Chemical peels are a popular cosmetic treatment now widely used in the UK to improve the appearance of facial skin or other parts of the body, such as the neck or hands. However, occasionally things can go wrong, leaving the patient with severe burns, scarring or other long-lasting or permanent damage. If you have suffered harm as a result of a chemical peel gone wrong, you may be entitled to claim compensation for negligence.
The following guide looks at the claims process for people who have suffered a botched chemical peel, including what you must prove to succeed and how much you could claim.
What is a chemical peel?
A chemical peel is a cosmetic procedure involving the application of a chemical solution to the skin to remove the outer layers. The goal of the chemical peel is to improve the skin’s texture and tone by revealing smoother and softer skin, reducing the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, blemishes, skin discolouration and any other imperfections.
There are several types of chemical peels available, including superficial, medium and deep peels, depending on the depth of the peel and the strength of the chemical solution applied.
What happens when a chemical peel goes wrong?
While chemical peels are generally safe, they can cause serious harm when performed incorrectly or without due care.
A superficial or medium peel may produce a slight burning sensation, but is otherwise typically painless when done correctly. A deeper peel can be painful, requiring a local anaesthetic. It will also create a post-procedure blistering effect before the old skin peels away, leaving the skin sensitive and sore during the recovery process, although this should not normally result in any permanent damage.
However, the harm that can occur from a chemical peel gone wrong can include serious burns, scarring, hyperpigmentation, infection and allergic reactions to the chemicals used.
Can you sue for a chemical peel gone wrong?
Any patient has the right to seek compensation if they suffer harm as a result of a cosmetic treatment gone wrong. As such, if you have suffered injuries and complications as a result of a facial or bodily chemical peel gone wrong, you may be entitled to pursue a claim for negligence against the practitioner responsible.
In the UK, cosmetic practitioners are required to have insurance to cover them in the event of a claim, where the claim would be dealt with directly by the insurers of the clinic or salon where the procedure was performed.
There could be a number of reasons for alleging wrongdoing against the practitioner and/or clinic. This could include where there was some error in the way that the treatment was performed, such as where the acid was too strong or it was left on the skin for too long. It could also include where the practitioner was not adequately trained, poor hygiene standards were maintained, you were not asked to have a patch test or you were not fully informed of the risks involved in this procedure, such as the risk of an allergic reaction.
Even if you signed a consent or waiver form prior to receiving the chemical peel procedure, this does not excuse any negligence in the way the practitioner performed that treatment.
What must you prove for a chemical peel claim?
To make a successful claim for compensation for a negligent chemical peel, the burden of proof will lie with you as the prospective claimant. You will need to demonstrate that the practitioner who performed the procedure was negligent ‘and’ that their negligence caused your injuries, such as any burns, scarring, pigmentation changes and/or infection.
In legal terms this will mean demonstrating a duty of care, a breach of the appropriate standard of care, causation between the breach and your injuries, and that you suffered injury and losses. With the help of a qualified solicitor, you can hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence and seek the compensation that you deserve.
Duty of care
The first step in proving negligence in a chemical peel claim is to establish that the practitioner and/or clinic owed you a duty of care. A duty of care is a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to others. In the context of a chemical peel, the duty of care arises from the practitioner’s responsibility to perform the procedure in a safe, competent and sterile way, taking into account your individual needs and medical history.
Standard of care
Having established a duty of care, you must show that the practitioner breached that duty by failing to meet the appropriate standard of care. The standard of care for a chemical peel claim is the level of care that a competent and skilled practitioner in the same field would provide in similar circumstances. This involves taking into account relevant industry guidelines, protocols, standards and best practices, as well as any specific instructions or recommendations provided by the manufacturer of the chemical solution used.
The next step is to demonstrate that the practitioner’s breach of duty caused your injuries or harm. This requires showing a direct link between the practitioner’s negligence and the harm suffered. For example, if you suffered a chemical burn as a result of the practitioner using a solution that was too strong or leaving the solution on for too long, you must establish that the burn was caused by this wrongdoing rather than some other factor.
Finally, you must show that you suffered injury and financial losses as a result of the practitioner’s negligence. This can include physical injuries, emotional distress, loss of earnings, medical expenses and other related costs or out of pocket expenses.
What evidence will you need for a chemical peel claim?
To succeed in your chemical peel claim, you will need to provide evidence to show that the individual who performed the chemical peel was in breach of their duty of care. This will typically require expert evidence to demonstrate that the cosmetic care you received fell short of the standard of care considered reasonable in this field of expertise.
To prove a breach of duty, this will involve showing that the practitioner and/or the clinic for whom they worked did not follow appropriate guidelines or industry standards, or that they deviated from the normal practice in the context of chemical peels such that the treatment provided fell below the relevant professionally acceptable standards.
