When Can You Sue for Scarring or Disfigurement?

We all have physical and emotional scars. Some of them heal quickly, some remain with us forever, and we mostly accept that getting hurt is part of life. But what if you end up scarred or disfigured due to the negligence of another?

Then, it’s a little harder to accept. You want to sue the person and make them pay. Can you? The answer will depend on the extent of your scarring and the context in which it arose.

Suing for Scarring

People certainly do sue for scarring, even when the scar is the result of a surgery and the doctor claims to have warned the patient of the potential mark remaining. But every state has different statutes and case law that judges look to when making a decision.

For example, in a New Jersey automobile accident injury case, Soto v. Scaringelli, the state’s high court had to determine what is significant scarring for the purposes of a statute limiting non-economic damages. The court made this determination by looking at state law precedent and determined that the plaintiff was not significantly disfigured as defined by New Jersey law.

The court wrote that the significant scarring or disfigurement threshold was met “only if an objectively reasonable person would regard the scar or disfigurement as substantially detracting from the automobile accident victim’s appearance, or so impairing or injuring the beauty, symmetry, or appearance of a person as to render him or her unsightly, misshapen, or imperfect.”

As you can see, that is a very high standard, and calls upon a court to determine that a plaintiff is indeed unsightly, misshapen, or imperfect, which is a little awkward. In any case, that’s only one statute, one state, and one type of injury. There are many others and people do recover for scarring and disfigurement that is caused by the negligence of another.

Not Warned?

A scarring suit is likely to arise after a surgery, say, and if you were not warned that the procedure would leave you permanently marked, you might sue for your scar. The likelihood of recovery depends on a number of factors. Was the procedure medically necessary? Were you warned of risks and potential permanent marks? Is the scar somehow unusual for this particular procedure?

Some patients have even sued for scars that they deemed malicious. One blind Native American man sued a surgeon for scarring on his stomach that he said was racially motivated and racist. The patient said he was told by others that his scars looked like they said “KKK,” short for the Ku Klux Klan.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you or someone you know has been scarred or disfigured in an accident, due to surgery, or in any other context, talk to a lawyer. Many injury attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case.

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