Loss of limb, or amputation, refers to a type of personal injury that results in the severing of a body part. A loss of limb incident can be minor, such as losing the tip of a finger or toe, or very serious like losing a leg or arm.
Oftentimes, loss of limb injuries stem from a work-related or motor vehicle accident. Depending on the facts of your case and the tort laws in your jurisdiction, you may be entitled to a number of benefits, such as workers’ compensation, Social Security disability, personal injury damages, and private disability insurance benefits.
Thus, if you have suffered a loss of limb or amputation injury, you should consult a local personal injury lawyer to learn more about your legal rights and the potential remedies that you may be able to claim from your employer or other liable party.
What are Some Common Causes of Loss of Limb Injuries?
Some common causes of loss of limb injuries include:
- Motor vehicle accidents;
- Construction accidents;
- Accidents that involve using heavy machinery or power tools;
- Incidents where sharp objects or sharp edges caused the injury;
- Situations where the injury impacts circulation to limbs (e.g., frostbite);
- Accidents involving defective products; and
- Various other types of accidents that lead to loss of limb injuries.
Loss of limb injuries may refer to either physical or functional losses. A physical loss means that a body part was completely amputated or severed. On the other hand, a functional loss means that the body part is usually still attached, but does not perform at full capacity. For instance, if the injury causes a worker to lose one eye or go partially blind, as opposed to losing both eyes or going fully blind.
Some examples of the type of loss of limb injuries that may result from the above incidents or any others include:
- Physical or functional loss of arm or leg;
- Physical or functional loss of hand or foot;
- Physical or functional loss of fingers or toes;
- Physical or functional loss of one or both eyes;
- Total or partial hearing loss in one or both ears; and
- Serious bodily or facial disfigurement.
Loss of limb claims can be based on a number of legal theories, such as products liability, strict liability, negligence, medical malpractice, and premises liability.
Who Can Be Held Liable in a Loss of Limb Claim?
The facts of a particular case will typically dictate who can be held liable for a loss of limb claim. Some of these parties may include employers, product manufacturers, contractors, medical professionals, property owners, and private individuals.
For example, a medical professional may be held responsible for damages in a loss of limb claim if their actions constituted malpractice or they were negligent. This can happen when a surgeon amputates the wrong body part or a hospital staff makes a clerical error that leads to a loss of limb injury (e.g., improper diagnosis, wrong patient chart, etc.).
Products manufacturers can be held liable for damages when their products are defective and a plaintiff can prove that these defects caused their injuries.
One final example of the parties who can be held liable in such lawsuits are private individuals. For instance, if an individual drove their car in a reckless or careless manner, which resulted in a car accident that caused the plaintiff to lose a limb, then the plaintiff can file a personal injury lawsuit against them and sue for damages.
How Much Compensation is Available for Loss of Limb?
The amount of loss of limb compensation that may be available for a plaintiff can depend on a number of factors, such as:
- The type of injury;
- How serious the injury is;
- The laws of a particular state;
- Whether the plaintiff will be able to return to work or how long it may take the plaintiff to recover;
- The circumstances surrounding the case; and
- The kind of insurance coverage and how much is being covered by the insurance company.
Additionally, how the plaintiff recovers damages can also affect the amount of loss of limb compensation. For example, if the plaintiff is claiming workers’ compensation benefits, they may be entitled to having their medical bills and wage loss damages covered, but generally will not receive compensation for their pain and suffering.
In cases where the plaintiff is a factory worker and suffers a loss of limb injury on the job (i.e., an industrial loss), the amount of damages they can recover may be related to their state’s Schedule of Loss. Almost every state has implemented its own schedule. In general, loss schedules will provide the time period and rate of compensation that a worker can receive based on their specific injury.
For instance, in North Carolina, an industrial worker will receive approximately 67% of their average weekly wages for 200 weeks if they lose their leg or a hand.
Another way a plaintiff may recover damages is through a personal injury case. This usually means that their injuries were not the result of a work accident or that they are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Remedies for a successful personal injury case can include:
- Economic damages, such as compensation for lost wages, medical bills, and other related expenses;
- Non-economic damages (e.g., damages for pain and suffering or emotional distress); and
- In rare cases, punitive damages.
Finally, it is important to note that many states will put a cap on the amount of damages a plaintiff can recover for an injury as well as have restrictions on punitive damages.
What Social Security Disability Benefits Can an Amputee Claim?
There are two main reasons as to why amputation may be included in a loss of limbs claim. The first is if the injury itself causes a body part to become amputated. The second can occur when an injury is so severe that a surgeon must amputate the body part or else it may increase the patient’s risk of infection, lead to vascular conditions, or cause death.
Regardless of how the amputation occurs, a person may still be able to receive compensation for it. These are known as amputation compensation claims. For instance, an individual may obtain a settlement for losing a leg. As mentioned above, the amount will depend on a number of factors, but generally accounts for both physical and emotional suffering.
Additionally, an injured individual may also be eligible to receive Social Security and/or disability insurance benefits. A person may be entitled to Social Security benefits if their injury is one that appears under the list of impairments, such as loss of a leg or both hands. If they qualify, they can receive a monthly benefit payment for their injuries and potentially obtain health insurance through Medicare.
Alternatively, they may be able to receive disability insurance benefits from a private insurance policy. The individual will have to show that their injuries either prevent them from performing their designated occupation or from performing all kinds of occupations. The type of benefits that the injured party may be entitled to will be contingent on the terms of the insurance policy.
Are There any Defenses in a Loss of Limb Injury Lawsuit?
There are several defenses that a defendant to a loss of limb injury lawsuit might be able to raise, including:
- Contributory or comparative negligence;
- Assumption of risk;
- Statute of limitations; and
- Lack of proof.
The above list contains some of the most common types of defenses used in loss of limb injury lawsuits, but there may be others depending on state laws and the facts of a case. To find out whether different defenses apply, a defendant should contact a personal injury lawyer for further legal advice.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Loss of Limb Lawsuit?
Loss of limb and amputation lawsuits can become quite complicated. This is especially true when an incident leads to multiple claims, requires the interpretation of numerous state laws, or several parties can be held liable for the injuries. Navigating such cases without a lawyer can be frustrating and confusing. You also run the risk of missing out on the maximum amount of benefits you could have received if you had hired a lawyer.
Therefore, if you are involved with a loss of limb or amputation lawsuit, you should contact a local personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Your lawyer can tell you whether you have a viable claim, help you prepare and file a lawsuit, and provide representation in court on the matter. Your lawyer can also ensure that you understand your legal rights, file your claims properly, and assist you in recovering damages.