Amputation is often preceded by a serious trauma, yet the physical and psychological trauma that can follow is something difficult to imagine for most of us. In the struggle to feel complete again, there can be life-changing challenges – mental, physical, medical, financial, and legal – that must be met. It’s important that one knows that there is help and the options to consider.
The Different Causes of Amputations
Amputations can be caused by a wide variety of circumstances. They are separated into four primary classifications, as described below:
- Cancer-related: An amputation procedure may be necessary to stop the spread of cancer from a limb to the rest of the body. A limb may also be removed if it has been substantially ravaged by cancer. One-third of cancer-related amputations involve the lower limbs.
- Dysvascular-related: Having a poor blood supply and poor vascular status of a limb stemming from diseases such as diabetes. An overwhelming majority of dysvascular amputations involve lower limbs.
- Congenital-related: Fetal limbs can sometimes become constricted to the point where they receive no blood and fall off as a result, causing a child to be born without one or more limbs or with partial loss of limbs.
- Trauma-related: A limb may experience severe physical trauma in an accident, making an amputation necessary.
Traumatic amputation injuries can result from various types of traumatic events including but not limited to:
- Workplace injuries.
Amputation injuries are common in construction sites or other industrial environments where heavy machinery is used. The risk of severing a limb or appendage is heightened when there is a lack of proper training, supervision, or safety gear. Employers or work site contractors may be held liable for their negligence if an employee suffers an amputation. If the accident occurred in part due to defective machinery, then the company who manufactured the machine may be held liable.
- Traffic accidents.
Victims injured in a traffic accident may suffer the severing of limbs or trauma to a limb that needs to be removed in surgery to ensure survival. A party whose negligence caused the accident can be held liable for any losses that the victim may suffer.
- Explosions or blasts.
Explosions and/or blasts often occur in the oil industry and related fields. Those serving in the military often frequently suffer from these types of injuries. Fireworks can cause the loss of a limb or serious trauma to the body as well.
- Defective product incidents.
Use of defective or faulty equipment, a product without proper instructions, or using a product or tool in a way in which it was not intended can result in a traumatic amputation injury.
- Animal attacks and dog bites.
In the event that an animal attacks a human, the bite may result in serious trauma and infection that results in the need for amputation.
- Other accidents.
Incidents on properties with dangerous conditions, Electrocution accidents, and accidents involving heavy machinery can be causes of amputation injuries.
Assessing the Effects of Amputation
The loss of a limb is never easy for anyone to deal with, and often it subjects people to physical and psychological problems that are difficult to overcome even with proper medical and psychological care. Consider a number of factors that should be taken into account:
- The emotional and psychological effect on the person
- The type of amputation
- Their pre-injury health
- The condition of the remaining limb
- Other injuries sustained at the same time as the amputation
- Whether a prosthetic limb can be used
- The person’s age
- Their domestic situation
Short-term complications after amputation:
- Stump pain
- Failure to heal
- Nerve and skin problems
- Joint contractures
- Venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism
Long-term medical complications after amputation:
- Degenerative diseases
- Back, hip, knee and other joint pain
- Besides these physical complications, amputees can also suffer severe mental health issues that stem from the injury and its aftereffects.
Long-term medical needs are something that an amputee should also consider when thinking about future financial needs. Issues related to a prosthetic also need to be considered, including rehabilitation and replacement.
Workers’ Compensation and Amputation
If the accident that led to an amputation occurred while the person was working, it is likely that he or she will pursue a workers’ compensation claim. In workers’ compensation cases the amount of money recoverable by an amputee is generally capped. Worker’s compensation often prohibits individuals from obtaining money for pain and suffering. That is why it is important to consider pursuing compensation from a third party by filing a third party personal injury claim if possible. This will help the injured person maximize the amount of a damages award after an amputation.
Personal Injury Lawsuits and Amputation
For any personal injury claim based on negligence to be successful, the victim must show that the defendant owed the victim a legal duty to act in a certain way and that the defendant breached that duty by failing to act with reasonable care. The victim must also be able to show that this act caused his or her injuries and damages resulted. You may be entitled to:
- Economic damages
- Non-economic damages
- Punitive damages
Your damages will vary, depending on the strength and facts of your claim. Below are people and companies that you might be able to sue for your amputation, depending on the facts of your case:
- the manufacturer of a defective product
- the owner or driver of a vehicle
- a trucking company
- the person who assaulted you and inflicted injuries that led to amputation
- an employer
- the owner of freight being hauled in a tractor trailer
- the manufacturer of a drug responsible for your amputation
- the owner of the property on which you were hurt
- a construction company
- a doctor, hospital, or other medical professional
- the owner of a dog
Social Security and Disability Benefits
If you are disabled and 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.
Types of compensation that victims of amputation injury may be eligible for include the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of income
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost earning capacity
- Disfigurement and disability
- Emotional distress
- Mental anguish
- Reduced enjoyment or quality of life
- Loss of consortium
National Amputation Foundation: This foundation was founded in 1919 by a group of amputee veterans who suffered the loss of limb or limbs in the service of our country in World War I. It now helps all people with amputations.
Amputee Coalition of America: The Amputee Coalition of America (ACA), the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA) and Hanger Orthopedic recently partnered to bring together amputees and advocates from across the country. The purpose was to ensure that congressional efforts to reform our healthcare system will meet the needs of people with limb loss by including prosthetic and orthotic devices in the minimum coverage standards.