In the state of California, accident victims who have suffered scarring or disfigurement due to negligence can be financially compensated for their injuries.
Disfigurement and scarring can occur from many types of accidents, such as serious automobile collisions with flying shattered glass, and injuries from airbags.
You could also be scarred permanently from a botched cosmetic surgery, and malpractice claim could be the appropriate legal action.
Serious disfigurements and facial scarring are especially noticeable and a daily reminder of a traumatic accident.
The civil laws of California authorize compensation for personal injuries that are the result of another's negligence.
That compensation typically comes from liability insurance, whether covering motor-vehicle accidents or accidents around the home, at work, or on commercial premises.
Liability insurers, though, don't pay for negligence. Insurers pay for damages. And scarring or disfigurement is one of the most compelling forms of damage for which insurers pay.
To make the most of your negligence claim for scarring or disfigurement, retain an experienced injury lawyer who knows how to prove those claims.
Don't let the insurer off easy. Ensure that they pay the full value of your scarring or disfigurement claim.
For more detailed information, our Los Angeles personal injury attorneys are reviewing the laws below.
The Law and Economics of Damages
California Civil Jury Instruction 3905A, like the laws and jury instructions of other states, specifically provides that a jury may award past and future non-economic damages for disfigurement.
Scarring or disfigurement is just one form of compensable damage among several other listed forms, including:
- physical pain,
- mental suffering,
- lost enjoyment of life,
- physical impairment,
- humiliation, and
- emotional distress.
Yet, scarring or disfigurement can be a most compelling form of damage because it is a visible form.
Pain isn't visible. Suffering isn't visible. But a facial scar or disfiguring condition is visible. Juries can see and appreciate the obvious impact of scarring and disfigurement.
And so can family members, friends, neighbors, employers, and strangers. Scarring and disfigurement change one's very appearance.
And with that change in appearance, scarring and disfigurement can also change one's self-image, confidence, and personality.
Indeed, scarring and disfigurement can change one's future. Studies show that good looks positively affect career success because they correlate with good health and personality.
Appearance makes a difference. Scarring and disfigurement can alter a person's mental and physical health and personality.
Types of Scarring and Disfigurement Injuries
Some scars and disfiguring injuries are mostly cosmetic, but other more serious catastrophic injuries could involve the loss of a limb.
Victims frequently suffer long-term pain and some injuries will cause a loss of mobility. There are some scars and disfigurements that can impact a victim's speech.
There are also psychological injuries from scar or disfigurement injuries as many victims are embarrassed by their visible injuries or the impact of their mobility and speech. Put simply, these type of serious injuries frequently cause psychological trauma.
There are a wide range of scarring and disfigurement injuries, including:
- visible scars of face, arms or hands,
- ear or eye damage,
- damage to mouth or teeth,
- burn injury scars,
- broken facial bones,
- partial paralysis,
- limited mobility,
- loss of a limb.
Factors that Determine Compensation
The compensatory value of a scarring and disfigurement claims will depend on different factors, such as:
- injury location,
- gender and age of victim,
- victim's occupation,
- emotional injury.
Clearly, the location of the injuries are important as visible injuries on the face or hands often result in more compensation.
The gender and age of the victim are also a factor as women tend to receive larger damages for scaring. Also, younger victims normally receive larger awards as compared to elderly victims due to the lasting impact of the injuries.
The psychological impact of scarring and disfigurement are substantial as the permanent changes to a victim's appearance often impact their self-esteem and confidence, causing depression.
There are some victims that depend on their physical appearance for their job, such as those who are models. Obviously, any type of scars could impact their ability to work and they will often receive higher financial compensation if they are scarred or disfigured by someone's negligence.
Types of Compensation You Can Recover
Scarring and disfigurement victims can recover financial compensation for their injuries, including all the medical expenses, such as:
- skin grafts,
- treatment for scar removal,
- plastic surgery,
- reconstructive surgery,
- rehabilitation and therapy,
- psychological counseling.
