surely be tested in courts across the country in the months and years to come, as it appears Uber isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The point to take away is that with all of the pros associated with Uber and other similar ride-share apps (e.g., Haxi, Lyft and Sidecar), there are some very real and other potential risks you should be aware of before hopping into the car.  Your safety is nothing to gamble with, so ask your Uber driver if his Uber app is open on his cell phone.  If it is, ask him if would mind not checking it while he is driving you to your destination.  Asking for safety and peace of mind is not an unreasonable request.  Also, you may want to ask if the driver has commercial liability insurance.  If the answer is no, at least you will be able to make an educated decision.  Do you want to take the ride and accept the risk that you would not be compensated for any injuries you sustain if there is a crash?  Or would you rather not risk it and hail a good, old fashioned yellow cab instead?  No matter what you choose, now you’re better prepared to do what you have to do to stay safe out there.

Many of the people who drive in New Jersey live out of state.  I am one of those people.  While I live in Pennsylvania, 90% of the driving I do is in New Jersey.  Under these circumstances, I wanted to find a way to take advantage of Pennsylvania’s lower auto insurance premiums while avoiding New Jersey’s restrictive limitation on lawsuit or “verbal threshold” laws.

The problem was New Jersey’s Deemer Statute, N.J.S.A. 17:28-1.4, which applies to out-of-state drivers who are injured in accidents in New Jersey.  Under the Deemer Statute, if you are an out-of-state resident and you are hurt in an accident here in New Jersey, you will be subject to New Jersey’s restrictive limitation on lawsuit or “verbal threshold” laws if your auto insurance company is licensed to transact business in the State of New Jersey.  Being subject to New Jersey’s “verbal threshold” is a bad thing.  If you are subject to the “verbal threshold,” you have a limited right to be compensated if you are injured in an accident.

So if you live outside New Jersey, but do a lot of driving here, is there a way to avoid New Jersey’s restrictive “verbal threshold”?  The answer is yes.  The first thing you should do is follow the link below.  It will take you to a list of all of the auto insurance companies that are licensed to transact business in New Jersey.  Look for your auto insurance company.  If it is not on the list, you will not be deemed subject to New Jersey’s “verbal threshold” if you are injured in an accident in New Jersey.

If you do see your auto insurance company on the list, you can choose to change to another company that is not on the list, thereby sidestepping New Jersey’s Deemer Statute and “verbal threshold” in the event you are injured in an accident in the Garden State.  I would suggest calling your insurance agent and asking for a list of auto insurance companies that do not offer policies in New Jersey.

If you live outside New Jersey, but have auto insurance through a company that is on New Jersey’s list of licensed companies, you will be deemed subject to the “verbal threshold” by way of the Deemer Statute.  This is true, even if you chose the no limitation on lawsuit option when you purchased your auto insurance policy in your home state.

This may seem unfair, but there is good news.  There are many insurance companies out there that do not transact business in New Jersey.  In fact, I recently saw an ad in a newspaper for a Pennsylvania based insurance company that does not transact business in New Jersey.  The ad offered Pennsylvania residents who drive primarily in New Jersey, like me, a way around New Jersey’s Deemer Statute.  Simply buy a policy through an insurance company that is not licensed to transact business in New Jersey, and if you are injured in an accident in the Garden State, neither the Deemer Statute nor New Jersey’s “verbal threshold” will apply.

In the end, this advertisement made a lot of sense to me.  If I were an out-of-state resident who drives primarily in New Jersey (which I am) and I wanted to avoid the headaches and restrictions that come with New Jersey’s Deemer Statute and “verbal threshold” (which I do), I would find an auto insurance company that is not on New Jersey’s list of licensed companies (which I did).

If you want to discuss New Jersey’s Deemer Statute or “verbal threshold” laws in more detail, or how they might affect you, feel free to contact Stark & Stark.  And as always, stay safe out there.