A recent poll asked people to pick the best looking man and best looking woman from among 20 celebrities. The 20 celebrities are probably names you could easily recognize, but for purposes of this Blog, just consider that these are movie actresses and extremely handsome guys.
Guess who won? For ladies, the best looking woman was Jennifer Aniston. For the men, the best looking man was George Clooney. God forbid if either of them were in a horrendous auto accident. What would a jury consider in assessing damages for scarring to their faces and bodies?
It could easily be argued that their faces are their livelihood and therefore, the severe facial scarring to these “beautiful people” is worth a lot more than the same facial scarring to an average person. This really brings out the subjective nature of how a jury evaluates facial scarring in a personal injury lawsuit. Assume, for example, that a person is bitten by a pit bull dog about the face thru no fault of his own. Assume that the other side (the defendant) admits that it was their fault that they let the pit bull attack and permanently scar and disfigure a personal injury victim.
The only real question becomes what is the value of the facial scar? How does the jury come up with a figure to award to someone who has a permanent facial scar? What factors do they consider? Is the value of a severe facial scar worth more for a woman than a man who is the victim of the dog mauling?
Is the value of a severe facial scar to someone who is not married worth more than someone who is married and has grown children? Is the value of a long scar about the neck worth more or less than the value of a similarly sized scar about the ear area or the arm area? Unfortunately, there are no real objective guidelines that people can use to predict how a jury is going to assess the value of a permanent scar.
This illustrates the problem attorneys have in advising victims of a scarring accident on whether to accept the offer made by the insurance company.
It is hard to advise someone whether to accept the offer when we aren’t even clear ourselves what a jury would likely give to an injury victim under these circumstances.
Oops! There I go again letting my guard down!
I will tell you what is really scary. Often times both attorneys for the plaintiff and the defendant and the judge agree that the value of the scar is worth in the area of, let’s say, $15,000. However the jury, acting on its own, can look at the same scar that the Court and both attorneys agree is probably worth in the area of $15,000, and give $50,000 or $1,000.
In my opinion, the only thing that a personal injury lawyer can do is be honest with the client and tell the personal injury victim what the attorney really believes the value of the scar is, based upon his experience, the personal injury victim’s circumstances and possibly what amounts other scars of a similar nature have been awarded in that county in the past.
The bottom line is that since the value of scarring is so subjective, advising clients whether to accept or reject an offer to settle their facial scarring claim is very problematic.