Accidental vs. Intentional Determination

People often ask how I determine accidental vs. intentional burn injury. The first thing I consider is the pattern of the injury. I first try to determine if the injury presented is liquid or dry contact. If the liquid burn has sharp defined edges separating damaged tissue vs. healthy tissue, then the liquid was very stable, without movement and the victim was also held very still. I also consider what part of the body is involved and could the victim possibly access that body part. If this is a cigarette or lighter burn or some other hot dry object, it is unlikely the victim self- inflicted if the injury is in the middle of their back.

One of the most important factors I consider is the “sparing” within the boundaries of the injury. The area that is not burned is more telling than the actual injury. Remember, if the victim is sitting in hot bath water, the top of the head is not considered spared since it was not in contact with the water. However, if the center of the buttocks is not burned, it tells me that the victim was held with force, against the bottom of the tub or vessel. Sparing can also suggest where the caretaker was holding onto the victim. There are a number of other factors that I consider.

For more about sparing, and how I determine accidental vs. intentional injury, contact me regarding consultation and future training seminars.