An amputation, or the loss of a limb, is a type of personal injury that results in the severing of an individual’s body part. Loss of limb incidents may be minor, for example, losing the tip of a finger or a toe, or they may be very serious, such as the loss of a leg or an arm.
An amputation is often catastrophic and may involve extensive medical treatment as well as rehabilitation. An individual may also suffer from phantom pain after an amputation occurs.
In many cases, these types of injuries result from an accident or injury, such as a work-related injury or a motor vehicle accident. Depending on the facts of an individual’s case as well as the tort laws in their jurisdiction, they may be entitled to numerous benefits, including:
What Are Some Common Causes of Loss of Limb Injuries?
Examples of common causes of limb injuries include, but are not limited to:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Construction accidents;
- Accidents involving the use of heavy machinery or power tools;
- Incidents where a sharp object or a sharp edge caused an injury;
- Situations where the injury impacts circulation to limbs, for example, frostbite;
- Accidents involving defective products;
- Other types of accidents that result in loss of limb injuries.
A loss of limb injury can refer to physical or functional losses. Physical losses mean that the body part was completely severed or amputated.
In contrast, functional losses means that the body part is usually still attached but does not perform at full capacity. For example, if an injury causes a worker to lose an eye or to go partially blind, instead of losing both of their eyes or going fully blind.
Examples of loss of limb injuries that may result from the types of incidents listed above or other types of incidents may include:
- Physical or functional loss of an arm or leg;
- Physical or functional loss of a hand or foot;
- Physical or functional loss of fingers or toes;
- Physical or functional loss of one or both of an individual’s eyes;
- Total or partial hearing loss in one or both ears;
- Serious bodily or facial disfigurement.
A loss of limb compensation claim may be based on a number of legal theories, including:
What Claims Could You Make if a Limb Was Lost Unintentionally?
In some cases, an amputation is sudden and unintentional, for example, when:
- A worker’s hand may get caught in moving machinery and be severed,
- A child’s finger may be cut off by a defective stroller hinge,
- A driver could suffer a serious crash injury during a collision, which results in an amputation.
Although doctors are increasingly able to reattach body parts, it is not always possible. If an individual suffers from an accidental amputation, they may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits or compensation for their personal injuries.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault benefits system that provides assistance to workers who are injured on the job. Personal injury claims may involve:
What Claims Could You Make if a Limb Was Lost Intentionally?
In some instances, an amputation is planned, which may be necessary for numerous 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;
- Chronic pain.
In some cases, intentional, medically necessary amputations may also be compensable. Surgical amputations may result in workers’ compensation claims or personal injury claims.
An individual may also have disability-related claims, for example:
- Social Security disability;
- Private short-term or long-term disability claims.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Loss of Limb Claim?
The specific facts of each case will dictate what parties may be held liable for loss of limb claims. Parties that may be held liable in loss of limb claims include:
- Product manufacturers;
- Medical professionals;
- Property owners; and
- Private individuals.
For example, a medical professional may be held liable for damages in loss of limb claims if they were negligent or their actions constituted malpractice. This may occur when the surgeon amputates the incorrect body part, or the hospital staff makes a clerical error that leads to the loss of a limb, such as the wrong patient chart or an improper diagnosis.
What Kinds of Damages or Benefits Would Be Awarded?
Workers’ compensation and amputation
An individual’s compensation for an amputation may vary depending on whether their injury was work-related or not. Under workers’ compensation laws, an individual may be entitled to coverage of their medical bills, including prosthetic fittings, physical therapy, and wage loss benefits.
Typically, workers’ compensation does not compensate an individual for their pain and suffering. In workers’ compensation cases, the majority of states have a schedule of benefits for amputations and loss of industrial use.
Under this schedule, an individual will be paid a weekly benefit for a certain amount of time. Proportionate losses can be reduced accordingly.
This means that, if an individual lost 50% of a limb, they may receive 50% of their guaranteed benefits. In the majority of states, an individual will continue to receive their scheduled benefits even if they return to work.
Every state has a different schedule and may value amputation claims differently. As an example, the loss of a hand in the following states 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;
- New York: 244 weeks of wage loss.
There are certain states, such as California and Texas, that do not have schedules but use different factors to calculate compensation. If an individual’s disability extends beyond the scheduled benefit, they may receive indemnity or wage loss benefits.
In some states, workers’ compensation benefits can last for a lifetime. However, it is important to be aware that the workers’ compensation laws in every state are different.
If an individual has questions about their entitlement to benefits, they should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Personal injury lawsuits and amputation
If an individual was injured in a non-occupational accident, their case will be evaluated differently. Instead of a schedule of benefits, their case would be evaluated on a more individualized basis.
An individual with a personal injury amputation case may be entitled to:
In contrast to workers’ compensation claims, personal injury plaintiffs must prove negligence or fault.
Social Security and disability benefits
If an individual is disabled or unable to work, they may also be entitled to Social Security disability, SSI, or private disability insurance benefits. SSI and Social Security provide federal assistance to disabled workers.
Private disability insurance policies, on the other hand, may offer short-term or long-term disability benefits. These disability benefits have different requirements and filing procedures.
Do I Need a Lawyer in an Amputation Claim?
If you have suffered an amputation, your case may involve multiple types of claims, including workers’ compensation, product liability, medical malpractice, Social Security, and other insurance benefits. If you have any issues, questions, or concerns related to your amputation injury or case, it is important to consult with a personal injury lawyer.
Your lawyer will review your case, file the necessary claims, and help you maximize your benefits.