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Burn Injuries: Classification and Degrees

According to the Hankey Law Office, approximately 2.4 million burn injuries are reported each year in the United States. Burns are one of the most painful and damaging injuries an individual can experience, as they not only cause intense physical pain for extended periods of time, but can also result in permanent disfigurement or disability.

Most burn injuries are due to accident occurring in the home more than anywhere else. Records from the National Burn Repository (NBR) of the American Burn Association (ABA) show that 73% of all burn accidents in the U.S. are actually household-related and that the most common victims are children and senior citizens.

Burns are classified according to their causes. Thus, based on cause, a burn can be a/an:

  • Thermal or heat burn injury. This is caused by coming in contact with heated objects, such as boiling water, hot tap water, hot grease/oil, steam, hot food, hot drink, fire, firework, curling irons and flammable liquids.
  • Chemical burn injury. Chemical burns occur when the skin or eyes come into contact with an irritant such as a strong acid, a base or other irritants. The most common products that cause chemical burns are pool chemicals, car battery acid, drain cleaners, ammonia, cleaning products, bleach and teeth whitening products. Chemical burns, which can cause a reaction on the skin or in your body, are also known as caustic burns.
  • Electrical burn injury. Electrical burn is the result of electricity passing through the body and causing rapid injury (or damage to tissues and organs). About 1,000 electrical injures resulting in death are reported in the U.S. every year. Electrical burns can be caused by power lines, short-circuiting devices, lightning and other kinds of electrical objects.
  • Radiation burn injury. This refers to damage to the skin or tissues due to radiation exposure. Sunburn, which is caused by UV radiation, is the common type of radiation burn; the dangerous types, however, are those caused by nuclear radiation, radio frequency energy, thermal radiation and ionizing radiation.

The degree of burn injury a person is suffering from is determined by severity of skin and tissue damage. If only the skin’s outer layer is affected, it is called first-degree or minor burn. A burn injury, wherein the layer beneath the skin is affected, is called second-degree burn. It causes the most unbearable pain (compared to other burn degrees) because it directly affects the nerves.

Some medical professionals say that third-degree burn is the worst type of burn injury because it damages the skin’s three layers: the epidermis, or the skin’s top layer; the dermis; and, the subcutaneous fat, which attaches the dermis to the muscles and bones and the area where blood vessels and nerve cells get bigger and go to the other parts of the body. Others, however, say that the worst type of burn injury is a fourth degree burn as this affects the muscles and bones.

There are occasions when a fire accident is a result of a property owner failing to adhere to fire safety regulations or a manufacturer producing a defective tanning bed. If a burn injury is a result of someone’s act of carelessness or negligence, then the victim can pursue a legal action to bring the liable party to justice and to seek compensation for the damages he/she has been made to suffer.

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