Proving Disfigurement in Personal Injury Cases
The Law Office of Doug Goyen represents people injured due to the negligence of others. We have represented clients needing a Dallas disfigurement accident attorney since 1997. People who suffer injuries due to negligence may sustain severe injuries, including disfigurement as a result of the accident (cuts or surgery leaving scars, burns, severe abrasions, etc.).
In Texas, those who have suffered disfigurement as a result of an accident caused by negligence can recover from their disfigurement as a separate element of damage. A personal injury lawyer that handles auto accidents can review your case and advise you on whether you have a disfigurement claim.
You were unable to control the other driver that caused your injury. Take back control and hire a personal injury lawyer to get the compensation you deserve for the harm done to you. The first move on the path to recovery is to contact a car accident attorney who will fight for your rights, obtain the compensation you deserve, and eventually help direct you through your case with the experience, knowledge, and passion for justice that your case deserves.
The violence of an auto accident can cause serious and permanent injuries to people involved in those accidents. Cuts, abrasions, and crushing blows can scar or even misshape a person’s body or face forever. Texas law allows people who have suffered disfigurement due to negligence to recover for their damages in negligence cases such as auto accidents as a distinct form or damages separate from other types of general damages such as pain and suffering or mental anguish.
Disfigurement injuries can result from broken glass, from a sun visor slicing the person’s face as the body is thrown forward, from objects within the vehicle, from objects outside the vehicle that are propelled into the vehicle such as highway debris, from crushing side impacts such as a T-bone collision to the door of the vehicle, from devastating front end collisions when another driver fails to yield the right of way or hits another vehicle head-on, from rear-end collisions that propel the occupant forward into door frames or dashboards, from ejections out of the vehicle, from rollovers, and from burn injuries. If you need to consult with a Dallas disfigurement accident attorney, contact the Law Office of Doug Goyen at (972) 599 4100.
The following cases in Texas define the element of damage known as disfigurement:
DISFIGUREMENT IN THE FUTURE IS PRESUMED IF SOMEONE IS DISFIGURED. Texas courts have defined disfigurement as an “impairment of beauty, symmetry, or appearance; that which renders unsightly or deforms in some way.” Hopkins County Hosp. Dist. v Allen, 760 S.W.2d 341 (Tex.App.—Texarkana 1988, no writ). The facts of this case were that on May 3, 1984, the Plaintiff “Allen” gave birth by Caeserean section. The doctors who performed the delivery neglected to remove a sponge from her abdomen. The surgery to remove the sponge required one long vertical incision in her abdomen, which left a scar. Allen and her husband sued doctors Dhawal Ram and Somjai Tris and the Hopkins County Hospital District for professional negligence. The jury found for the Allens and awarded $25,000 for disfigurement, $50,000 for future disfigurement, $20,000 for pain and mental anguish, $50,000 for future pain and mental anguish, $10,000 for physical impairment, and $6000 for past medical expenses.
The Hospital District (Defendant) contended that future disfigurement damages are recoverable only if a reasonable probability of additional scarring or deforming is shown. It further contended that Allen should be denied recovery for future disfigurement because she failed to present evidence of future scarring or deforming related to the sponge removal. It argued that by allowing recovery for future mental anguish and future disfigurement, Allen is effectively recovering twice for the same injury.
The Court held that proof of additional scarring or deforming is not required to recover damages for future disfigurement, although it may be considered as a factor in determining the amount of damages. The court concluded that recovery for future disfigurement includes recovery for the future embarrassment caused by the disfigurement. Plaintiffs who feel ugly, who hide their disfigurement under clothes and gloves, and who avoid shaking hands, are embarrassed by their scars and may recover future disfigurement damages absent evidence that there will be further scarring or deforming.
The court in Hopkins County Hosp. Dist. v Allen cited the following Texas cases where other appellate courts in Texas that had come to the same decision.
In Amoco Production Co. v. Thompson, 657 S.W.2d 824 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1983, no writ), the court upheld a jury verdict which included $65,000.00 for “future cosmetic disfigurement” due to severe burns received to the face, arms, and hands *344 of the plaintiff. In that case, no showing was made of additional scarring or deforming that would occur in the future.
In Texas Farm Products Co. v. Leva, 535 S.W.2d 953 (Tex.Civ.App.-Tyler 1976, no writ), the court upheld an award of $20,000.00 for future disfigurement, also without a showing of future scarring or deforming. In Texas Farm Products, a young man’s right hand was crushed by the weight of a forklift. Treatment of the injury required amputation of the plaintiff’s little finger and skin grafts, causing the plaintiff’s hand to appear deformed. The plaintiff was reluctant to show his hand to his wife, he was embarrassed to shake hands, and there were some portions of the back of his hand where the tissue was exposed. Future disfigurement damages were awarded, not for future scarring or deforming of the plaintiff’s hand, but rather for the future embarrassment associated with his existing disfigurement.