Additionally, you will need expert medical opinion as to the nature and severity of the injuries sustained by the alleged negligence, establishing a clear causal link between the practitioner’s acts or omissions and the harm that you suffered. This evidence will usually be based on your medical records and a face-to-face interview between you and the medical expert. However, having photographic evidence of the extent of any visible effects to help demonstrate how seriously you were injured, as well as the progress of your recovery, will help any expert to provide a clear diagnosis and prognosis, and to comment on causation.
Finally, you will need your own witness testimony and documentary proof of any financial losses, such as bills, receipts and other documentation. You should also provide witness statements from anyone else who is able to corroborate the facts, for example, if they were present during your chemical peel consultation or treatment and can testify as to what was discussed and/or was in some way involved in your care and recovery after the event.
How much is the compensation for a chemical peel claim?
The amount of compensation that you could be awarded for a chemical peel claim will depend on the extent of your injury and the amount of financial losses incurred. A compensation claim will typically comprise two distinct heads of loss: general damages for your pain and suffering; and special damages for any actual financial losses.
General damages is a sum of money designed to compensate you for the pain, suffering and loss of amenity caused by the negligence alleged. This could include compensation for any impact on your social life, hobbies and family life, together with any reduction in your ability to work and perform everyday tasks. The sum of general damages will also take into account whether there are likely to be any long-lasting effects from the injury suffered.
Under the ‘Judicial College Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases (16th edition)’, as used by the courts to assess different categories of injuries, the most recent guidelines provide some indication as to the level of award based on the nature and severity of the injury sustained. For minor injuries, where there is a complete recovery within seven days, the award would be less than £1,000, but where there is a complete recovery within three months, the award could be in excess of £2,000.
In the most serious cases, such as where there has been some facial disfigurement or permanent scarring, the award of compensation could potentially run into tens of thousand of pounds. However, much will depend on the nature and extent of any permanent effects, as well as the subjective and psychological impact of your injury, including the extent to which this is adversely affecting your social, domestic and work life on an ongoing basis.
Special damages is a sum of money to compensate you for any financial losses flowing from your injury. This can include a claim for loss of earnings. You will also be entitled to the cost of any medical treatment and prescriptions, together with the cost of travel to and from any medical appointments and the cost of any care received, even if provided free-of-charge. This is known as a gratuitous care claim, where the courts recognise that the care provided by a loved one still has a monetary value, even though you did not have to pay them.
How long do you have to bring a chemical peel claim?
It is important to note that there is a time limit for making a compensation claim for a chemical peel gone wrong. In the UK, you will generally have three years from the date of the injury to bring a claim, although there are some limited exceptions to this rule, so it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. If you are nearing the three year time limit, this does not mean that any claim must be concluded within this timeframe, but rather that proceedings must be issued prior to expiry of this limitation period.
Having instructed solicitors, even if they still need to obtain expert medical evidence on your behalf, both to prove any negligence on the part of the practitioner who performed the chemical peel, but also to provide a diagnosis and prognosis in relation to your symptoms, they can issue what is known as protective proceedings. This important step will prevent your claim from becoming time-barred, where time stops running for limitation purposes when a claim is ‘brought’. A claim is classed as being brought on the date that the claim form, along with the correct court fee, is received by the court for the purposes of issuing it.
How do you make a claim for a chemical peel gone wrong?
To claim for a chemical peel gone wrong, you should consult a specialist personal injury lawyer with experience in cosmetic procedure claims. Proving negligence in a chemical peel case can be complex, so it is important to seek legal advice from a qualified solicitor with experience in handling similar cases. They will be able to advise you on the strength of your case and guide you through the claims process, gathering the evidence needed, seeking to negotiate a settlement on your behalf and taking the claim to court if necessary.
In serious cases, a monetary award is unlikely to compensate you for any suffering, scarring and persisting psychological symptoms, but it can help to facilitate any further recovery and ease some of the financial pressure caused as a result of the negligent treatment that you received. Compensation in personal injury cases is essentially aimed at putting the injured person back in the position that they would have been in had the wrongdoing not happened. However, where a full recovery is not anticipated and you are left dealing with the permanent effects of the practitioner’s negligence, you can at least seek some justice.
Chemical peel gone wrong FAQs
How much is compensation for chemical peel injury?
The compensation for a chemical peel injury will depend on the extent of your injury and whether there will be any long-lasting or permanent effects, as well as the amount of financial losses incurred, such as any loss of earnings.
Can my insurance cover a chemical peel?
Health insurance plans would not typically cover the cost of a chemical peel treatment or any other cosmetic procedure, where health insurers will usually only provide cover for treatments or procedures that are considered by them to be medically necessary.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.