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Protections Under North Carolina Personal Injury Law for Permanent Scarring and Disfigurement


Car crashes, tractor-trailer wrecks, dog bite attacks, burn events, and other traumatic incidents caused by negligent conduct can result in very bad wounds. Many of those wounds will ultimately turn into permanent physical scars. Insurance adjusters regularly undervalue the physical pain, mental suffering, annoyance, embarrassment, and frustration of long-term scars and disfigurement. Maginnis Law attorney Shawn Howard is experienced in representing North Carolinians who have sustained permanent scarring and disfigurement as a consequence of someone else’s negligence.

Under North Carolina law, a plaintiff seeking compensation for bodily injury negligence is entitled to various jury instructions by the trial judge that pertain to the particular harms that he or she has suffered. Some examples of the topics include jury instructions pertaining to medical expenses and lost wages. There is also an instruction that is specific to permanent scarring. Along with this permanent scarring and disfigurement instruction, a victim who has suffered permanent scarring may also ask the judge for instructions pertaining to physical pain, mental suffering, and future medical expenses related to any necessary plastic surgery procedures. Insurance companies should consider all of these elements of harm when making a settlement offer. Often times, however, they do not take into consideration the full consequences serious scarring.

North Carolina’s pattern jury instruction on permanent scarring and disfigurement is found at N.C.P.I. – Civil 810.10. The instruction provides in part as follows:

“Damages for personal injury also include fair compensation for [scarring] [disfigurement] of the plaintiff as a [proximate result of the negligence] of the defendant. There is no fixed formula for placing a value on [scarring] [disfigurement]. You must determine what is fair compensation by applying logic and common sense to the evidence. You may consider: [the extent of any [past] [present] [future] alteration of the plaintiff’s physical appearance [proximately caused by the negligence] of the defendant . . . [and] [the extent of any [past] [present] [future] embarrassment and mental suffering [proximately caused by the negligence of the defendant].”

This instruction gives the jury wide latitude in determining appropriate compensation for permanent scarring. The insurance company does not just get to arbitrarily pick some low, inadequate number. If the case cannot be settled, it is ultimately up to the jury to decide fair compensation. Insurance companies have a difficult time estimating exactly what the jury will award – as no one can predict with 100% certainty what amount a particular group of 12 people will allow as its verdict. Nevertheless, insurance companies usually make artificially low offers in the hope that the victim will think the insurer have some special formula and will, as a result, accept the offer. This is an area where good legal work can make the difference between a low first offer from the insurer and a final resolution that is fairer to the victim. One way Maginnis Law tries to ensure that each of our clients who have permanent scars are fairly compensated is by making sure they are evaluated by a plastic surgeon who can describe in detail the nature of any scars and create an estimate of future plastic surgery costs. These evaluations have proven very helpful in negotiating a more favorable settlement for a client. Adequate photography and video of scars, and of any painful physical therapy or scar treatment necessary to heal the scar, is also very important.

If you have suffered any permanent scars as a result of someone else’s negligence, attorney Shawn Howard at Maginnis Law may be able to assist you in recovering full and fair compensation, not simply the first offer made by the insurance company. Our firm offers free consultations to prospective personal injury clients. If we are able to assist you, we will offer to handle your case on a contingency fee basis – this means that you pay no attorneys’ fees unless and until we recover compensation for you. To speak with Raleigh lawyer Shawn Howard, call the firm at 919.480.8526. You can also use our contact page to send a private inquiry.

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