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Personal InjuryJune 03, 2019

Don’t Touch That Skillet – Types and Severity of Burn Injuries

A burn injury can occur in many different settings. If you work with volatile chemicals, electrical currents, hot liquid, or radiation, the risk of receiving a severe burn can be multiplied if you don’t have proper protective gear. In 2016, an estimated 486,000 Americans required treatment for burn injuries, with more than 12% ending up in the hospital, according to the American Burn Association.

Any given burn injury is classified by the degree of severity. Most people are familiar with the 1st-degree, 2nd-degree, 3rd-degree, and 4th-degree classifications, but recently, clinicians have started measuring burn severity with a new system. The first type is a superficial burn (1st-degree), followed by a superficial partial-thickness burn (2nd-degree), deep partial-thickness burn (2nd-degree), full-thickness burn (3rd-degree), and finally, a 4th-degree burn.


A superficial burn is the most common type of burn you can receive. It’s also the least dangerous. The damage is limited to the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin. Even though it is the mildest type, it can be very painful and lead to swelling, skin flaking, and redness. The most common causes of a superficial burn include scalds from hot liquid, touching an electrical socket, and sunburns.

There are two types of 2nd-degree burn: superficial partial-thickness, and deep partial-thickness. Both types involve damage that extends deeper into the skin, past the epidermis into the dermis. At this level, burns will feel slightly moist and can be extremely painful due to exposed nerve endings. A deep partial-thickness burn involves the reticular dermis area, a region composed of dense connective tissues that, when burned, may scar and contract (skin tightening). Second-degree burns can be caused by particularly severe scalds, certain chemicals, and flames.

A full-thickness burn destroys both epidermal and dermal layers, damaging the subcutaneous tissue underneath. Victims of this burn will find the area of affected skin to be dry and almost leathery with no pain. Don’t let this lack of pain fool you, because at this level, our nerve endings are gone entirely. This can lead to serious complications if the victim does not immediately receive medical treatment. Since the hair follicles and epidermis are destroyed, the skin in the affected area will never regrow and could cause severe scarring, contractures, and in some cases, may require surgical amputation. Hot liquids, steam, electricity, and volatile chemicals are all common causes of full-thickness burns.

The last and most severe type is a 4th-degree burn. At this stage, all skin, tissue, and nerve endings are destroyed, leaving just fat, muscle, and bone. A 4th-degree burn, can result in amputation or excision (surgical removal of skin), and make the affected area appear black, charred, and very dry. While rare, death is also a possible outcome if the injury is severe enough.


If you’ve sustained a burn injury, regardless of its severity, it’s important to determine who is liable for your injury. Not only can there be costly medical expenses, but you also must address the emotional toll and impact to your future livelihood if you’ve sustained any permanent injuries. If you are the victim of a burn injury due to the negligence of an employer, business, or another person in New York, our personal injury team at Pollack, Pollack, Isaac & DeCicco, LLP may be able to help you receive the compensation you need to heal. Call 929-223-4195 for a free consultation.

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