Third-Degree Burn Scars

Understanding Third-Degree Burn Scars: Causes, Treatment, and Recovery

Burns are some of the most traumatic injuries one can ever experience, anytime and anywhere. Their impact goes beyond the injured victim’s physical health condition, affecting their overall quality of life and their family’s well-being. 

These injuries, unfortunately, are often underestimated in terms of their severity and long-term consequences. Every year, an estimated 11 million people suffer burn injuries worldwide, causing the deaths of 180,000 individuals. 

Injuries associated with burns differ widely in severity. The depth and extent of skin surface penetration determine the degree or classification of burn. Accurately classifying a burn is crucial as it influences the outcome and initial management of the injury. 

The American Burn Association categorizes severity by assessing the depth of a burn injury. Deeper penetration into the skin indicates more severe burns. First-degree burns are the mildest type, while second-degree burns are more serious and the most common. 

Conversely, third-degree burns are the most severe form and can be life-threatening since they destroy all skin layers and potentially damage the underlying tissue. Third-degree burn scars’ physical, emotional, and financial impact can be overwhelming. 

However, on a positive note, victims of third-degree burn scars can seek damages with the help of a personal injury lawyer. Such monetary compensation can help victims move forward while recovering.

Suppose you or a loved one suffered severe burns. You can gain a basic understanding of third-degree burn scars as we delve into their potential causes, treatment options, and recovery period in this post. We also examine the legal options available to you or your loved ones. 

Key Takeaways
  • Burn injuries can vary significantly, depending on their severity and classification.
  • Third-degree burns tend to heal slowly and poorly without appropriate medical attention.
  • Several factors can impact the healing process of third-degree burns, including their extent, depth, and location.

Overview of the Causes of Third-Degree Burn Injuries

The specific cause of a burn injury determines the appropriate treatment and recovery. But more importantly, understanding how it occurs is vital to taking the necessary steps for prevention. 

While certain sources of severe burns can include the same factors that lead to first- and second-degree burns, others are more likely to cause third-degree burns. Also known as full-thickness burns, these injuries damage the skin’s outermost layer (epidermis) and inner layer (dermis). 

Third-degree burn wounds can reach the subcutaneous tissue or the deepest layer of skin. Although less frequent, severe burns can extend past the three stages of burns and progress to fourth-degree burns. These types of burn injuries can cause damage to the muscles, bones, and tendons. 

Regardless, for third-degree burn injuries, common causes can be categorized as follows: 

Thermal causes

The primary cause of most burn injuries is exposure to an excessive heat source, typically above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s reported that thermal burns represent roughly 86 percent of patients requiring admission to burn centers. 

Thermal sources that often cause third-degree burn scars typically include fire, hot liquids, hot metals, and scalding liquids. Burns from these external heat sources elevate the temperature of skin cells and tissues, resulting in cell death or charring. 

The heated object’s temperature and duration of exposure can affect the extent of damage a thermal burn wound will do. But typically, the longer a part of the body is exposed to a hotter object, the deeper the heat can penetrate. 

Electrical causes

Among all burns treated in medical settings, around four to five percent are attributed to electrical causes. A typical example is touching electrical components that have yet to be installed and maintained correctly. 

Electrical burns have three degrees of severity, depending on the source’s voltage. Exposure to low voltage generally causes minor injuries. Conversely, high voltages exceeding 500 to 1000 volts often cause deep damage and scar tissue to muscles, nerve endings, and blood vessels. 

That’s dangerous even when minimal apparent injury to the damaged skin exists. Hence, it’s not surprising that approximately 400 deaths in the US result from accidental high-voltage electrical injuries.

Chemical causes

While chemical burns only account for three percent of all burns, they contribute to 30 percent of burn-related fatalities. These burns can occur at home, work, or on someone else’s property. However, 60 percent of chemical burns are associated with workplace incidents. 

Sources of chemical burns usually include ammonia, battery acid, bleach, and chlorine. The strength of the chemical or agent and the amount that came into contact with the skin can impact the depth of the burn wound. Likewise, the duration of contact affects the depth of the burn injury. 

Depending on these factors, burns resulting from strong acids, alkalis, and other chemicals can be classified as first-degree. But they can be more profound, with blisters and severe pain. In rare instances, contact with these chemicals will lead to a full-thickness or third-degree burn. 

Treatment Options for Third-Degree Burn Injuries

Image by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

Appropriate and prompt medical attention is essential after sustaining a third-degree burn. These serious burns can cause life-threatening infections and leave different types of permanent burn scars. 

In general, treatment for third-degree burns will vary based on their severity. The burned area or amount of body surface area affected also plays a vital role in determining the severity of a burn. 

However, to help set your expectations, here’s a list of treatment options that may apply for third-degree burn injuries:

First aid treatment

Self-treatment is not advisable for third-degree burns. However, you can apply for initial first aid. Protect the burned area with a cool and sterile cloth or bandage. Avoid soaking the wound in water and attempting home remedies. Applying toothpaste or oils to third-degree burns can cause infection and interfere with medical treatment. 


Third-degree burns have a significant risk of infection, particularly when the burn area is large. Your provider may administer intravenous antibiotics if you have a sizeable third-degree burn. Antibiotic ointments or creams will also prevent or clear up possible infections. 

