Burn Injury FAQs

Burn injury data & statistics

There are approximately 10,000 pediatric burn injuries in the United States each year. In the United States, about 2.4 million burn injuries are reported annually. Of that 2.4 million, 20,000 have major burns involving at least 25% of their total body surface and 8,000 to 12,000 of patients with burns will die. Approximately one million will sustain substantial or permanent disabilities resulting from their burn injuries. Burns are one of the most expensive, catastrophic injuries to treat. For example, a burn to 30% of total body area can cost as much as $200,000.

We have represented many people throughout the country who have suffered from severe burn injuries, achieving record setting results for our clients. The attorneys at Swartz & Swartz, P.C. have the experience to fully investigate instances causing burn injuries, including obtaining fire marshal and other official reports; hiring and working with medical and explosion experts; and pursuing aggressive discovery during litigation in preparation for trial. 

How to treat a burn injury?*

First Aid for Minor Burns (First Degree):
  • Run cool water over the burned area or soak it in a cool water bath for five minutes, if the skin is not broken.  If burn occurred in cold atmosphere, DO NOT apply water.
  • Reassure victim and take care to keep them calm.
  • Cover burn with a sterile non-adhesive bandage or clean cloth.
  • Protect the burn from pressure or friction.
  • Over-the-counter pain medication can be used to reduce pain.
  • Minor burns will often heal without seeking further treatment.
First Aid for Severe Burns (Second & Third Degree):
  • DO NOT remove burned clothing; however take care to ensure that the victim is not in contact with burning or smoldering material.
  • Make sure victim is breathing. If victim is not breathing or airway is blocked, then open the airway and perform CPR.
  • If victim is breathing, cover the burn with a cool moist sterile bandage or clean cloth. DO NOT use a blanket or towel; DO NOT apply ointments and DO NOT break blisters.
  • Elevate burned area and protect the burn from pressure or friction.
  • Take steps to prevent shock.
  • Continue to monitor victim’s vital signs.

What can cause a burn injury?

There are many potential causes for burn injuries such as:
  • Automobile accidents
  • Boating accidents
  • Chemical burns
  • Construction accidents
  • Defective candles, heaters, and fireplaces
  • Defective products
  • Defective vehicles
  • Electrical accidents
  • Fireworks injuries
  • Flammable liquid fuel explosions
  • Gas explosions/fires
  • Gasoline spills
  • Industrial accidents
  • Lighters and matches
  • Propane explosions/fires
  • Radiation accidents
  • Scalding water
  • Work injuries
What are the types of burns?

There are several degrees of burns that are classified by their depth, including: first, second, third, and fourth degree burns, as well as inhalation burns.

First Degree Burns:

Red and sensitive to touch. The skin will appear blanched when light pressure is applied. Involves minimal tissue damage to the skin surface (epidermis). First degree burns affect the outer-layer of the skin causing pain, redness, and swelling. An example of a first degree burn is a sunburn.

  • Pain
  • Peeling skin
  • Redness
  • Shock (pale, clammy skin, weakness, bluish lips and finger nails)
  • Swelling
  • White or charred skin
Second Degree Burns:

Second degree burns affect the outer-layer (epidermis) and the under lying layer of skin (dermis) causing redness, pain, blisters, and swelling. These burns affect the sweat glands and hair follicles. A second degree burn must be treated promptly because swelling and decreased blood flow can result in the burn becoming a third-degree burn.

  • Pain
  • Peeling skin
  • Redness
  • Shock (pale, clammy skin, weakness, bluish lips and finger nails)
  • Swelling
  • White or charred skin
Third Degree Burns:

Affects the outer layer (epidermis), underlying layer of skin (dermis) and the innermost and thickest layer of skin (hypodermis).  This burn causes charred skin and a translucent white color, with coagulated vessels visible below the skin’s surface. Healing from third-degree burns is very slow because of the tissue being destroyed.

  • Pain
  • Peeling skin
  • Redness
  • Shock (pale, clammy skin, weakness, bluish lips and finger nails)
  • Swelling
  • White or charred skin
Fourth Degree Burns:

Fourth Degree burns are the most serious burns—full thickness burns that affect every layer of the skin and the structures below the skin, such as tendons, bone, ligaments and muscles. These are not typically chronically painful burns because the nerves have been destroyed. Fourth degree burns always require surgery or grafting to close the wounds, often resulting in permanent disability, with lengthy rehabilitation times. These burns can be life-threatening and may require amputation.

Inhalation Injuries:
  • Damage from heat inhalation: Lung burns occur if you have directly breathed in hot air or a flame source or the heat was forced into you with high pressure. Thermal injury causes damage to the upper airways however, the secondary airway may be injured is steam is inhaled.
  • Damage from systemic toxins: Systemic toxins affect people’s ability to absorb oxygen. Systemic toxins cause a person to act confused or fall unconscious in the case of an enclosed fire. Toxic poisoning can cause permanent damage to organs including the brain. The effects of Carbon Monoxide poisoning may be unknown, with no symptoms, until the victim falls into a coma. 
  • Damage from smoke inhalation: Smoke intoxication is commonly hidden by visible injuries as a result of a fire. 60% to 80% of fatalities from burn injuries can be attributed to smoke inhalation, which is not readily apparent. Inhalation injury indicators usually appear within 2-48 hours after the burn occurred. Such indications are:
  • Burns around face or neck
  • Fainting
  • Fire or smoke in a closed area
  • Nasal hairs, eyebrows, eyelashes singed
  • Respiratory distress or upper airway obstruction
  • Soot around mouth or nose
Radiation Burns:

Radiation burns are caused by X-rays, radiation therapy for cancer treatment, tanning beds, or malfunctioning halide light bulbs.

Electrical Burns:

Electrical burns can have many causes, such as high voltage wires, damaged electrical cords, and electrical outlets. Internal injuries that result from an electrical burn are not always apparent.

Chemical Burns:

Chemical burns often are associated with industrial accidents and occur because of chemical compounds such as cleaning products, battery fluid, pool chemicals, and drain cleaners. Hydrofluoric acid can eat to the bone before the severity burn injury become evident.

How to diagnose a burn injury?*

It is important to determine how bad a burn is by how hot the skin gets and how long the burn lasts as well as the location because the skin thickness, water and oil content, fat, and the number of blood vessels varies.


How to identify the severity of a burn injury?*

To determine the severity of an injury, the patient’s age, size and depth of the burn, and the location of the burn must be determined. A “Rule of Nines” chart is used to determine the total body surface area (TBSA) that has been burned. This chart splits the body into sections that represent nine percent of the body surface area. A separate chart is used for children because their head and neck is larger than adults and the limbs are smaller than those of adults.


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