What Are the Different Types and Degrees of Burn Injuries?

Posted On April 24, 2023 / By Manning Law / Burn Injury

Burn injuries are a significant type of tissue damage that can lead to permanent scarring, disfigurement and a variety of health complications. Burns can be caused by many risks, including fire, chemicals and electricity. One of the first steps in treating a burn injury is identifying its type and degree. This can allow a physician to properly treat the burn injury.

Types of Burn Injuries 

The leading cause of burn injuries in the United States is heat or fire. These are known as thermal burns. However, burn injuries can also be caused by contact with many other dangerous objects and elements. There are four main types of burn injuries:

  • Thermal. Tissue damage caused by contact with a hot surface, hot item, flames or steam. The extent of the burn injury will depend on the intensity and duration of the heat’s contact with the skin.
  • Chemical. Burns caused by exposure to harmful chemicals, including acids, base chemicals or alkalis. Chemical burns are particularly dangerous, as they often continue to damage the tissues until the chemical has been neutralized.
  • Electrical. Burn injuries caused by contact with an electrical current, such as a live telephone wire or a bolt of lightning. These burns can affect the internal organs and tissues beneath the skin in addition to the skin itself.
  • Radiation. Damage caused by prolonged exposure to UV or radiation rays, such as those used in cancer treatment or tanning beds. Radiation burns can also come from extensive exposure to the sun.

Burn injuries can occur in the workplace, in a car accident, on a dangerous premises or right at home. They can be caused by chemical spills, defective products, fires and explosions, and many other injury risks.

Four Degrees of Burn Injuries

Once a doctor has identified the type or cause of the burn injury, the next step is to classify it by degree. Traditionally, burns were classified into one of three degrees. More recently, however, a classification system using four degrees has increased in popularity:

  1. First-degree burn. The least severe or mildest burn injury. It affects only the outermost layer of skin, known as the epidermis. The signs of a first-degree burn injury can include red skin, light pain and swelling. In general, these burns heal on their own within a few days.
  2. Second-degree burn. A burn that extends into the second layer of skin, known as the dermis. This burn can be more painful than a first-degree burn and lead to blistering and an open wound. It requires medical attention to help prevent infection.
  3. Third-degree burn. When damage is severe enough to reach the subcutis, or the deepest layer of skin. This layer also includes collagen and fat cells, meaning this type of burn can affect the body’s ability to regulate body temperature.
  4. Fourth-degree burn. The most severe type of burn injury. It destroys all three layers of skin and reaches the underlying tendons, muscles and bone. The area may appear white or charred. There is often no pain, as the burn destroys the nerve endings.

Immediate emergency medical attention is required for third-degree and fourth-degree burn injuries. These are life-threatening injuries that will most likely affect a survivor for life. Our Aurora burn injury lawyers have seen long-term effects including disfiguring scars, losses of limb, permanent nerve damage and organ damage.

Legal Options for Burn Injury Victims in Colorado

Burn injuries can have immense physical, financial and emotional consequences for a victim. If you or a loved one has suffered a burn injury of any type or degree due to someone else’s negligence, consult with our Denver personal injury attorneys about a potential personal injury claim. You may be eligible for financial compensation for your medical bills, rehabilitation, therapy, lost wages, and more. We can help you understand your legal rights and pursue a monetary recovery.