Legal Service India - Scientific Defence Of Injuries (Abrasions)
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Scientific Defence Of Injuries (Abrasions)

Written By : Prof (Dr) J.P.Saxena (M.B.B.S; M.D, F.A.F.Sc; LL.B.) Medicolegal Expert - Toxicologist & Advocate
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It is very common to find abrasions in different types of medicolegal cases say Assaults, Rape, Strangulation etc.
The study of abrasions give a clue about the weapon of assault, the duration of injury, the nature of injury whether accidental, homicidal or suicidal and a host of other things related to the crime.

In fact, the injury or the postmortem report itself speaks some facts and Advocates can take advantage of these in defending their clients but in order to defend the client on scientific basis, it is essential that the Advocate should be well conversant with the anatomy of the body and should have a scientific (Medical) knowledge about abrasions.

In this article, the anatomy has not been described as it is a general topic and cannot be covered in a short space but the findings of abrasion and the points for defence have been given. The advocates can take advantage of the same and see for themselves as to how the defence on scientific lines is helpful in defence as it is unrebuttable. The finer details have not been mentioned as they are more technical in nature.

It as also known as - Graze or Scratch or Impression.
An abrasion is a superficial injury to the skin which involves the loss of superficial epithelial layer (Uppermost layers of the cells of skin) of skin.
Abrasions are produced by -
1. Blow.
2. Fall on some rough and hard substance.
3. Dragging as in vehicular accidents.
4. Scratching with finger nails, bites and thorns etc.
5. Friction on some hard substance.
6. Pressure of rope or cord as is found in strangulation and hanging etc.
7. Rubbing.
8. Indenting of the objects.

Changes That Occur In The Production Of Abrasions -
With slight force -
1. Epidermis(Upper layer of tissue of skin) is removed wholly or partially.
2. Superficial layer of dermis(The true skin lying under the epidermis) is also damaged.
In all the above, the following will be seen-
1. The raw surface thus produced, is covered with exudation (Release) of blood and lymph (Also a liquid material).
2. This soon dries up and forms scab The scab consists of dried exudates and sometimes broken squamous epithelium (The cells of the part).
3. If the dermis (True skin) is effected, polymorphoneuclear leucocytes (White blood cells)collect near the raw area.
4. Healing takes place under the scab with the growth of new epithelial layernand later on the scab is thurst out.

Signs And Symptoms:-
These include-
1. Pain.
2. Bleeding at the site of injury.
3. Swelling of the adjescent are.

Varieties Of Abrasions -
The abrasions are of the following varieties-
1. Scratches- They are due to a sharp or a pointed object pressing across the skin, moving the surface layers in front of it and causing the heaping up of layers of skin.
2. Grazes- They are modified scratches. In this, the broader surface of skin comes in contact with the uneven rough object. In this, the depth may vary at different places. The direction is indicated by presence of clean commencement and tag at the finishing end.
3. Impact Abrasions - They are also known as "Imprint abrasions". They are caused by the stamping of some object against the skin like radiators of cars in vehicular accidents.
4. Pressure Abrasions - they are also known as "Pressure abrasions". They are caused by pressure on the skin which is accompanied by movements - They are found in -
1. Ligature in cases of hanging or strangulation.
2. Injuries caused by lashes with whip.

Sites Of Abrasions -
1.The abrasions resulting from friction against rough surface during a fall are generally found on the bony parts and are accompanied with contusions or lacerations 
2.The abrasions caused by finger nails are seen on the exposed of body like - Face near forearm, hands, thighs etc. They are cresentric in shape, when finger nails are used. Ecchymosis is a common accompaniment.
3.The abrasions caused by teeth bite are elliptical or circular in shape and often present separate marks .Typical impression of teeth by different sets of teeth (Deciduous or permanent) is marked. The intervening area is only a bruised area.
4.The abrasions from radiators are honey-comb in appearance and are .commonly found in vehicular accidents

Difference Between Antemortem And Postmortem Bruise
Antemortem abrasions will show signs of inflammation and repair whereas these will be absent in postmortem abrasions.

The differences are-

Antemortem Abrasions

Postmortem Abrasions

1. Produced during life
2. Bleeding surface is seen
3. Scab formation is present
4. Healing process is evident
5. Present in any part of the body
6. They appear red
7. The surface is moist due to exudation and bleeding
1. Produced after death
2. absent
3. absent
4. absent
5. Seen over bony prominences
6. Appear parchment like
7. The surface is dry and there are no signs of bleeding
Note - Sometimes ant attack the dead body and produce marks which look like abrasions (Due to ant bites).

These marks are seen on -
1. Eyes
2. Nostrils.
3. Arm pits.
4. Groin.
5. Scrotum etc
They have irregular margins.

Medicolegal Considerations -
1. Abrasions are simple injuries. They heal without leaving a scar unless infected.
2. The nature of weapon used can be determined if the pattern is visible.
3. The direction can also be determined in case of scratches, grazes and pressure abrasions by bevel desent into the graze at the starting edge of the injury and the tag at the finishing edge, in case of grazes.
4. The abrasions produced by weapon and those produced by fall can be differentiated by their individual characters. 

