Medico Legal Aspects of Burn Injuries

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Dr Imtiaz Ahmed Wani

Usually, burn injuries take place due to failure to prevent them. When a person or entity does not act reasonably, then they have violated that duty and will be held responsible for any injury or damage that results. This duty is created from statutory laws or prior judgments of the cases that have evolved over time. Informing the police of harm to a human being is the moral duty of people. Section 39 asks every citizen to inform the police of any such incidence(s) .As such there is no requirement or compulsion specified in Medical Council of India (MCI) Act. A treating physician has the responsibility of informing such accidents to the legal authority. The following situations need to be notified to the police, when there is major burn, severity out of proportion to history, delayed presentation, improper treatment, fatal burns, mass casualties and so on.
The majority of burn injuries are either domestic or vehicular. If it is part of work accident, then Workmen’s Compensation Act can be attracted. Under the Workmen’s Compensation Act, ultimate legal compensation may be awarded usually for the permanent physical impairment of irreversible nature, leading to permanent disability. A doctor needs to evaluate permanent physical impairment and may even be called by the court of law to testify as an expert witness. Physical impairment certificates are to be issued by any medical graduates who are registered under schedule I of MCI act 1956. Highly dependent upon the prevailing legal and social support, the following compensation may be claimed by the burn victim depending on the cause of the burn injury. Compensation for the burn victim for various kinds of impairments including current medical expenses, lost wages, anticipated future medical expenses, anticipated future loss of wages, mental or emotional pain and suffering , disfigurement, and any physical or mental impairment or disability are compensated.
Medical expenses covered for treatment whether past or future include hospitalization, surgical intervention, counseling, cosmetic surgery, physiotherapy compensation for income loss both past and future and vocational rehabilitation (job retraining).
The spouses of a burn survivor may be entitled to compensation when an injury is so severe that it interferes with the injured party’s spousal relations. The affected family member may suffer a very real detriment. The judiciary recognizes the right of the victims spouse to get claim for a loss of support, services, love, companionship, society, affections, conjugal relations and solace in the form of a loss of consortium action in an appropriate case. Loss of consortium is considered separate claim from the injury claim suffered by the victim. This is a unique claim and is compensable by a separate compensation by spouse of burn victim.

The author is a surgeon specialist at the DHS, Kashmir. He can be reached at: imtazwani@gmail.com

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