Amputations are catastrophic and often involve extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. You also may suffer from severe phantom pain after an amputation. If you or a loved one lost a body part in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation and damages. Depending on your case, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation, personal injury, Social Security, and other benefits.
What Claims Could You Make if a Limb Was Lost Unintentionally?
An amputation is the physical removal of a body part. Sometimes, an amputation is sudden and accidental. For example:
- A worker’s hand may get caught in moving machinery and become severed,
- A child’s finger may get cut off by a defective stroller hinge, or
- A driver could suffer a serious crush injury during a collision, resulting in an amputation.
While doctors are increasingly able to reattach body parts, this is not always possible. If you suffer an accidental amputation, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits or compensation for your personal injuries. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault benefits system that provides assistance for injured workers. Personal injury claims may involve a car accident, a defective product (product liability), or medical malpractice.
What Claims Could You Make if a Limb Was Lost Intentionally?
Other times, an amputation is planned. This may occur for many reasons, including:
- Serious infection in a body part,
- Crush injuries and burns,
- An unsuccessful reattachment of the body part,
- Poor circulation in the body part, and
- Chronic pain.
Sometimes, an intentional, medically necessary amputation is also compensable. A surgical amputation may arise out of a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim. Again, potential claims may involve car accidents, defective products, or medical malpractice. You may also have disability-related claims, including Social Security disability, SSI, and private short-term or long-term disability claims.
What Kinds of Damages or Benefits Would Be Awarded?
Workers’ Compensation and Amputation
Your compensation for an amputation may vary, depending on whether your injury was work-related or not. Under workers’ compensation law, you may be entitled to coverage of your medical bills (including prosthetic fittings and physical therapy) and wage loss benefits. Typically, workers’ compensation will not compensate you for your pain and suffering.
In workers’ compensation cases, most states have a schedule of benefits for amputations and loss of industrial use. Under this schedule, you will be paid a weekly benefit for a specific amount of time. (Proportionate losses may be reduced accordingly. If you lost 50% of a limb, you may receive 50% of the guaranteed benefit.) In most states, you will continue to receive your scheduled benefit even if you return to work.
Each state’s schedule is different and the value of an amputation claim varies greatly from state to state. For example, the loss of a hand is worth:
- Alabama: 170 weeks of wage loss,
- Georgia: 160 weeks of wage loss,
- Illinois: 205 weeks of wage loss,
- North Carolina: 200 weeks of wage loss,
- New Jersey: 245 weeks of wage loss, and
- New York: 244 weeks of wage loss.
Some states, like California and Texas, do not have schedules and use different factors to calculate compensation. If your disability extends beyond the scheduled benefit, you may receive ongoing wage loss or indemnity benefits.
In some states, workers’ compensation can be a lifetime benefit. However, every state’s workers’ compensation laws are different. If you have questions about your entitlement to benefits, contact a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Personal Injury Lawsuits and Amputation
If you were injured in a non-occupational accident, your case will be evaluated differently. Instead of a schedule of benefits, your case will be evaluated on a more individualized basis. You may be entitled to:
However, unlike a workers’ compensation claim, personal injury plaintiffs must prove negligence or fault. Your damages will vary, depending on the strength and facts of your claim.
Social Security and Disability Benefits
If you are disabled, or unable to work, you may also be entitled to Social Security disability, SSI, or private disability insurance benefits. Social Security and SSI provide federal assistance to disabled workers, while a private disability insurance policy may offer short-term or long-term disability benefits. These disability benefits have differing requirements and filing procedures. Consult with an attorney if you need help with a disability claim.
Do I Need a Lawyer in an Amputation Claim?
Yes. An amputation case may involve multiple claims, including workers’ compensation, product liability, medical malpractice, Social Security, and other insurance benefits. A personal injury lawyer will assess your case, file the correct claims, and maximize your entitlement to benefits.