Unfortunately, workplace and personal injuries sometimes result in the loss of a limb. In these catastrophic cases, you may be entitled to a variety of benefits—including workers’ compensation, personal injury damages, Social Security disability, and private disability insurance benefits. Some common accidents that may lead to a loss of limb include:
- Car accidents;
- Construction accidents;
- Accidents involving heavy machinery;
- Accidents involving the use of power tools;
- Situations involving sharp objects or sharp edges;
- Accidents involving defective products;
- Cases where circulation to the limb has been affected (such as frostbite or gangrene); and/or
- Various other types of accidents.
Depending on the situation, different people might be held liable for loss of limb injuries. These can include product manufacturers, employers, and various other persons or parties.
What is a Loss of Limb?
A loss of limb may be either physical or functional. A physical loss of a limb occurs when there has been an amputation. However, you may also be entitled to compensation if you have lost the functional or industrial use of a limb or body part.
Different states define “loss of industrial use” differently. Typically, you must show that you have lost all functional use of the body part. Some states pay a proportionate benefit, depending on how much of the limb or body part was lost. For example, if you lose 50% of function in your hand, you may receive 50% of the scheduled benefit.
How is Loss of Limb Calculated?
Under workers’ compensation law, you may be entitled to coverage of your medical bills and wage loss benefits. Typically, workers’ compensation will not compensate you for your pain and suffering.
In amputation and industrial loss claims, most states have a Schedule of Loss. Each state’s schedule is different. For example, the loss of a leg is worth:
- Alabama: 200 weeks of wage loss;
- Georgia: 225 weeks of wage loss;
- Illinois: 215 weeks of wage loss;
- North Carolina: 200 weeks of wage loss;
- New Jersey: 315 weeks of wage loss; and
- New York: 288 weeks of wage loss.
Some states, like California and Texas, do not have schedules and use different factors to calculate compensation. Your state’s workers’ compensation agency should publish its schedule or rules. Consider contacting a lawyer for detailed information about your specific benefits.
In a personal injury case, the calculation is different. Instead of a schedule, you may receive:
- Economic damages: compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses,
- Non-economic damages: compensation for your pain and suffering, and
- Punitive damages.
When calculating your damages, a variety of factors will be considered. These factors may include the strength of your case, the severity of your injuries, your ability to return to work, and the amount of insurance coverage involved. Some states may place limits on the amount of damages that can be recovered, especially when it comes to punitive damages.
Social Security and Other Disability Claims for a Loss of Limb
If you have suffered an amputation or functional loss of a limb, you may also be entitled to Social Security or disability insurance benefits. Social Security disability and SSI are public benefits. You may be entitled to Social Security disability if:
- You meet the Amputation Listing of Impairment—requiring amputation of either:
- Both hands;
- A leg at or above the ankle with a medical inability to use a prosthetic to walk;
- One hand and one leg (at or above the ankle) with an inability to walk effectively; or
- An amputation of a leg at the hip.
- Or, you are unable to perform full-time, competitive work due to your injuries.
Social Security recipients receive a monthly benefit payment and may get health insurance through Medicare.
You may also be eligible for disability insurance benefits (like short-term or long-term disability) through a private insurance policy. Policies may be purchased by an individual or may be part of your employer’s benefit package. Typically, you must show that your injuries prevent you from:
- Performing your own occupation; or
- Performing all occupations.
Unlike Social Security, private disability insurance policies vary from plan to plan. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your personal plan. If you need help interpreting the insurance plan or summary plan description (SPD), contact a lawyer for help.
Are Loss of Limb Benefits Taxable?
Most workers’ compensation benefits are not taxable. However, personal injury, Social Security, and private disability payments may be taxable income. If you have received compensation from a settlement or benefit plan, consider speaking with a tax professional before filing your income tax returns.
Should I Speak with a Lawyer If I Lost a Limb?
An amputation may create multiple claims, involving workers’ compensation, personal injury, Social Security, and insurance benefits. It can be difficult to navigate these claims alone. A personal injury lawyer or insurance benefits attorney can help you understand your legal rights, file the correct claims, and maximize your compensation.