Dog bite injuries can leave both psychological and physical scars. For victims, both types of scars may be permanent, and counseling or reconstructive surgery could fail to put things right. Sometimes, there is a relationship between both physical and psychological scarring. The physical scarring can be detrimental to your self-esteem, causing body-image issues, depression, social withdrawal, and more. Scars are more than just an injury – they are a constant reminder of a traumatic incident that you probably want to forget all about. If you are struggling with scars from dog bites, this is all old news.
For dog bite victims, the most important question is simple: How do you get compensation for your dog attack? While you might be tempted to simply forget about the incident and move on, a settlement can provide you with enough money to cover important medical expenses. This may be the only way to afford expensive reconstructive surgery, for example. It can also provide you with compensation for emotional distress and other non-economic damages. While no amount of money can turn back time, filing a lawsuit could provide you with a sense of justice and closure – making it easier to move on as best you can. But what exactly do you need to know about scar tissue after a dog bite? How can you sue? Let’s find out:
What is the Healing Process Like?
Dog bites cause the development of scar tissue if the wound pierces the middle layer of the skin – also known as the “dermis.” When scar tissue forms, it signals the last stage of a complex and intricate healing process. This scar tissue is made up of mostly collagen, one of the most important materials in the human body and the most abundant structural protein in our system. Fibroblast cells release collagen, and this collagen fills the open wound to rebuild the cellular structure. In a normal healing process, collagen production is limited and causes optimal wound healing. Sometimes, however, the body may overproduce collagen, causing buildup. This can lead to several issues, including:
- Scar tissue overgrowth
- Hypertrophic scar formations
Keloids are thick, raised scars. They are likely to appear on the shoulders, cheeks, or chest – all common locations for dog bites. Some people are more prone to developing keloids than others, and they may form in more than the aforementioned locations. While keloids pose no health risks for victims, they can be unsightly blemishes that cause emotional and psychological issues. Keloids cannot be removed, although some treatment may diminish their appearance.
Hypertrophic scarring is a dermal disorder caused by collagen and extracellular matrix protein depositions. These are also known as “aberrant scar formations,” and they typically regress over time – setting them apart from the more permanent keloids. Hypertrophic scarring also differs because they do not spread beyond the borders of the initial injury, while keloids do. Hypertrophic scarring is also distinguished by its wavy, regular pattern – while keloids occur in a random, non-uniform manner.
Perhaps the worst possible side-effect associated with dog bites is infection. It is a well-known fact that infection can make scarring worse, as bacteria can induce excessive collagen production. Not only does this cause raised scars, but it may also cause skin discoloration and other problematic blemishes. Infection may also delay epidural maturation, increasing scarring. A recent study found that dog bites are much more likely to become infected when treated by emergency physicians instead of trained surgeons. In fact, 73% of all measured dog bite infections came after repair by emergency physicians in this specific study. The study also found that children are particularly at risk for scar hypertrophy – especially those between the ages of 2 and the end of puberty.
What are the Lasting Symptoms?
The lasting symptoms of scarring can be both physical and psychological. Physical symptoms include reduced range of motion, itchiness, dryness, redness, throbbing pains, and sensitivity to touch. Some also experience “creaking” sensations when they move the affected area. That being said, scar tissue can also be associated with numbness – the absence or diminishment of any sensations whatsoever. This can be just as difficult for patients to deal with as discomfort.
Permanent scars are often accompanied by nerve damage, especially since serious scarring is almost always caused by deep wounds that cut past the dermal layer. When a dog bites deep enough, they have a high chance of severing, compressing, or otherwise damaging nerves. This means that the resulting scar is both numb and unsightly. This issue is especially problematic for hand bites. The hand is a very complex and fragile body part with a bundle of vulnerable nerves. A dog bite to the hand can easily result in scar tissue, nerve damage, and perhaps even long-term disability.
But perhaps one of the most serious side effects of dog bite scarring is psychological in nature. Scarring can seriously affect your self-esteem and self-image, leading to a complete “remodeling” of your emotional state. You may be experiencing a range of emotions and behaviors, including:
- Reduced intimacy
- Social withdrawal
Facial scars can cause some of the worst psychological effects for victims. These scars impact psychosocial functioning, causing increased self-consciousness. In a social-media-dominated world where both adults and children are already under immense pressure to look perfect, this can be disastrous. In some cases, it can even lead to suicidal tendencies. In modern society, we are told not to judge people with scars or deformations. However, there is not much you can do to avoid the subconscious, instinctual aversion people have to those with certain scars. The truth is that this stigma is heavily embedded in our society.
Long-Term Scar Treatment and its Impact on Victims
A few decades ago, scar treatment took a major step forward with the emergence of silicone gel technology. This technology allows trained medical professionals to control moisture and oxygen levels at the wound site – thereby hydrating the scar bed and regulating oxidization. By controlling and balancing oxygen and hydration, collagen production is diminished. This makes scar tissue blend in with surrounding tissue in a flattening, smoothing manner. It is worth mentioning that no matter how old your scar is, you can take treatment to improve your appearance.
There is a range of additional methods that medical professionals may rely on to remove or diminish scars, including:
- Chemical Peels
- Collagen Injections
- Cortisone Injections
- Laser Resurfacing
- Punch Grafts
- Surgical Scar Revision
- Radiation Therapy
Some of these treatment methods are more common than others, and some are extremely rare. For example, radiation therapy is only used if the scar proves to be resistant to other forms of treatment. You may already be familiar with some of these methods, including surgical scar revision. This may involve using plastic surgery to reconstruct the affected area – especially if scarring has occurred on the face. That being said, you should always consult with a medical expert before contacting a plastic surgeon to determine the best possible treatment for your specific injury.
Should Victims Sue?
If you have suffered serious scarring after a dog bite, you are fully within your rights to sue. In Illinois, you can hold dog owners and landlords “strictly liable” for any harm caused by animals under their care. This means that it should be easy to recover a settlement, hold negligent parties accountable, and pay for your medical expenses. Remember, treating a scar and improving its appearance can be incredibly costly. You should not have to pay for this treatment out of your own pocket if a negligent dog owner is to blame.
What is Disfigurement in a Personal Injury Case?
If you have suffered serious scarring due to a dog attack, you can claim a unique, separate damage called “disfigurement.” When you claim this damage, you can receive additional compensation for the psychological and non-economic issues caused by your injuries. Note that this is separate from the economic damages associated with treating your scars. In other words, you will receive money for your medical expenses and additional funds to cover the psychological aspects of your injuries. This ensures you receive plenty of compensation for everything you’ve been forced to endure as a result of your dog attack.
Seeking A Personal Injury Attorney in Illinois?
If you or your loved ones have been searching for a dog bite attorney, get in touch with the law firm of Palermo Law Group. Over the years, we have helped numerous injured victims – including those who have experienced scarring due to dog bite attacks. We know how traumatic and life-changing these injuries can be, and we are ready to guide you toward the justice and compensation you deserve.
During your initial consultation, we will assess your case and determine the best path forward. While internet research is a positive first step, it cannot provide the same level of personalized guidance as a face-to-face consultation. Remember, the statute of limitations can prevent you from suing if you wait too long – so reach out today for a free consultation to get started with an effective action plan.