In the aftermath of accidents like car crashes, dog bites, workplace accidents, or violent assaults, the consequences often extend beyond the initial injury. Severe lacerations, burns, or trauma can result in permanent scarring, altering one’s physical appearance and causing emotional distress. These scars, whether on the face or body, serve as constant reminders of the pain endured and the hurdles faced on the path to recovery.
The psychological toll of scarring and disfigurement can be immense, which is why Alabama allows injury victims and survivors to seek compensation for these types of losses. They fall under the category of “general damages” (also called “non-economic damages”), along with pain and suffering.
Scarring as a compensable loss
Scarring is a natural part of the body’s healing process after an injury or wound. It occurs when the skin or underlying tissues repair themselves following damage. Scars typically have a different texture and color compared to the surrounding skin. They can range from pale and flat to raised and noticeable, depending on factors like the depth and size of the original injury.
Scars can result from various causes, such as accidents, surgeries, burns, acne, or other skin conditions. Essentially, any injury that damages the skin’s deep layers can lead to scarring.
There are different types of scars, including:
- Keloid scars. Raised, thick, and often larger than the original wound.
- Hypertrophic scars. Raised but typically smaller than keloid scars.
- Atrophic scars. Indented or depressed scars, like those left by acne. Injuries can also leave these types of scars.
- Contracture scars. Often the result of burns, these scars can cause skin tightening and restrict movement.
Scars can sometimes be treated to reduce their visibility. Treatments may include topical creams, laser therapy, surgical revision, or other medical procedures. Scars may significantly affect a person’s appearance or quality of life, depending on their size and location.
Disfigurement as a compensable loss
Disfigurement refers to a more severe alteration of a person’s physical appearance or bodily structure. Disfigurement can impact their physical features or bodily functions. It often goes beyond the characteristics of a scar.
Disfigurement can result from a range of causes, including severe accidents, burns, birth defects, diseases, surgical complications, or traumatic injuries.
Disfigurement can manifest in various forms, such as:
- Facial disfigurement. Loss of hair, teeth, eyes, or nose are all examples of disfigurement. Permanent damage to the facial bones, including the jaw, is as well.
- Bodily disfigurement. This can include loss of limb, changes in bodily appearance because of burns, or the need for medical or other implants.
- Functional disfigurement. This is when disfigurement affects a person’s ability to use certain body parts or perform daily activities. This can include loss of mobility, speech, hearing, and/or use of one’s arms. In some cases, people may suffer chronic pain associated with their disfigurement, which leaves them unable to function.
Treating disfigurement may involve reconstructive surgery, physical therapy, prosthetic devices, or other specialized interventions, depending on the cause and extent of the disfigurement. Disfigurement often has a significant psychological and emotional impact on individuals. It can affect self-esteem, social interactions, and mental well-being.
How are damages calculated for scarring and disfigurement?
Being marked for life by a traumatic experience caused by someone else’s negligence is a high price to pay. It changes the way people look at you and how you experience the rest of the world. It may trigger depression and anxiety, feelings of seclusion, and a loss in self-esteem. Certain job opportunities may no longer be available to you, and already-existing relationships may change. It is clear that while someone may be physically healed from an injury (though scarring and disfigurement can hamper a person’s ability to perform certain activities due to stiffness or pain), the mental and societal damage is still ongoing.
All pain and suffering is compensatory in Alabama, but scarring and disfigurement are different because they are permanent, and they affect everything in your life: your ability to work, your interactions with other people, your ability to communicate, and more. Facial scarring and disfigurement may be considered more “severe” by a judge or jury because your face is the first thing a person sees. Your age and sex could potentially affect the outcome, too. We believe you should know these things up front. We also believe that you should know we will fight for the best possible outcome for you, no matter who you are or how you are injured.
What accidents most commonly cause scarring and disfigurement?
Scarring and disfigurement can result from a wide range of accidents and incidents. Here are some common types of accidents that can lead to scarring and disfigurement:
- Vehicle accidents: Collisions involving a car, truck, motorcycle, cyclist or pedestrian can cause a variety of injuries, including lacerations, burns, and fractures, which may result in scarring or disfigurement.
- Heat-related accidents: Severe burns, such as those from fires, chemical exposure, scalding accidents, hot liquid spills, contact with hot objects, or electrical accidents, can cause extensive scarring and disfigurement. Explosions, whether in industrial settings or due to other factors, can lead to severe injuries, including burns and disfigurement.
- Workplace accidents: Industrial accidents, machinery malfunctions, and construction site accidents can lead to injuries resulting in scarring or disfigurement.
- Dog bites: Dog attacks can cause deep puncture wounds and tissue damage, which may result in permanent scarring or disfigurement.
- Medical procedures: Surgical errors or complications during medical procedures, such as cosmetic surgery or medical treatments, can lead to scarring and disfigurement.
- Sports and recreational accidents: High-impact sports, recreational activities, or accidents like falls can result in facial and bodily injuries leading to scarring or disfigurement.
- Assault and violence: Physical assaults, including those involving weapons, can cause injuries leading to scarring and disfigurement.
- Boating accidents: Boating accidents involving propeller injuries or collisions can cause significant scarring or disfigurement.
- Falls: Falls from heights or slip and fall accidents can result in facial and bodily injuries that may lead to scarring or disfigurement.
If you are a victim of an accident or attack, and it has left you scarred and/or disfigured, know that you are not alone. The party responsible for causing those scars can be made to pay by filing a personal injury lawsuit against them. At Martin & Helms, we understand the emotional and mental toll these injuries can lead to. Not only do you have to deal with any other injuries caused by the accident, but now these longer-lasting ones as well. Let our attorneys help you. To schedule a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call us at our offices in Huntsville and Decatur, or use our contact page. We also proudly serve our clients in Madison and Athens, AL.