Almost everyone will get at least one scar over the course of their lives. Scars can be the result of a routine surgery or an accident. However, if a scar is the result of someone else’s negligence, it’s often a more traumatic experience. While scars are proof that your body is healing, they can lead to self-confidence issues, especially if they’re on a visible part of your body, like your face. Deep scars can also reduce the body’s natural tissues and restrict movement.
When an accident causes an injury that involves a scar, many factors come into play when pursuing compensation in a Virginia personal injury lawsuit. This article will explore typical accidents that can lead to scar injuries, the types of scars, scar treatments, and how compensation is determined.
Types of Accidents That Can Cause Scars
Some of the most common personal injury cases centered around scarring are dog bites, burn injuries, and degloving injuries involving the arms or legs.
There are about 4.7 million dog bite cases in the U.S. every year. About 800,000 are serious enough for medical intervention.
Most dog bites are due to some form of owner negligence, and even the most gentle, non-aggressive breeds can attack seemingly out of nowhere if they feel threatened or afraid.
Dog bites are frequently to the face, which can leave terrible physical and mental scars. Victims may also develop post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by seeing a dog, which can reduce their quality of life.
Burn injuries kill the skin cells in the affected area. Damaged skin repairs itself by producing collagen, which thickens and discolors the skin, resulting in a scar. First-degree burns usually heal on their own without lasting scars, but second and third-degree burns usually leave permanent scars. People with severe burn injuries often develop anxiety and depression stemming from their disfigured appearance.
A degloving injury is any traumatic injury in which the top layers of skin and tissue are torn away from the underlying muscle, bone, or tissue. These are most often seen in the legs or arms and can cause life-threatening or fatal blood loss and tissue death. Common causes include motor vehicle accidents, construction accidents, falls, sports injuries, and animal bites.
These injuries are classified as open or closed. Open means the muscles and bones underneath the separated skin are exposed, with the skin possibly still attached. Closed means the top layer of skin is intact but still severed from the tissue underneath.
Types of Scars
Scars can result from infection, injury, inflamed tissue, or surgery. They may be painful or itchy and look flat, sunken, or lumpy. Their ultimate appearance depends on location, skin condition, type of injury/wound, and overall patient health.
There are several categories of scars.
- Atrophic (depressed) – Appear as rounded pits or indentations; found most commonly on the face after chickenpox or acne.
- Contracture – Common with burns, these tighten the skin and restrict movement, especially when the scar forms over a joint or penetrates muscles or nerves.
- Hypertrophic (raised) – Scars you can feel while running a finger over them. It might shrink but will never be completely flat. It will stay confined to the wounded area.
- Keloids – Raised/large scars formed when the body continues to produce healing tissue after formation; can spread and affect movement.
- Flat – Often pink or red, these scars may start raised but flatten as they heal and become lighter/darker than the surrounding skin.
- Adhesions – Internal scar tissue formed during surgery between unconnected organs.
Similar to adhesions, Morel-Lavallée lesions (MLLs) are enlarged pockets between body tissue that can form after surgical complications. These are typically accompanied by pain, tightness, and desensitized skin.
MLLs represent a closed degloving injury. They are usually caused by blunt force trauma or crush injuries that can occur in severe truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, or train accidents. Diagnosis and treatment of many MLLs are often delayed, which can lead to long-term problems.
Treatment Options For Scars
The treatment a patient will need for a scar depends on the type of injury, the severity, and the prognosis. Here are some of the most common scar-minimizing treatments.
- Chemical peels – A chemical solution is applied to the top layer of skin, which forces the skin to regenerate. They are used for superficial scars.
- Dermabrasion – A machine removes the top layers of skin, revealing smoother and fresher skin underneath. Used for surgical, acne, and other small scars.
- Collagen injections – Purified cow collagen is injected underneath the skin to replace lost natural collagen.
- Cortisone injections – Often used to soften and shrink keloid and hypertrophic scars.
- Laser resurfacing – High-energy light waves burn away damaged skin; often used on hypertrophic scars.
- Surgical scar revision – Creating a less obvious scar by completely removing the original scar and rejoining the skin. Suitable for larger scars, very visible scars, or scars that healed abnormally.
- Punch grafts – A hole is punched in the skin to remove the scar, which is then filled with unscarred skin from another body part (e.g., back of the earlobe). Good for deep scars.
- Radiation therapy – Seldom-used alternative for treatment-resistant scars.
More severe scars from burns or degloving injuries that may restrict movement require treatment with significant recovery time. Third-degree burns may need a skin graft, in which healthy skin from another body part is transferred to the burned areas. These can take months or years to heal. Surgery and physical therapy can relieve the pressure of contracture and keloid scars and teach patients how to regain motion.
Severe burns can lead to infection, dehydration, low body temperature, and muscle/tissue damage – all things that will continue to drive up medical expenses.
Determining Compensation for Scars
Accidents that lead to catastrophic injuries will likely require surgery. Surgery may lead to more scarring externally and often internally, which can heal incorrectly and lead to chronic and devastating health conditions.
As each case and client is unique, various factors must be considered when determining the amount of money needed to fully compensate for a scar. These include age, gender, and location of the scar.
In a case where the victim’s scarring or injury is permanent, Virginia’s codified life expectancy table is crucial to proving how long the plaintiff is likely to live with the scar and how much compensation will make them whole again. For example, an elderly male with a facial scar will receive less compensation than a young female with the same scar.
The cost and involvement of the scar treatment – e.g., a chemical peel versus adhesions that need physical therapy — is also considered.
Cases involving children and permanent scarring are especially tragic. In a 2020 study on the outcomes of pediatric dog bites, 45 patients ranging in age from 14 months to 14 years were tracked after different levels of surgery. Of the 18 patients treated in the operating room, 44% had tissue loss, 11% developed infections, and 67% came out with unfavorable scarring.
A 2008 University of Manchester study interviewed 34 scarred patients between the ages of 14 and 70 about the physical, social and emotional toll their scars had taken. The majority had been adversely affected by perceived stigma and other psychological factors and became less able to manage personal/professional relationships, enjoy leisure time, and communicate with others. Visible scars/disfigurement can make it harder for victims to find a job or a spouse or even go out in public.
Successful lawsuits for scar injuries include compensation for medical expenses, physical pain, mental anguish, and inconvenience related to the scar. If you’ve suffered scarring or disfigurement due to another party’s negligence, the dedicated Virginia personal injury lawyers at Curcio Law are here to help. Contact us online for a free, confidential consultation, or call or text anytime at 703-836-3366.
Tom Curcio has devoted his career to representing people seriously injured or killed in car, pedestrian, bicycle, and truck crashes, and by dangerous dogs, unsafe products, and premises. He works tirelessly to obtain the compensation his clients are legally entitled to so they may rebuild their lives with dignity. Tom is the co-author of the book Evidence For The Trial Lawyer, and a much sought-after speaker on personal injury, trial practice, evidence, and professionalism. Contact Tom at email@example.com.