Scars that result from accidents are something that we see often in our line of work. How scars affect accident victims and affect a personal injury case are specific to each person, accident and injury. Our office specializes in personal injury cases in Massachusetts, so the scars we come across are typically caused by motor vehicle accidents, burns, surgical procedures, dog bites, and work related accidents. This article is an overview of scars and their impact on a personal injury case.
The Basics of Scars
Our skin is an amazing organ. When the skin is damaged, in an accident for example, scars are formed as our bodies naturally heal the damaged area of the skin. During the natural healing process, our bodies release a protein called collagen. This protein will mend or re-attach the skin where the cut or laceration occurred. Once the skin is re-attached, a crust or scab, then forms over the damaged area to protect it.
The scar is a result of a change in the skin tissues during the healing process. During the natural healing process our bodies will also fight any bacteria in an attempt to prevent infections. This is done by our white blood cells. This natural protection, however, can cause changes in our skin cells and may result in a more visible scar.
Common Types of Scars
Keloid Scars: With keloid scars, the natural healing process is excessive and creates a smooth, hard growth. These types of scars can generally become larger than the original injury or wound. These scars are usually very pronounced and cosmetically unpleasing. Surgical procedures are often used to try to remove or minimize these types of scars. These types of scars are very common with darker skin.
Hyperpigmentation: Hyperpigmentation is where the skin develops darker color compared to other non-damaged areas of the body. In other words, it causes discoloration of the skin. Sometimes these scars will fade with time and usually require some preventative care, such as the use of creams on the discolored area. We commonly see hyperpigmentation with burn injuries or lacerations.
Hypopigmentation: This kind of scar results from the absence of normal amounts of melanin. Melanin is a chemical that gives our skin its color. In incidents, such as a burn or scrape, normal amount of melanin is lost at the injured area and results in hypopigmentation. This results in skin discoloration. In a recent case we handled, a young boy was burned by extremely hot coffee at a nationally known fast food restaurant. This boy developed hypopigmentation at the burn location. One year following the accident, his physician determined that the scar is likely permanent. It was recommended that sun screen be put on the scar to prevent further injury or discoloration.
Contracture Scars: These scars are very common from burn accidents. With contracture scars, the skin will tighten or contract during the healing process and can affect the ability to move, depending on the location of the contracture scar. Sometimes, these scars can affect tissues below the skin, such as muscles and nerves.
Hypertrophic Scars: These scars appear similar to a keloid scar, but are more common. They usually don’t get as big as keloid scars, and can fade over time. They are very visible, but are not harmful other than being very unpleasing from a cosmetic standpoint.
There are a number of different treatment options that range from surgical procedures, steroid injections to gels and creams. The treatment depends on the severity of the scar. It is always recommended to discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Most injury clients seek opinions from plastic surgeons as well.
Common Causes of Scars
Damage to the skin can be caused a number of ways. We generally see scars from motor vehicle accidents. In a car crash, glass or other objects can cause lacerations or cuts to the skin. Depending on the severity of the cuts, scars can be rather large and pronounced from car crashes. We recently settled a case for $250,000 for a woman who was involved in a truck accident with an 18-wheeler that caused her a serious facial laceration. She required 45 stitches to close the laceration and was left with a large jagged, spider like scar to her forehead.
Similarly, we have seen scars that result from road rash suffered in a motorcycle accident. When a rider is struck and thrown across the pavement, any unprotected skin can be scraped on the asphalt causing serious wounds. The healing and formation of scar tissue often results and can be permanent.
Burns are another very common cause of scar formation. We have had many clients that have suffered burns by hot liquids and fires that can result in motor vehicle accidents. Recently, we successfully represented a woman, who suffered a very severe scar on her foot from the exhaust pipe of a motorcycle. This woman underwent two surgical debridement procedures and needed a wound VAC (Vacuum-assisted closure) to remove blood or serous fluid from the wound. Scars from burns can be very pronounced and permanent.
Surgical procedures to repair bones or other tissues can also result in scar formation. Generally, surgeons attempt to make incisions that will result in the least amount of scarring possible, but some scarring almost always results. We represented a young woman who slipped and fell on ice this past winter. She suffered a displaced fracture to her distal right radius. She underwent an open reduction internal fixation. The operation resulted in a rather severe scar on her arm.
Scars in Personal Injury Cases
Like any other injury, scars are compensable in Massachusetts. If someone is injured in an accident that was caused by another person, the accident victim is entitled to compensation for their injuries and losses. The issue with scars in a personal injury case is that it is often difficult to determine the value of a scar.
The amount of compensation a person is entitled to for scarring depends on a number of different factors. The age and sex of the accident victim is important in valuing a scar. Also, the location of the scar and how visible it is will also be important. For example, a scar on a young women’s face is more valuable than a scar on an elderly man’s leg. Also, how pronounced the scar is also plays a major role in determining what a scar is worth.
In Massachusetts, scars that result from work related accidents are handled much differently than in a typical personal injury case. In a workers’ compensation case, an injured worker can only be compensated for scars that are located on the hands, neck or face. In contrast, in a personal injury case, the location of the scar doesn’t matter, but will impact the amount of compensation for the scar.
Our office has extensive experience handling injury claims that involve scars. We work closely with doctors and plastic surgeons to help our injured clients and in order to obtain the medical documentation we need to support the settlements our clients deserve. Feel free to review the case results we have obtained for our clients.
Speak With Our Legal Team
If you, or someone you know, have been injured in an accident in Massachusetts and left with a scar, feel free to contact us. We are more than happy to answer any questions you have and explain to you your legal rights. To schedule a complementary meeting and case evaluation please call us at (508) 879-3500 or contact us online.