The purpose of a personal injury claim is to place the claimant “ back where they would have been but for the accident.” Lots of injuries can resolve with no permanent features however lacerations, burns, surgical procedures and wounds tend to leave a permanent mark which we cannot magic away namely “scarring”.
Scarring can typically take up to 2 years to become paler and flatter. Fine line scars are common following surgery but more unsightly scars can be common as a result of wound or infection.
If an accident has lead to a permanent scar, what recourse has a claimant? The claimant is entitled to claim general damages for pain suffering and loss of amenity as a result of the injury and resultant scar.
If the scar is unsightly then there is the possibility that the scar can be made neater by revision surgery. This is not readily available on the NHS as it is deemed to be cosmetic surgery. Thus if a scar is the result of a compensation claim then the claimant can claim for the cost of revision surgery as part of their claim for compensation- a financial loss.
Apart from revision surgery, the other treatments available such as the use of topical silicone therapy, physiotherapy for the scar tissue, over the counter creams such as Bio-Oil, can be expensive and costly during the 2 year typical healing process and again these medication costs will be included within the financial losses aspect of the claim.
Not all scars can be made neater, for example- the skin may be tethered, during the process of healing the skin may have failed to knit together and so there is the risk of further spreading of the scar if a second surgical procedure is undertaken, there may be areas of hyperasthesia which as a result makes a surgical procedure such as revision surgery unavailable. In addition not all claimants -particularly those who may have already undergone one or multiple surgical procedures -want to undergo scar revision surgery- so what then?
If despite all of the treatment options available a scar remains disfiguring and the Claimant is dis-satisfied by the scar, embarrassed, attempting to hide the same through clothing and/or avoiding activities as a result of the scarring then the claimant is entitled to consider the use of camouflage creams to disguise the same. Camouflage cream are specialist creams. It differs from ordinary cosmetics in that it has a greater opacity, therefore greater covering power. The opacity of the creams provides an effective sunscreen, although sun screen should also be worn under camouflage creams as additional protection. For an effective result the creams should be colour matched to the individual’s skin tone and Camouflage Specialists are trained in both the necessary technical skills and psychological impact of the disfigurement. An assessment should take place bi-annually initially to consider skin tones in Spring/Summer as opposed to Autumn/ Winter ( usually lasing 1 hour) and a re-assessment is recommended every 3 years due to change in skin tones and updated techniques and products. Camouflage products can be claimed for the entire life of the claimant and thus as this is a future loss it can be a significant sum within the financial losses aspect of the compensation claim.
Skin Camouflage expertise is available to men, women and children. It can be incredibly difficult to obtain a referral to a skin camouflage expert on the NHS due to limited resources, but a referral can be sought via a Plastic Surgeon during the compensation claim. Scarring can additionally cause great emotional distress and lead to a recognised psychiatric condition, thus again utilising the use of a camouflage expert during a claim can assist in the resolution of any psychological injury.
Seeking legal advice early within the claim can therefore greatly facilitate the recovery from all injuries, even those leaving a permanent mark.