In Armellini Exp. Lines of Florida v. Ansley, 605 S.W.2d 297 (Tex.Civ.App.-Corpus Christi 1980, writ ref’d n.r.e.), the court upheld an award of $88,000.00 to a thirty-two year old woman injured in a vehicle collision. Again, no showing was made of future scarring or deforming. In Armellini, the plaintiff suffered substantial disfigurement to her face and body. She testified that since the injury, she views herself as ugly and feels “like an old hag.” 605 S.W.2d 297, 312. The plaintiff’s negative self-image, which will continue into the future as a result of her existing disfigurement, formed the basis of her future disfigurement recovery. There was no showing of additional scarring or deforming likely to occur in the future.
Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. v. Battle, 745 S.W.2d 909 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1988, writ ref’d n.r.e.). The appellate court affirmed a $110,000.00 award for past and future disfigurement to a plaintiff injured when an automobile tire exploded. The plaintiff wore a glove on his left hand to hide the resulting disfigurement. No showing of future deforming was made in support of the future disfigurement award.
In Northwest Mall, Inc. v. Lubri-Lon International, Inc., 681 S.W.2d 797 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1984, writ ref’d n.r.e.), the court upheld a future disfigurement award to a woman with a hip injury. The plaintiff had three hip surgeries prior to trial and anticipated at least three more. With each surgery, the size of the scars was expected to increase. The plaintiff considered herself deformed and wore clothes that hid the scars. The court held that the scars already incurred by the plaintiff plus probable scars to be incurred in the future formed a proper basis for the jury’s future disfigurement award of $30,000.00. Significantly, the court did not require that the plaintiff show a reasonable probability of additional scarring or deforming to recover future disfigurement damages.
DISFIGUREMENT IS DISTINCT FROM OTHER ELEMENTS OF DAMAGE. In terms of recovering from disfigurement caused by an accident, it is distinct from pain, suffering, and mental anguish. Pedernales Electric Cooperative v. Schultz, 583 S.W.2d 882 (Tex.Civ.App.—Waco 1979, writ ref’d n.r.e.). You can also seek compensation for future disfigurement caused by surgical scars. This case involved personal injuries sustained when the mast of a sailboat operated by Kenneth Schulz on Lake Travis, and in which Eric Schulz was a passenger, came in contact with a powerline owned by PEC, and engineered and maintained by LCRA.
Trial was to a jury which found:
- The electric current carrying wire was maintained lower than it would have been maintained by one using ordinary care.
- Such action was a proximate cause of the accident.
- Such action was gross negligence.
The Defendant asserted there was no evidence and/or insufficient evidence to support recovery by Eric Schulz for disfigurement separate and apart from physical pain and mental anguish.
Proof of disfigurement was adduced at trial by the actual showing of the scar to the jury, and pictures of the scar are in the record before us. Dr. Spira testified that in his opinion the scar will remain about the same permanently.
The court found disfigurement its own element of damage, an entity of damage separate from pain and mental anguish. Citing Houston Transit Co. v. Felder, 146 Tex. 428, 208 S.W.2d 880; Cezeaux v. Libby, Tex.Civ.App. (Beaumont) NWH, 539 S.W.2d 187.
The court cited Houston Transit Co. v Felder, that case involved an assault. A “car driven by Felder ran into the rear of a transit company bus, and that Goodson, the operator of the bus, left the bus, went to Felder’s car, and struck him in the face with a money-changing box. Felder testified that Goodson came around to the rear of the bus, looked at the bumpers of the two vehicles, shouted something which Felder did not understand, and hit Felder as the latter was in the act of getting out of the car and before he had said a word. Goodson testified that he left his bus and went to get Felder’s name and automobile license number, as it was his duty to do, that Felder refused to state his name, started reviling Goodson, got out of his car, laid his hand on Goodson’s shoulder, and stopped him as Goodson was starting to the rear of the automobile to get its license number, and that he hit Felder “because,” as Goodson put it, “of what he called me and laid his hands on me.”
“The proof of pain and suffering in the trial included a showing that Felder was rendered unconscious for fifteen or twenty minutes by Goodson’s blow, and bled profusely; his teeth were loosened and his mouth was sore; he continued having headaches and a lack of “feeling” about the face down to the time of the trial, — afflictions he did not have before the assault.”
“As to the lost teeth, Felder testified he had seven extracted within fifteen days after the assault, and that these teeth had previously been “strong.” Two of Felder’s relatives testified that his teeth were “loose” immediately after the injury, and one of them testified further that she pulled one tooth on the following day. He testified that dentists pulled the others. As *Page 433 to the scars on his face, there were two, one on his upper lip and one on his left cheek, which the jury could observe, scars which Felder testified he bore from the assault. The proof about damages came largely from Felder himself, but the evidence about the loss of teeth was corroborated by the two witnesses to the extent above stated.”
