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Jenny Jones

Panel Senior Litigator

A guide to making a No Win No Fee laser skin resurfacing or rejuvenation negligence claim

The Department of Health recently estimated that the cost of cosmetic surgery in the UK would amount to 3.6 billion this year. Within this figure, non-surgical treatments, including laser skin resurfacing, account for 9 out of 10 procedures.

The practice is almost entirely unregulated and laser resurfacing-related?clinical negligence can lead to injury such as burns, scarring and infection. The estimated cost to the NHS of inadequate cosmetic laser treatments is over 2 million a year.

Like all non-surgical skin procedures, laser skin resurfacing or rejuvenation carries inherent risks. These risks mean a procedure can result in a negative outcome through no fault of the practitioner. However, if a negative outcome is the result of a laser treatment practitioner's negligence, it is likely that compensation can be claimed.

What is the law relating to laser skin resurfacing?

Anyone can perform laser skin resurfacing, in any premises, provided that suitable approved and medically-regulated equipment is used. Although practitioners of laser skin treatments are required to register with the Care Quality Commission (CQC), practitioners are not classified as regulated.

Wider regulations such as the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 do apply and are enforced by Local Authority bodies, such as Trading Standards. Although Trading Standards will investigate whether a premises conforms to health and safety standards, the body has only limited powers to sanction practitioners who breach the regulations.

The law recognises laser surgery practitioners as 'beauticians' rather than medical professionals, however these practitioners do still have a duty of care towards their clients.

If a person carrying out a procedure breaches this duty, and a patient is injured as a result, the practitioner may be liable to pay compensation in the event of a claim.

The importance of negligence in laser skin rejuvenation claims

Proving negligence in laser skin rejuvenation cases can be difficult, particularly if the patient was warned of the risks prior to undergoing treatment.

For a claim to be successful, it must be shown that the person carrying out the treatment caused the damage through negligence, rather than the injury being the result of a risk inherent to the procedure. Alternatively, it a claim may still succeed if the injury was the result of an inherent risk, but one that the patient was not informed about.

What are the risks of laser skin resurfacing?

Laser skin resurfacing or rejuvenation involves using an intense beam of light radiation to remove the outer layers of skin and encourage new skin growth. It is typically used for removing wrinkles, tightening skin and improving the look of scars and pigmentation.

Risks in terms of injury include:

  • Scarring
  • Darkening or lightening of pigmentation
  • Burns and blisters
  • Infection
  • Bruising
  • Prolonged redness

Not highlighting the risks prior to commencing treatment may amount to negligence. Other types of negligence commonly seen in these types of claims include:

  • Inappropriate use or overuse of the laser e.g. by holding it to close or for too long on the skin
  • Failure to properly assess a patient and their suitability for the treatment
  • Use of unregulated equipment
  • Inadequate health and safety procedures

What evidence is required to prove negligence?

Specific evidence is required to prove negligence in these types of claims. In particular, photographs are likely to be needed to show the visual extent of the injury.

A solicitor can arrange a medical assessment to determine the extent of the injury, and the likely prognosis. These two factors will help to determine an appropriate amount of compensation.