Scarring of the body is a normal and inevitable physiological outcome of many injuries, diseases and operations. It’s the body’s way of healing and protecting itself. Scars form by the body producing collagen fibres to mend the skin damage, resulting in scar tissue. Most scars fade over time, while others are permanent – particularly where the primary injury was deep.
Chicken pox often leads to small pockets of permanent scarring. A deep laceration to the skin is likely to lead to a permanent scar. Burns are one of the biggest causes of permanent scarring, and contact dermatitis caused by contact with corrosive chemicals in the workplace can result in severe scarring.
Unfortunately, there is no way in which scarring can be prevented. The risk of severe scarring in many cases can be reduced by keeping the site moist (many experts say you should apply petroleum jelly and keep the wound covered), but the scarring will not disappear completely.
Whilst many individuals are untroubled by their scars, others suffer potentially devastating physical and emotional problems. Their scars may be unsightly (essentially a form of disfigurement), or they are in a visible and awkward place on their body. Children are particularly vulnerable to the emotional effects of their scarring, and are likely to be very self-conscious.
The sight of a scar will, for many individuals, be a permanent reminder of the pain and trauma they have suffered, and coming to terms with their visible scars can take a long time. Many scarring victims suffer loss of self-esteem, their social life may be severely hampered, they may find it difficult to secure work or hold down a job, and their personal lives can be seriously affected. It’s a sad fact of life that there will always be individuals who are quick to judge others on their outward appearance, and so the effect on some victims can be catastrophic.
The amount of compensation you may receive for body scarring depends on the nature and extent of the scar. Under the Judicial College Guidelines, for instance, a number of noticeable laceration scars, or one disfiguring scar of the leg, arm, hand or back, could be compensated up to £21,330.
Several superficial scars of a limb or hand with minor cosmetic deficit may be compensated up to £7,350. At the other end of the scale, a young claimant with severe facial scarring causing serious disfigurement and psychological issues may be compensated up to the value of £91,350.
If your scarring has resulted from an injury that you sustained through no fault of your own, you should be able to claim compensation. The circumstances in which scarring has resulted varies widely: your scar may have followed an animal bite or a burn, a road traffic accident, or a carelessly performed medical procedure. But whatever the circumstances, the principle remains that you can make a scarring claim against the person or organisation responsible if they were negligent, and this resulted in the injury that caused your scarring.
In most cases, scarring is a secondary injury which has resulted from the primary injury, such as a cut or a burn. Fortunately, the courts recognise the impact permanent scarring can have on someone’s life.
To make a compensation claim, your lawyer will need to obtain medical records and at least one expert medical report (probably from a cosmetic surgeon) to explain various matters, including the severity of the injuries/scarring, the degree of the scarring and whether it causes any discomfort, and stating what cosmetic surgery (if any) could help.
It is highly likely you will also need an expert psychological report assessing the impact of the scarring on your mental and emotional health and well-being. This expert evidence is vital to ensure you secure the compensation you deserve.
No matter how your scarring arose, compensation should be available if negligence was involved. However, you must start your claim within 3 years (unless the victim is a child), otherwise you may lose the chance to claim compensation.
If you were the victim of a crime, for instance, an acid attack or stabbing, you’re unlikely to be able to claim compensation for negligence against the perpetrator. However, you could claim compensation for your scarring from the government-funded Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Note that your claim for criminal injuries compensation must be started within two years of the incident.
If you or someone close to you has been injured and now has permanent scarring, speak to an expert personal injury lawyer about pursuing compensation. Most will work on a no win no fee basis, which means there is little risk financially to starting a claim.
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