Helping Victims with Scars and Disfigurement


Recently in the news, was a story of a Canadian woman who, at the age of two, suffered serious burns on her face, which later motivated her to develop a unique technique to camouflage scarring which she calls paramedical tattooing (CTV News, Sept13, 2016). Her injury was caused when her brother tripped and accidentally spilled hot oil on her face. The woman, Basma Hameed, told of having to struggle with depression, bullying and embarrassment as she was growing up, which made it difficult to go to school and interact with friends. She underwent a number of surgeries which were, unfortunately, unsuccessful. As a result, and against her physician’s advice, Ms. Hameed tried tattooing her face to cover up the scars using a natural skin tone.  Ms. Hameed says that she has perfected the procedure and has now helped thousands of patients at her Toronto clinic.

We do not advocate any particular type of treatment, as treatment is a very personal decision and is generally only embarked on in consultation with a physician, dermatologist and/or another healthcare professional. However, what is clear from Ms. Hameed’s narrative, aside from the inspriational story of a woman who found ways to overcome challenge in her life, is that a person with scars or a disfiguring injury has substantial challenges that may impact their quality of life.

In Canada, motor vehicle accidents are one of the most common causes of scars and disfigurement, but disfigurement can also result from accidents within the home, particularly burns, as well as sports injuries and other traumatic incidents.  Injuries involving scarring and disfigurement are generally extremely painful, both physically and psychologically. When someone is scarred, particularly on a part of the body readily seen by others, it can affect their self-image and the way they interact with the outside world.

The Impact of Scars and Disfigurement

Generally, we consider our faces to be key components of our body image and even our personality.  The face is the area of the body by which we are immediately recognizable and it is the focus of our interactions and communications with other people.  Small wonder then that acquired facial trauma can have a huge impact on body image and can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression.  It is also not uncommon for a person suffering from facial scars and disfigurement to become socially withdrawn and isolated.

In a 2010 report for the U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), researchers found that individuals with scars and disfigurement are more likely to experience unexplained pain symptoms, body image issues, stigmatization, and a lower quality of, and satisfaction with life.  Sufferers also report more problems in marital relations, work, and social interactions.  Also notable is that the NCBI study found no significant correlation between the degree of disfigurement and the severity and type of psychological injuries.  

NCBI notes that there have been a number of studies showing evidence of PTSD for victims of facial trauma. In addition to the challenges of living with scars and disfigurement, PTSD sufferers often re-experience their feeling of trauma, both while awake and in dreams; they exhibit avoidance thoughts and behaviours in relation to the source of the trauma; and they have other symptoms, such as insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.  For someone who suffered trauma in a motor vehicle accident, a typical avoidance behaviour is a fear of even getting into a car, as well as fear of driving.

Treatments

There are a number of treatments available for someone who has suffered scarring or disfigurement, and accident victims often undergo multiple and varying treatments.  Victims of disfigurement often undergo surgery and sometimes, multiple surgeries. The type treatment available for scarring and disfigurement is dependant on a number of factors including the severity of the scarring, the person’s age, medical history, and overall health.  However, most treatments only improve the appearance of a scar; they don’t eliminate it. 

  • Surgery is used to change the positioning, width or shape of a scar.  It involves removing an entire scar and rejoining the skin, with the objective of creating a scar that is less obvious. It can also improve movement by releasing a tight scar that is on, or close to a joint. 
  • Corticosteroid injections and collagen injections may be used to reduce the swelling and redness so that a scar is less apparent.
  • Cryosurgery involves freezing the top layer of skin to reduce the size of scars.
  • Punch grafts are small skin grafts that can be used to replace scarred skin with unscarred skin, taking it from other parts of the body, often the back of an earlobe.
  • Laser resurfacing burns away damaged skin using high-energy light.
  • Chemical peels use chemicals to destroy the top layer of the scarred skin to shrink the scar.
  • Autologous fat transfer entails taking fat from another part of the body and injecting under the surface of the scarred area to elevate a depressed scar.
  • Makeup is also often used to disguise scarred tissue

In Schoenhalz v. Reeves, an injured woman sought damages arising from a car accident in which she was a passenger.  She was only 17 years old at the time of the accident, and as well as fractured vertebrae, she sustained facial injuries, injuries to her teeth and third-degree burns on her right leg and buttocks. In addition to the long-term physical effects of her injuries, the young woman suffered significant emotional and psychological problems, in large part resulting from her scarring injuries, which affected her later marriage and social interactions. The driver of the car was found negligent and damages for the plaintiff were assessed at over $350,000, including $150,000 for non-pecuniary damages (for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life).

If you sustained scarring or disfigurement injuries in an accident caused by a negligent party, you are entitled to claim for losses arising from your injury. This includes, but is not limited to, medical/rehabilitation expenses or out-of-pocket expenses involved in your recovery, lost income, family expenses, and general damages for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. At Burn Tucker Lachaîne, our compassionate and knowledgeable lawyers are here to support and help you and your family throughout the claims process.  Call us today for a free consultation to find out about the strength of your claim and what is involved in obtaining deserved compensation.


Sources:
www.ctvnews.ca/health/canadian-develops-paramedical-tattooing-to-hide-scars-1.3071162
www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010784/
dermatology.columbia.edu/conditions/scars.html

 

By Laurie Tucker of Burn Tucker Lachaîne Personal Injury Lawyers on November 12, 2016
Tags: Car Accidents, Free Consultation, Negligence, Personal Injury, Serious Injury