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The Turley & Mara Law Firm, APLC

My husband is a Jones Act seaman who suffered second degree burns on most of his body when the engine room on his vessel caught fire. I know that second degree burns are not the most serious of offshore burn injuries. What are the differences between first, second and third degree burns?

Have you ever grabbed the handle of a hot pot while cooking? The skin probably turned red and you felt pain. Although you may have had a lot of pain, you suffered a very mild burn that affected only a small part of the upper layer of the skin. But, burn can affect all layers of the skin and even the underlying tissue. Doctors use “degrees” to categorize burns based on the extent of the injury.

  • First degree burns: First degree burns can be very painful, but they are the least serious category of burns. These burns affect only the top layer of the skin. The skin is usually pink or red and there may be a small white plaque in the center of the burn. There may be swelling. Most first degree burns can be treated at home. However, large first degree burns should be treated by a doctor.

  • Second degree burns: Second degree burns involve the top and middle layers of the skin. Second degree burns are deep red or white. The skin may look shiny and wet or it may be blistered.  Second degree burns are the most painful burns because the middle layer of the skin contains many nerve endings. These burns must be treated by a doctor. There is a high risk of infection and scarring. Because the pain is so intense, the victim could go into shock.  

  • Third degree burns: Third degree burns affect all layers of the skin, but they are less painful than second degree burns because the nerves that transmit pain are destroyed. The skin may be black, white, brown or yellow. It may be dry or leathery. Third degree burns can be fatal. Patients recovering from third degree burns may need amputations, reconstructive surgery, and extensive therapy.

  • Fourth degree burns: Fourth degree burns affect all layers of the skin and the muscles, bones and tendons under the skin. The burns leave gaping, open wounds that must be surgically closed. These burns are life-threatening and can result in permanent disfigurement and disability.

Seamen who suffer burn injuries while working on California Jones Act vessels are eligible for compensation under maritime law. To learn if you have a Jones Act claim against your employer, contact the San Diego maritime lawyers at The Turley Law Firm at 866-705-4617. We offer a free and confidential case review. Call us today!

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