“The elements of damage in the present case were narrowed by the proof to mental and physical pain and suffering, to the loss of teeth, and to disfigurement.”
The court held “As to the disfigurement, that element is a recoverable one.” Southwestern Bell Tel. Co. v. Ferris (Texas Civ. App.) 89 S.W.2d 229, error dismissed.”
In Cezeaux v. Libby, 539 S.W.2d 187 (Tex.Civ.App. 1976). “The uncontradicted evidence shows the following occurred: Plaintiff suffered a detached retina in his right eye on July 1971, and surgery was performed reattaching the retina with a buckle. September 15, 1972, the surgery was performed to remove the buckle; it was out of this surgery that plaintiff received the injuries which made the basis of this suit. At a critical point in the surgery while the doctor had a needle in his eye making an injection, plaintiff moved down the table, raised up off the table, tore off the drapes covering his face, tore out the sutures.
Injuries: Plaintiff’s movement while the surgery was in progress and while the surgeon had a needle in his eye making an injection tore out the sutures in the drapes, tore the skin off of his eyelid, building up great shock pressure in the eyeball, rupturing the coat of the eye and hemorrhaging the eye. All of this resulted in a total loss of sight in the right eye. By November of 1974 the eye was a hazy yellowish. The doctor became afraid of a sympathetic ophthalmia disease, and the decision was made that it was best to remove the eye. He was given an artificial eye made of plexiglass. Plaintiff is embarrassed about the appearance of his right eye and of the mucous and tears which run down his cheek. Plaintiff is anxious and worries about having only one eye and having a job handicap. He has some pain in his eye which will continue the rest of his life. He will also have anxiety the rest of his life.
Dr. Cezeaux admitted on this trial that plaintiff moved during the surgery because he was inadequately anesthetized.”
The jury found plaintiff’s damages to be in the amount of $500,000.
The elements of damages which the jury was instructed it could consider were: his past physical pain; the physical pain which in reasonable probability he will suffer in the future; his past and future mental anguish, including disfigurement, humiliation, embarrassment and worry concerning his well-being; and his loss of earning capacity which in reasonable probability he will sustain in the future.
The Defendant appealed, complaining that the award was excessive.
The appellate court held that the award of disfigurement along with other elements of damage was correct, holding . . .”considering the evidence as the mental anguish, past and future, including his disfigurement, humiliation, embarrassment and worry concerning his well-being; the testimony by plaintiff, also supported by his doctor, regarding the fact that he will have anxiety the rest of his life; also considering the evidence as to loss of earning capacity in the future — we come to the conclusion that $500,000 is a reasonable sum and do not find it to be excessive. That point of error is overruled.”
In Southwestern Bell Tel. v. Ferris, 89 S.W.2d 229 (Tex. App. 1935). Mrs. Eula Ferris, widow 49 years of age, brought suit against the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company to recover damages for injuries, sustained due to a collision between an automobile in which she was a guest, driven by Mr. Claude McKinney, and another automobile driven by Mr. Sanc W. Godbold, an employee of, and at the time on a business mission for, defendant company.
The injuries sustained by plaintiff . . . were: (a) An open, incised, and somewhat ragged wound upon her head, extending from near the margin of the left eye toward the forehead and ending at approximately the center of the top of the scalp; (b) a massive contused wound of both hips, more extensive on the left hip, and extending to within about three inches of the knee; (c) a contused wound of the right leg on the interior surface of the tibia; (d) a fracture of the bone of the right leg extending into the knee joint; (e) a contused wound of the anterior surface of the chest; (f) a fracture of the sacrum just above the coccyx bone; (g) a permanent scar was left upon her forehead, visible and disfiguring; (h) her hip and back injuries and the fractured sacrum bone impaired her nervous system, she constantly suffered pain in the lower part of her back and hips, could not walk without pain, and certain of her injuries, hereinafter mentioned, are permanent.
The jury awarded $30,000 related to the disfigurement in the case (along with other damages for the other injuries). The Defendant argued in appeal that allowing recovery for disfigurement was a double recovery of damages for pain and suffering, diminished earning capacity, and physical or mental pain.
