Legal Memorandum: Distinction between Disfigurement and Disability

Issue: Under Illinois law, do courts distinguish between an award for disfigurement and an award for disability or impairment?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Damages for disfigurement; Damages for disability or impairment; Distinguish between
Jurisdiction: Illinois
Cited Cases: 672 N.E.2d 320; 676 N.E.2d 621
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 09/01/2015

Illinois courts have distinguished between damages for disfigurement and damages for disability or impairment, such that when the plaintiff’s permanent disfigurement is as significant as, or more significant than, any permanent impairment, the jury may be charged with awarding damages accordingly.  That is, there is a distinction in Illinois law between disfigurement and disability.  The Illinois Supreme Court held:

We do not agree with the defendants, however, that the remainder of the award of damages to [the plaintiff], including the sums for pain and suffering, disability, and disfigurement, is duplicative or excessive or lacks support in the record.  The determination of damages is a question reserved to the trier of fact, and a reviewing court will not lightly substitute its opinion for the judgment rendered in the trial court . . . When reviewing an award of compensatory damages for a nonfatal injury, a court may consider, among other things, the permanency of the plaintiff’s condition, the possibility of future deterioration, the extent of the plaintiff’s medical expenses, and the restrictions imposed on the plaintiff by the injuries.  

Richardson v. Chapman, 175 Ill. 2d 98, 113-14, 676 N.E.2d 621, 628 (1997) (citations omitted).  See Kresin v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., 316 Ill App. 3d 433, 437, 442, 736 N.E.2d 171, 175, 178 (2000) (rejecting the defendant’s argument that the portion of the verdict for disfigurement was excessive and duplicative of the portion awarded for disability; distinguishing “disfigurement” and “disability”; and concluding […]

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