Surgical procedures

Third-degree burns affect the innermost layers of skin. It may require multiple plastic surgeries to remove dead skin tissues from the burn site. Skin grafts are a common surgical treatment of burns. It typically cuts out damaged skin and replaces it with a healthy one from a different part of the body. 

Wound care

Your doctor will provide instructions on properly cleaning and caring for your third-degree burn. It usually involves changing dressings daily and washing the burn with mild soap and water. 

Fluid management

A significant or severe third-degree burn injury may cause you to lose blood or bodily fluids. This fluid loss can be life-threatening when left untreated. In these cases, your healthcare provider may give you intravenous fluids to replace lost fluids and maintain blood pressure. 

Pain management

It’s common not to feel pain right after you sustain a burn injury. However, you may experience soreness and discomfort as your body heals. Your health provider may give you over-the-counter pain relievers or medication. A psychologist specializing in pain management may also be beneficial to help make pain more manageable. 

Scar treatment

Scarring often develops within the first few months after the burn injury. While your scars are healing, it’s best to avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or use sunscreen if you need to go out. Applying moisturizer and silicone gel may help minimize the chances of a raised scar. 

Laser treatment

Some types of burn scars fade over time. But since third-degree burns damage the deeper layers of skin, they’re likely to leave permanent scarring on your skin, such as hypertrophic scars and keloid scars. Fortunately, reducing the size and appearance of these types of burn scars is possible. 

Pressure garment therapy

Another way to decrease the severity of scarring and improve the overall appearance of burn scars is by wearing compression garments. Pressure garment therapy is often prescribed for third-degree burns. 

Physical therapy

Contractures can happen after a severe burn. It develops as third-degree burn scars mature, thicken, and tighten. It can be a severe complication of a burn injury as it hinders normal movement. Physical therapy may help prevent a contracture after a burn injury.

Recovery After Sustaining Third-Degree Burn Scars

The healing time of third-degree burn injuries varies for every person. A minor third-degree burn may take at least three weeks to heal. Meanwhile, the complete healing process may extend to a couple of years if the full-thickness burns you sustain are more significant. 

When it comes to the recovery period after sustaining third-degree burn scars, the following factors can play a significant role: 

  • The extent and depth of the burn
  • Location of the burn
  • The injured person’s age
  • Existence of other injuries or conditions

Legal Options Available for Third-Degree Burn Injuries

Victims of third-degree burns can seek compensation if another individual or entity caused the injury. However, this requires establishing elements of negligence to prove that another party was at fault for your injury. 

That involves demonstrating that they owed you a duty of care and breached that legal obligation through their actions. Additionally, you must show that their action directly resulted in your third-degree burn injury. 

Depending on how the accident happened, different parties may be liable for third-degree burn injuries. Suppose you sustain severe burns as a result of a motor vehicle accident. The negligent driver can be held legally accountable for your injuries and losses. Other potentially liable parties include employers, manufacturers, and property owners. 

Your first legal option is to file a claim with the liable party’s insurance company. However, it’s worth noting that insurance adjusters may not offer you the maximum settlement. Suppose the at-fault party’s insurance company is uncooperative and denies the amount you legally deserve. You can file a lawsuit in court with the assistance of a personal injury lawyer. 

Did you know?
Every year, the US experiences more than 450,000 severe burn injuries. Of these, around 30,000 needed medical treatment or admission to burn centers.

Consult With a Personal Injury Lawyer

Dealing with the aftermath of third-degree burn scars can be stressful. Besides experiencing physical and emotional pain, there will likely be financial burdens. The bright side is that you don’t have to go through it alone. 

With the assistance of a skilled personal injury lawyer, you can obtain monetary compensation and the healing care necessary to recover and move on with your life. As you prioritize your recovery, they can work on the legal aspects of your case, from taking the appropriate legal action to fighting for what you legally deserve. 

The Personal Injury Center can link you with a reputable lawyer specializing in your case. Contact us now to connect and avail a free consultation with a personal injury attorney. 

Ensure maximum compensation for your third-degree burn scars. Consult an attorney through The Personal Injury Center.

FAQs on Understanding Third-Degree Burn Scars

How much is the typical compensation for third-degree burn scars?

Like other personal injuries, compensation for third-degree burn scars can vary, depending on the specific circumstances. But settlements for a third-degree burn injury can range from $100,000 to millions of dollars. 

What damages can you recover for third-degree burn scars?

Legally, you can recover two types of damages for third-degree burn scars: economic and non-economic. 

Economic damages refer to direct monetary losses due to your third-degree burn injuries. These typically include medical bills and lost income. It’s also possible to get compensation for the future income you expect to lose if severe burns lead to permanent injuries. 

On the other hand, non-economic damages include losses that don’t have a specific monetary value. Typical examples include loss of consortium, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and scarring. 

What should you do after sustaining third-degree burn injuries?

Knowing what to do after sustaining a third-degree burn injury can help protect your well-being and a potential legal claim. Here are the steps you can take after a burn injury:

  • Seek immediate medical assistance. 
  • Document your third-degree burn injuries by taking photos or videos.
  • Keep a pain journal to monitor your feelings while recovering. 
  • Work closely with a qualified lawyer.