Further, victims can recover the cost of future treatment that means they don't have to wait until treatment is completed to file a lawsuit. Victims can also recover damages for:
- lost wages,
- reduced earning capacity,
- pain and suffering,
- emotional trauma,
- loss of enjoyment of life.
Victims can recover compensation for the mental suffering due to visible or long-term injuries.
Awards for damages due to scarring and disfigurement will often greatly vary. The actual amount often depends on location, severity, or visibility of the injuries. For example, permanent facial scars will typically result in larger awards.
Further, whether the scars or disfigurement are permanent could affect the amount of damages.
Our California scarring and disfigurement injury lawyers will review the circumstances of your injuries and how the impact on your life and seek the maximum compensation.
The Challenge of a Scarring or Disfigurement Claim
The litigation risk with a scarring or disfigurement claim, though, is that the liability insurer will under-value your claim.
Scarring or disfigurement doesn't necessarily keep a person from working or causing lost wages. It also doesn't necessarily require expensive medical treatment, causing substantial medical expense.
With a scarring or disfigurement claim, you may not be able to blackboard substantial out-of-pocket loss, as you would in the case of a broken arm or leg.
Liability claims representatives who evaluate and pay claims tend to value claims based on out-of-pocket loss. They thus tend to low-ball claimants on the value of scarring and disfigurement claims.
Yet scarring or disfigurement can be much worse in non-economic terms, like lifelong embarrassment, humiliation, and isolation, than a broken arm or leg.
And as the above jury instruction shows, non-economic damages like scarring and disfigurement are just as awardable as economic damages like wage loss and medical expenses.
Indeed, experience teaches that juries award two to three times as much in non-economic damages as they do in economic damages. Claimants need to make the right damages presentation to get the full value for a scarring or disfigurement claim.
The Challenges of Self-Representation
Some claimants believe that they can present and prove their own case, especially in a claim so obvious as scarring and disfigurement. The first challenge for the unrepresented claimant is to identify the responsible party:
- who is at fault for the scarring and disfigurement?
- what evidence proves that fault?
These questions are for skilled legal counsel, not the unrepresented party.
The second challenge for an unrepresented claimant is to identify the responsible liability insurer and convince that insurer that it should pay the claim. That step, too, is for skilled personal injury counsel.
Liability insurers are often happy to communicate with unrepresented claimants. The reason is that liability insurers know that unrepresented claimants generally have no clear sense of the value of their claims.
That shortfall can be especially true for scarring and disfigurement claims. Settlement amounts are generally confidential.
You can't generally find out the value of your claim from any public source. Instead, insurers share their settlement information privately among them, as do experienced personal injury attorneys.
The lawyers and insurers know the case values. Unrepresented claimants do not.
Liability insurers are happy to deal with unrepresented claimants because the insurers believe that they can settle claims for less than those claims are worth.
Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers Get Maximum Value
Skilled personal injury lawyers know the value of scarring and disfigurement claims. They also know how to prove the substantial value of a scarring or disfigurement claim.
Documenting the scarring or disfigurement with professional photography is an important start.
Civil laws in California and other states generally permit a claimant to show a scar or disfigurement to the jury in person. Such a showing can compel juror compassion for the injured claimant.
There's nothing like seeing a bad scar or disfigurement up close to appreciate its impact on personal appearance and image.
Yet when the claim's value depends on showing the scarring and disfigurement, one quick glance in person isn't enough. Professional photography is a better approach.
But getting full value for scarring or disfigurement is not just about the condition's off-putting or mortifying appearance.
Getting full value is just as much about the disfigurement's psychological, emotional, and social impacts.
To prove those impacts, the injured claimant may need a mental-health expert's examination, evaluation, and treatment.
At Injury Justice Law Firm, our experienced personal injury lawyers know those experts treating and examining psychologists, psychiatrists, and behavioral-health counselors who can testify to the alarming and damaging impacts of scarring and disfigurement.
If you sustained a scarring or disfigurement injury due to another person's negligence, we can help you recover compensation.
We have two office locations in Los Angeles County. Call our law firm at (818) 781-1570 for a free case evaluation, or use our contact form.