Burn injuries range in severity and degree, with higher degrees causing more injury and being more dangerous. What sort of burn injuries are catastrophic, though? Does a burn need to be categorized as third-degree to also be catastrophic?

A catastrophic injury is typically one considered to be life-threatening or capable of permanently affecting the victim. Many burn injuries can technically be catastrophic since they can cause scarring that never fades fully. Depending on where someone is burned, the scar could be in a visible location – like their face or hands – that causes them to feel self-conscious when in public, resulting in emotional trauma.


First-degree burns usually heal quickly and require no outside medical attention, so they should not leave a scar. Second-degree burns can cause scarring, though, even with medical care. Everyone’s skin responds to damage differently, so one person might fully heal from a second-degree burn without a scar, but another might not.

Third-degree burns are a different story, though. People who suffer third-degree burns are put in immediate danger and need emergency medical care. The burn will go through the skin and down to the muscle layer or even the bone, practically guaranteeing a lifelong scar. Third-degree burn survivors are also often debilitated in some way by the burn since it does go so deeply. For example, a severe burn on the hand can make it painful to manipulate that hand for the rest of the victim’s life.

Even without scarring, a permanent debilitation does constitute a catastrophic injury. With this in mind, every third-degree burn is likely to be considered catastrophic.


It is important to understand if your burn injury is catastrophic or not because that definition will influence how your claim develops. Insurance companies often double-down their efforts to defeat a claimant who has been catastrophically injured because they know that they could be deserving of sizeable damages, perhaps up to six or seven figures.

Your burn injury attorney will also need to know if your medical provider considers your burn injury as “catastrophic” or if they have given a prognosis that expects permanent scarring. When this is known, your lawyer can begin to explore additional avenues when making your claim, such as consulting with physical therapists or other specialists to predict how you will be debilitated by your burn and for how long. The underlying goal is to calculate your damages accurately, including what you will experience far into the future because of your burn.


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