The court held that disfigurement is not a duplication of other damages, holding that “disfigurement was not alleged by plaintiff as an element of physical pain and suffering, but as a probable cause of embarrassment, that is mental distress; hence the term could not be interpreted as a duplication of “pain and suffering””, or other elements of damage. The court then held that “In view of the undisputed evidence regarding the large wound upon plaintiff’s forehead, and the four or five inch in length permanent scar remaining, we do not think the court erred in assuming that the scar was a disfigurement, nor do we think error was committed in telling the jury that such disfigurement could be considered as an element of damages.“
If you were disfigured in an accident, Texas law presumes that you will be disfigured in the future as well. There is no set formula for calculating compensation for disfigurement. Each case is unique and must be judged on its own merits.
If you have been disfigured as a result of the negligence of another and want to speak to a Dallas disfigurement accident attorney, contact our office to speak to our personal injury attorney and discuss your options for recovering compensation from those who caused your injury. Contact the Law Office of Doug Goyen at (972) 599 4100 to discuss your case.
There are several categories of damages that you have the legal right to recover in Texas. These are to compensate you not only for the costs you incurred due to out-of-pocket expenses and costs caused by an injury such as the medical bills and lost income, but also to compensate you for the actual injury you suffered. These types of damages are called “general damages”, as there is no price tag on this type of injury.
Damages for general damages that are recoverable in auto accident personal injury cases include (but are not limited to) the following elements of damages:
Past and future disfigurement: How the injury has physically disfigured you in the past and how it will continue to disfigure you in the future. If you have scars or if your injury has changed your appearance, you may be able to recover damages for the disfigurement caused by the other person’s negligence.
People who have disfiguring injuries often feel as if they have lost a piece of themselves. The loss of a piece of your identity is priceless. This failure necessitates the wrongdoer’s restitution. Nobody wishes or requests to be disfigured as a result of someone else’s negligence. If a person is disfigured as a result of someone else’s negligence, the injured person should be compensated for the loss of their pre-disfigurement state.
The goal in personal injury law is to return the injured person to the position they would have been in had the injury not occurred. Disfigurement is often irreversible. A court can only compensate for this form of injury with money. For many people, there is no magic wand that can completely erase the disfigurement they suffered. The only justice in this situation is compensation for what has been taken.
Pain and Suffering: Compensation is allowed based on the common sense, knowledge, and sense of justice of a jury for past and future pain and suffering. Determining the value of pain and suffering in terms of settling a claim is therefore done by trying to think of how a jury – who doesn’t know anyone involved – will think the value is.
Mental Anguish: If your physical injury has caused mental anguish to a high degree, past and future mental anguish is an element of damage that is recoverable. The mental anguish must be more than mere disappointment, resentment, embarrassment, or anger. Grief, severe disappointment, public humiliation, despair, shame, wounded pride, or indignation are more akin to what Texas courts regard as “mental anguish.”
Loss of consortium: If the injury severe enough that it has caused you to no longer enjoy the companionship of your family members, such as the companionship of your spouse, then you are entitled to recover for how this has damaged your family relationships.
In addition to the above “general damages”, you are also able to recover out of pocket damages for your injury, such as:
- Past and future medical bills: The amount of the medical bills necessary to treat your injury, both in the past and future.
- Past and future lost earning capacity: The amount of money you could have earned had you not been injured.
- Loss of services: If a husband or wife can no longer do their normal household duties due to the injury, then they are entitled to recover.
You owe us nothing if we are unable to recover for your case. In personal injury cases, we charge a contingency fee. Contingency Fees are structured to take a percentage of whatever we are able to recover in your personal injury case. Because this is a performance-based contract, the better we do for you, the better we do for ourselves. This aligns our interests with your interests in the case.FREE CONSULTATIONS
We offer free phone consultations to discuss your case. During the phone consultation, we provide a free strategy session. The strategy session includes a summary of your case, the legal issues involved, and any legal issues we identify as being critical to maximizing the compensation you are owed. Call (972) 599 4100. We will start working on your case today.
Law Office of Doug Goyen
15851 Dallas Pkwy #605
Addison, Texas 75001
(972) 599 4100 phone
(972) 398 2629 fax
Directions to our office: We are on the southbound side of the service road to the Tollway. Stay on the Dallas North Tollway until you come to the Keller Springs exit. Take the Keller Spring exit. Stay on the service road on the southbound side and go just past Keller Springs. Our office is the 2nd building south of Keller Springs, located on the service road to the North Dallas Tollway in the Madison Business Center on the 6th floor.
By Doug Goyen, email@example.com
Related Damages Pages:
- Car Accident Injury Damages
- Bystander Damages in Accidents
- Disfigurement from an Accident
- Loss of Body Part or Mental Function from Accidents
- Loss of Consortium from Accident Injuries
- Loss of Inheritance in Negligence Cases
- Loss of Services from Accidents
- Lost Income from Accidents
- Medical Bills from Accidents
- Mental Anguish Personal Injury
- Pain and Suffering Personal Injury
- Physical Impairment from Accidents
- Common injuries caused by accidents