Comparing Scarring Injuries: Different Types and Legal Significance

One of the most visible signs that you’ve been in an accident, or some other type of incident that leads to a personal injury, can be scarring. Virtually any injury that damages your skin, from cuts and abrasions to burns from fire or chemicals, can potentially leave a visible scar or other disfigurement. If the incident that caused your scarring—traffic accident, medical malpractice, defective or unsafe product, a slip and fall, etc.—was due to the fault or negligence of another party, you may be able to sue that party for damages.

There are several considerations that help decide whether you are eligible for compensation, including types and location of scars, long-term outlook, and how egregious the negligent party who caused the incident was.

Types of Scars

  • Flat Scar—What many people think of when they hear the word scar. Often the result of a cut or wound, a flat scar often starts off raised, then gradually flattens as the wound heals. Once healed, the scar may be slightly darker or lighter than your overall skin tone.
  • Depressed (Atrophic) Scar—As the name suggests, these scars happen when the skin cannot regenerate tissue, and appear as a depression in the skin.
  • Keloid Scar—Thick, raised, misshapen tissue lumps that grow beyond the site of a wound. Often dark in color, keloid scars can be very noticeable. It’s important to note that a keloid scar may take up to a year to form after the wound happens.
  • Raised (Hypertrophic) Scar—Similar in appearance to a keloid scar, except raised scars do not grow past the borders of the initial wound.
  • Contracture Scar—Usually the result of a burn, contracture scars cause the skin to constrict, pulling muscles, tendons, and tissue together. These can be truly debilitating scars, causing pain and restricting movement.

Scar Location

As a rule, in order for scarring from a personal injury to be a contributing factor to compensation, the scars need to be large enough and in a location to be clearly visible, such as the face, hands, arms, and legs. In other words, if they can be seen when a person is wearing a short sleeved shirt or shorts. Facial scarring, not surprisingly, is considered the worst location.

However, there are other scarring factors involved that can also contribute. Scars on some parts of the body, such as joints, can hamper mobility, and they can also cause nerve damage.

Additionally, scarring can contribute to a variety of psychological and emotional issues, including PTSD. Many people are embarrassed by the scarring, and as a visible reminder of the incident that caused it, it can lead to ongoing, persistent trauma. It may make it hard for the victim to keep or form relationships. Mental anguish can be a very real result of any personal injury incident, particularly when scarring is involved, and should never be discounted.

Other Factors

There are other factors besides scar location that can affect the amount of a potential settlement due to scarring, including:

  • How permanent the scarring is. There are some treatments available to help reduce the visibility of scarring, including surgery. If your scars cannot be lessened by treatment, that can add to a settlement amount.
  • How disfiguring the scarring is.
  • Age—younger victims tend to receive larger monetary settlements.
  • Gender—female victims of facial scarring often receive higher settlement amounts.

Types of Recoverable Damages

  • Treatment—Scarring often requires extensive, even long-term medical treatment—hospital, doctor, and specialist care; psychological therapy; physical therapy and rehabilitation; cosmetic surgery; and more.
  • Earnings—Lost wages due to missed work from medical appointments, recuperation time, etc.
  • Lost capacity to earn a living—If you’re not able to work due to the severity of the scarring, you may be able to sue for lost earning capacity.
  • Pain and suffering—Pain and suffering is an umbrella term for things like emotional and mental distress, anxiety, and depression. Think of it as anything that lessens your quality of life.

Be Sure to Document Your Scars

Be absolutely sure that your scarring/disfigurement has been noted by your doctor in your medical records. If the scarring is also hampering your mobility in any way, that should be noted as well. Having your injury officially documented in your medical records gives your lawyer ammunition to work with.

Recovery Limits

  • Compensatory Damages—The Ohio Revised Code sets no limits on compensatory damages, which is money that compensates for actual economic loss by the injured party. Damages for non-economic losses may not exceed $250,000 or three times the economic loss, whichever is greater, but cannot exceed $350,000.
  • Punitive Damages—If the situation that caused your scarring was particularly egregious, you may also be able to sue for punitive damages. Ohio caps punitive damages at twice the amount of compensatory damages.

Hire the Right Attorney for the Job

Personal injury lawsuits due to visible scarring/disfigurement as the result of an accident or medical malpractice are not just complex and nuanced. They can be emotionally challenging because of the embarrassment many victims feel. You need a scarring and injury attorney who understands that, one experienced enough to guide you every step of the way, with the staff and resources necessary to help you recover the largest settlement possible.

If you or a loved one have suffered a scarring injury due to another party’s fault or negligence, contact the attorneys at LaSalvia Law. We will fight to win you the compensation you deserve.

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