When emergency responders and medical professionals treat a burn injury victim, they will categorize the burn injury by one degree or another. Most often, you will hear second-degree or third-degree burns, as these are the degrees that require medical attention the most often. But what does this degree system actually mean? Understanding the differences yourself could help you bolster your chances of success if you ever need to file a lawsuit after suffering a burn injury due to someone else’s negligence.


Although you rarely hear of them all, there are actually six degrees of burn injuries, starting with:

  • First: A first degree burn will range from mild to nearly-nonexistent. Skin around the burn will redden, gain increased sensitivity to heat, sunlight, and hot water, and may peel slightly. Beyond cool water, ice, and aloe applied to the wound, no medical attention is necessary and it will heal readily, assuming there is no infection.
  • Second: A second degree burn can cause agonizing pain, depending on where it occurs. Skin will whiten, dry up, and crack if moved too much. The wound should be bandaged up after receiving medical treatment to avoid exposure to sunlight, heat, and anything else that may worsen it. People who suffer second degree burns should seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent permanent damage from occurring, especially if the burn affects a joint, limb, or a broad area of the body. While second degree burns often do not require skin grafting, they can still be excruciatingly painful due to damaged nerve endings.
  • Third: A third degree burn causes excruciating pain and deep tissue damage, often destroying muscles, nerves, and tendons. Skin affected by a third degree burn may blacken and will blister extensively. Immediately medical attention is required as third degree burns are often categorized by affecting 50% or more of the body. Skin grafts may be necessary to treat the injury, as well as surgery. In rare cases, amputation could be necessary to prevent spread of infection or necrosis caused by the burn injury.
  • Fourth: A fourth degree burn is extremely dangerous and life-threatening, even if it only affects a small area of the body. The burn will be so intense that it destroys all flesh and bone in the area, possibly causing widespread harm to internal organs. Amputation is often required. If emergency medical attention is not immediately applied, the burn victim may not survive.
  • Fifth and sixth: There is little mention of fifth and sixth degree burns due to the fact that burn injuries of this severity are not considered survivable. Extensive areas of the body are completely destroyed by burns, likely caused by prolonged direct exposure to open flames.


When you file a personal injury claim after suffering a burn injury, the liable party will likely challenge how much compensation you are seeking. In order to back up the amount you need, understanding the severity of burn injury degrees can help. It is also wise to strengthen your case with the help of a professional Birmingham burn injury lawyer from Glenda Cochran Associates Attorneys at Law. With more than 25 years of legal experience under our belts, we can provide you with the comprehensive and compassionate support you need and deserve.

Call 888.906.3955 to schedule a free case evaluation and ask about our contingency fees!