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Is Smoke Inhalation From a Fire Considered a Burn Injury?

It is true that fires can cause many types of burn injuries, including burning of the airways due to the inhalation of hot smoke. However, depending on the circumstances of the case, smoke inhalation may or may not be considered a burn injury. With that said, victims who have inhaled smoke in a structure fire do have personal injury legal options. This is because inhaling smoke is dangerous and in many situations can be deadly.

Current estimates reveal that approximately 70% of deaths due to fires occur because of inhaling smoke instead of incurring burn injuries. This is because smoke contains many different harmful substances, gases, and heated particles. Researchers say that it is impossible to know exactly what the smoke produced by fire may contain.

Inhaling smoke can damage the body in several different ways. Examples include damage due to simple asphyxiation, thermal or chemical irritation, asphyxiation caused by chemicals or any combination of these.

  • Simple asphyxiation occurs when the fire consumes all of the available oxygen or when products of the fire take over the oxygen’s space.
  • Chemical asphyxiation occurs when components of smoke like carbon dioxide cause damage at the cellular level and interfere with the victim’s ability to use oxygen.
  • Chemical irritation happens when the substances in smoke damage the victim’s skin or mucous membranes and cause airway collapse, swelling, and respiratory distress.
  • Thermal irritation occurs when the victim inhales very hot smoke, causing injury to the airway.

To sum up, while smoke inhalation may not seem like a burn injury, it is still very dangerous and could be fatal. Like victims of burns, those who have been injured due to smoke inhalation caused by a negligent party can pursue compensation through the legal system by speaking with a California-based personal injury attorney.

Source: WebMD, “Smoke Inhalation,” accessed Aug. 10, 2016
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