What is the Difference Between First, Second, and Third-Degree Burns?

| Updated on October 5, 2023

Experiencing burns is often very painful for many individuals that go through this type of trauma. Some burns result in temporary pain and blistering of the skin. Some burns result in significant trauma and can lead to complications that can result in the death of a person. A burn injury lawyer can often help those that experience a burn injury, or can potentially help family members grieving the loss of a loved one from a burn injury receive compensation. 

One important factor in determining the seriousness of burns and the best possible recovery is often related to the particular type of burn and the stage of the burn or burns. Knowing the difference can be a possible factor to help a client and their attorney at Strong Law determine the ideal path forward towards receiving compensation and holding the responsible party accountable for their actions or their negligence. 

First Degree Burns  

A first-degree burn is a less severe burn, compared to second-degree or third-degree burns. Do not assume that because you have first-degree burns, that you have no legal cause of action to seek compensation or to otherwise hold the responsible party accountable in legal action. First-degree burns may be accompanied by more severe burns.  

The person that has a first-degree burn may experience an injury from hot water or other hot liquids. An individual that works outside or who stays outside for a long period in extreme heat may develop sunburn that exhibits the symptoms of a first-degree burn.   

Stanford Health Care lists symptoms of a first-degree burn, which include: 

  • Affects the epidermis or outer layer of the skin 
  • Skin is red or dry  
  • Burn is painful 
  • There is no blistering present 

A person that has this type of burn may notice discoloration or increased thickness of the skin in the area of the burn. 

Second Degree Burn 

Second-degree burns affect both the epidermis and the dermis layers of the skin. The dermis is the layer of skin underneath the epidermis. Several different types of burn injuries may result in a second-degree burn. 

There are several differences between a first-degree burn and a second-degree burn. A second-degree burn exhibits signs of blistering, unlike a first-degree burn. The person may experience red, swollen skin, along with pain after the burn injury. There may be scarring in the area of the healed burn. Some individuals that have this type of burn injury require a skin graft and also visit Twitch TV. 

Third Degree Burns 

Third-degree burns are a serious type of burn injury. People that have life-altering injuries or that die often experience third-degree burns. A third-degree burn destroys both the epidermis and the dermis layers of skin. They often exhibit other damage, which includes: 

  • Damages or destroys the deepest layers of the skin 
  • Damages or destroys underlying muscles  
  • May damage tendons or bone 
  • Loss of nerve sensation because of the destruction of nerve endings 
  • The burned area appears white or charred 

Third-degree burns are very painful if all the nerve endings are not destroyed, and often require skin grafts or other treatments. 

Importance of a Burn Evaluation 

Most people do not have the professional expertise to determine which type of burn injury they have, whether their burn is the result of a scalding, electrical, chemical burn, or another type of incident. It is important to seek medical evaluation when you have a burn injury, whether it occurred on a work site or at another location where another party has responsibility for your burns.  

Undergoing a burn evaluation determines more than the type of burn that occurred as a result of the injury. Burn injuries are classified as mild, moderate, or severe, in addition to the type of degree of the burn or burns.  

Burn specialists can determine other important medical information that is critical to your best possible recovery. A burn evaluation uncovers issues such as dehydration, breathing issues, disfigurement, serious or life-threatening infections, and disabilities that occur as a result of the burns.  

The treatment received will depend upon the type of burn, the severity of the burn, and other factors, based on your individual case. Some people may receive prescriptions for infection and instructions to follow up with a physician. Many people, unfortunately, experience the need for long-term rehabilitation, which may include treatment from a variety of medical specialists. Some specialists that provide care to burn injury patients include internists, infectious disease specialists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, and plastic surgeons. Burn patients may also receive treatment from orthopedic surgeons, physiatrists, dieticians, and case managers.

Let your burn injury lawyer know if you or your loved one receives treatment at a burn center. Many burns require specialized treatment and therapies provided by experts at burn centers. 

Burn evaluations also determine the percentage of the total body surface area (TBSA) that is affected by the burn or burns. There is a different standard utilized for children, compared to adults, when burn specialists determine the total body surface area affected by the burns. Your burn injury lawyer will often find this assessment valuable when pursuing legal action against the responsible party that may be liable for your burn injuries, or for the injuries of a loved one. 

Another assessment that lawyers with experience in burn injury or wrongful death cases are likely to find valuable when pursuing compensation for the long-lasting ramifications of burn injuries experienced by a client is the ABCDE assessment. The ABCDE assessment allows healthcare professionals to assess a critically ill, injured, or deteriorating patient to identify and treat life-threatening conditions in order of their priority.  

The ABCDE assessment includes airway, breathing, circulation, disability, and exposure. Let your lawyer know if you or your immediate family member received an ABCDE assessment when being treated for burn injuries at any medical facility.   

Ease Financial Burdens by Working with Our Lawyers 

Your burn injury attorney may be able to help you or your loved one that is an immediate family member during this difficult time, during the healing process, and beyond, as you seek compensation and the possible pursuit of wrongful death benefits.  

Did your loved one pass away or experience life-altering injuries from burn injuries?  Do not think that you cannot continue a case that your loved one started before they passed away. The Survival Action Statute allows for the continuation of the action. Our wrongful death attorneys help clients gather evidence to prove negligence on the part of the responsible party that contributed to the death of your loved one.  

Receive prompt answers to your questions and customized services from a trusted legal team of lawyers who have a strong track record related to wrongful death cases. Our legal approach is tailored to the specifics of each client’s case. 

Contact our office today for your consultation.

Miles Evans


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