Points For Defence-

How To Determine The Weapon Of Assault By Examination Of Abrasion-

1. A detailed note on the findings in relation to abrasions mentioned in the report should be prepared and then tallied with the findings corresponding to the weapon (Mentioned earlier), as alleged. If there is any difference , then it is worthwhile to argue on the issue.

2. Generally the weapon which produces the abrasions are hard substances like rope of moonj or whip . In case the victim is tied with rope then it is logical to expect a mark produced by rope and accompanying abrasions. The diamentions of abrasions are of value and should be tallied with the diamentions of the rope alleged to have been used in assault. Similarly the whip producing the abrasions on the effected part should be examined and the diamentions should be tallied with the marks produced on the body. If any difference is found, then the distinguishing points may be argued.

3. In case of accident with a vehicle in which a head on collision has occurred with the front of the car or vehicle, the pattern of radiator is visible on the victim as there is great force in the vehicle but at times, the presence of clothes on the person minimizes the effects and the pattern may not be visible clearly or may be visible partially. In such cases there will also be other injuries and the mud etc will be present. In cases of accident, the abrasions are multiple in number and are accompanied by other injuries like contusions and lacerations. The abrasions are present on the bony parts of the body as the bony parts come in contact with the ground upon a fall and are subject to friction against the hard ground. If the direction of the abrasions can be worked out with the help of the findings available and they are of value, then this should be argued out. 
Sometimes the place of accident can be worked out by the total description available as the presence of wet mud will indicate a place having that type of mud and if the F.I.R. does not tally with the same, it can be argued out

4.In cases of teeth bite The impression is taken from the site where it is found and then tallied with the tooth pattern of the accused. If it tallies, then the allegation is proved but if it does not, this can be argued out. It is to be kept in mind that dried saliva is found at the site besides the marks and this is always a good piece of scientific evidence. This should be got analysed (for blood groups) if not done, and then tallied with the analysed saliva of the accused. If there is any difference , then the innocence of the can be argued, as it will be seen that the similar tooth pattern is of someone else (Blood groups are specific for a person) The abrasions produced by finger nails are commonly found in cases of throttling or sexual assaults. The characters of the marks should be tallied and if there is any the marks present and that of the accused, it is of value. The presence of finger marks on the thighs and breasts are common in sexual assaults. The diamentions and the shape of the marks, if noted carefully can provide a good clue and can also be used in defence, if the marks are found dissimilar in size and shape from those which can be produced by the nails of the accused (On examination). In this situation, proper questions may be put to the expert and the matter argued out.

How To Determine The Direction of Injury-

This has got a significance in cases of accidents. In cases of accidents, the abrasions, grazes and pressure abrasions should be examined properly , then it will be found that there is a bevel descent at the starting point and a tag at the finishing end..The tag consists of heap of damaged tissue and coagulated blood which is raised above the surface of skin effected by the injury and the starting point is smooth leading to linear damage to the skin corresponding to the article damaging it i.e. that produces the abrasion. If an imaginary line is drawn between the starting point and the tag, and extended both ways, then it will give the direction of the injury.This is particularly important in accident cases where the direction is the issue in question. This can be found out by the findings given in the report. It has a mention of the facts and if it is not in conformity with the allegations, then this issue can be argued out. It may be mentioned that the report generally do not contain this description.

How To Find Out The Time Of Injury:-

The abrasions result from the friction against some hard substance and the little bleeding that occurs along with the broken tissuecollects and heaps up at one end, leaving the rest of the portion to heal.. The injured portion heals up within 24 hours in ordinary cases as only a portion of the superficial skin is damaged in the injury, and a crest forms over the abrasion. Thus if this situation is found, then it is concluded that the injury is more than a day old.If there is any accompanying bruise, it will show colour changes with the lapse of time and may be helpful in determining the age of the injury

How To Find Out That The Abrasion Is Antemortem Or Post Mortem In Nature-

The difference between the antemortem and postmortem abrasions has already been given in the tabular form earlier. In short the antemortem abrasions show signs of inflammation and repair and a little swelling is present in the area whereas these signs are absent in postmortem abrasions.

As abrasions alone are not too significant not much of importance is placed on them.Rarely this issue becomes important and for that the findings given in the report should be tallied with the findings given in the table and if found correct, then nothing should be done in this direction but if there is a difference, and it is felt that arguing on this issue will be beneficial, then the matter may be argued out.

The other part is that the ants attack the dead body and hence there may be additional injuries found in the form of abrasions besides those mentioned in the F.I.R. Thus there will be some difference between the two but this is not significant provided the additional abrasions are found in the areas described earlier (Post mortem) and the body was examined after a lapse of time. Thus the characters of such abrasions should be noted and if found of postmortem nature, they should be ignored as they are not of value but if they are described as antemortem abrasions, the issue may be argued accordingly. Those points which cannot be argued out because the findings given are inadequate, such points may be elicited cunningly in scientific cross examination.

It Is Always Advisable To Consult A Medico Legal Expert To Solve The Difficulties Of A Medico Legal Case.

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