A guide to making a No Win No Fee scar injury claim
Around 23 million adults in the UK have some sort of scar. The majority of scars are minor and would not be visible to anyone at a distance. However, figures released by the charity Changing Faces indicate that one million people in the UK have at least one significant scar to the body or face.
Scars may not affect an individual's ability to work or day-to-day life in a physical sense, but the Courts do recognise the effect a scar can have on someone's life.
Compensation awards and settlements therefore a calculated to take into account these factors. Total amounts can be high for visible scars or those which have otherwise had a psychological impact.
Common scar compensation claims
Scars are considered to be a 'secondary injury', meaning that they arise as a consequence of the healing process following a primary injury to the skin. Such injuries include:
- A laceration, for example, cuts sustained in a road traffic accident or from work machinery, such as an angle grinder injury.
- A scald or burn injury
- Contact dermatitis, caused by repeated exposure to hazardous substances at work.
- Friction burns, such as the scarring that occurs to knees, elbows, arms and hands after a trip and fall accident onto fibrous material like a carpet.
When calculating damages for facial or bodily scarring, the Courts do not take into account the primary injury or the nature of the accident that caused the primary injury. Compensation awards are calculated solely by reference to the severity of the scarring and the impact it has on the Claimant's life.
However, for the purposes of bringing a compensation claim, the cause of the accident does matter. The injury lawyer must prove that the Defendant negligently caused the accident, and that the primary injury and subsequent scarring arose as a result of the accident.
Assessing the severity of a scar
It is difficult to predict whether a primary injury will result in a scar. The depth of the primary injury will influence the healing process, but other facts, including the age and gender of the patient will also play a part.
As an initial step, the injury lawyer will commission one or more medical reports to ascertain whether permanent scarring is likely. A cosmetic surgeon or other specialist will:
- Examine the Claimant's injuries
- Describe how severe those injuries are
- Refer to photographs of the primary injury and the scarring
- Describe the degree of scarring
- Ascertain whether the scars cause pain or discomfort
- Give a prognosis of the future symptoms
- Confirm whether further treatments such as surgery, skin grafts or laser therapy are required to reduce the appearance of the scar tissue.
This report will be used as a basis for the scar injury compensation claim.
It is recognised that scar injuries have a strong psychological component. Many people struggle to come to terms with the change in their appearance, especially where the accident causes permanent changes to the face. In most cases, a psychologist will also conduct an examination. The report will be used to support a claim for the psychological impact of the scar injuries.
Determining liability for scar injuries
Many different types of accident can cause scarring to the body and/or face. Determining who is legally responsible depends on the nature of the accident and the law that surrounds accidents of the type that caused the injuries.
The Claimant's solicitor will gather evidence to establish that:
- The Defendant owed the Claimant a duty of care
- The Defendant did something, or failed to do something, which breached that duty
- The Defendant's actions caused primary injury that led to the scarring.
The person liable in law for the accident will be responsible for paying the compensation. Where an employer or a driver is legally responsible for the accident, the compensation usually will be paid by their insurance company.
How much compensation can you claim for scar injuries?
The starting point for assessing damages for a scar is usually the Judicial College Guidelines. The guidelines set out financial parameters for scar injuries by reference their severity, for example, the part of the body that is affected and whether surgery is required to reduce the appearance of the scar tissue.
Under the guidelines,
- A single large scar or several small scars to the limbs or torso which are visible but not too noticeable might receive compensation between £1,500 and £5,500.
- A large noticeable scar to the back, chest, legs or arms may result in a payout between £5,500 and £16,000.
Facial scarring is calculated according to a different tariff. See facial scarring below.
The compensation award covers financial losses as well as damages for the physical injuries. For example, a claim may be made for:
- Loss of earnings
- Loss of future earnings if Claimant is disadvantaged when looking for another job
- Medical costs
- Travel costs
- Personal care costs.
Additional compensation for facial scarring
The Courts recognise that facial scarring is more visible than scarring to other parts of the body. Compensation awards are typically much higher for facial scarring, regardless of the accident type.
The precise amount of compensation depends on a number of factors, including:
- The severity of the injury. The more disfiguring the facial scarring, the higher the award.
- Gender. The Courts consider that facial appearance is more important to women than it is to men. Therefore, the compensation for a facial disfigurement will be greater for a woman than a man.
- Age. Younger Claimants tend to receive larger compensation awards than older Claimants. This is because younger people have to live with the disfigurement for a longer period and often are more self conscious about their appearance.
Under the Judicial College Guidelines:
- Minor facial scarring may result in a compensation payout between £1,300 and £2,700, regardless of gender.
- Facial scarring which is visible from a short distance may receive damages between £3,000 and £13,000 for a man; between £3,000 and £22,000 for a woman.
- Severe facial scarring with a high degree of disfigurement may receive damages of up to £47,000 for a man and up to £75,000 for a woman.
How does No Win, No Fee work for scar injury compensation claims?
A No Win, No Fee agreement, or Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA), comprises an important piece of almost all injury claims.
The CFA sets out the service the lawyer will deliver and a percentage-based "success fee". This will be the percentage that will be deducted from the total compensation once the case is won.
By choosing a Quittance personal injury solicitor, you will be able to focus on your recovery, knowing that you will never be out of pocket and there will be nothing whatsoever to pay at the outset.
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