Accidents Resulting in Amputation—How Does This Change my Claim?
Losing a limb has serious lifelong consequences. Suddenly, the things you took for granted are impossible. Depending on the nature and severity of your amputation, your freedom of movement will be compromised—and with each new day, you’ll have to confront the crushing reality that you may never get it back.
Doctors often perform amputations in cases of birth abnormalities or when diseases like cancer or diabetes restrict blood flow to certain parts of the body, leading to infections like gangrene. All amputations are tragic—even in extreme cases where the operation will vastly improve the patient’s quality of life—but the saddest cases are when it impacts younger people and it happens unexpectedly due to an accident.
The loss of limb caused by the recklessness or negligence of another person can have devastating effects on your life which we’ll explore further in this article. We’ll also examine amputations from the perspective of personal injury law and look at how lawsuits change when these traumatic injuries are involved.
Personal Injuries and Amputations
Unlike ordinary personal injury cases, situations that involve amputation can be much harder for the victim to endure. Losing a limb is devastating psychologically. Unlike other injuries, there’s simply no chance for a complete recovery. And the cost of your ongoing medical expenses is also bound to be higher, as we’ll see below.
Minor amputations include loss of a finger, partial foot amputation, and ankle disarticulation—loss of the whole foot. Major amputations of the arm include forearm (transradial), above the elbow (transhumeral), and shoulder disarticulation. Where the leg is concerned, amputations can happen below, at, or above the knee, or at the hip.
Amputees often experience two problems unique to their condition—phantom limb sensations and heterotopic ossification.
Phantom limb is a side effect of the way our brains work. If the neural pathways associated with the lost limb were strong enough before the amputation, the amputee may still feel sensations as if they were whole again. Over half of all amputees experience this phenomenon, but often the experience is negative and persistent—never-ending pain, an incessant burning sensation, an itch that can never be scratched.
Heterotopic ossification is the formation of bone tissue outside the skeleton—usually in the soft tissue surrounding the severed bone. It’s a known side effect of trauma but it can be especially problematic for an amputee as it often interferes with the use of prosthetics (artificial limbs). Amputees who develop heterotopic ossification often require additional surgery—or surgeries—to deal with the situation. And most heterotopic ossification sufferers are likely to develop additional ossifications in the future.
The Long-term Effects of Amputations
The aftermath of an amputation can be catastrophic, both physically as well as emotionally. And many of these effects can often burden you for the rest of your life.
The physical effects
In addition to phantom limb and heterotopic ossification—see above—amputees can also experience a wide range of discomfort, including stump pain and other complications. It’s also not uncommon for amputation stumps to become infected, sometimes requiring further medical care and in extreme cases more surgery.
The emotional effects
There are several psychological and emotional hazards involved in amputation cases. Having a limb severed, especially as the result of trauma, can be extremely distressing and very few people can take it in stride. Anxiety and depression are two of the biggest culprits to watch out for. Anxiety can be specific—i.e., related to your accident—or general, affecting many unrelated aspects of your life. And although sadness and a sense of loss are to be expected after amputation, clinical depression is another major risk associated with the loss of a limb. Depression could cause you to withdraw from your family and friends—the people you need most at times like this.
Losing a limb limits what you can physically do, often leading to frustration, dissatisfaction and possible bouts of anger. Amputees are also at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)—repeated flashbacks of the trauma of the accident. The lost limb often serves as a constant reminder, making the symptoms ever more intense.
Ongoing Expenses Associated with Amputations
There are always financial burdens involved in every severe accident. Medical expenses, lost wages, and property damage are some of the most common examples. But accidents involving amputations usually have additional expenses most would never consider.
Amputees often require prosthetic hands, arms, feet, or legs to help them cope with their everyday lives. And not only are prosthetics costly and seldom fully covered by insurance, they’re also rarely a one-and-done solution. Prosthetics often need to be replaced, especially when the amputee is a growing child. And wear-and-tear can also be an issue, especially on more modern and sophisticated devices that are more versatile but also have more parts that can break down.
Physiotherapy is another common ongoing expense, especially for those who wear prosthetics.
Medication is also a factor, both for physical pain as well as emotional distress—depression and anxiety. Amputees dealing with emotional issues will likely also have counseling expenses.
Some amputees also need specialized mobility devices such as wheelchairs or modified automobiles. Modifications to the home may also be required, including ramps and chair lifts as well as modified kitchens and bathrooms.
Challenges in the Workplace
Amputees face special challenges at work depending on the nature of their job and the amputation involved. In ideal circumstances, things go on as before, but these cases are rare. Sometimes, the employer may have to make accommodations or modifications to help the employee carry on as before. Or perhaps the injured employee can be reassigned to another task where their amputation won’t be a hindrance.
But the fact remains that for many an amputation is a career-ender. Besides reducing your chances for promotion and advancement within the company, an amputation may make it impossible for you to do your job at all.
Where will the Money Come From?
Recovering the money necessary to cover all these expenses and lost wages and compensate you for intangibles such as pain and suffering can sometimes be an involved process. Your obvious first course of action is an existing insurance policy.
If you were injured in a car accident, your insurance will cover statutory accident benefits. These mandatory coverages will cover a variety of costs including medical and rehab expenses, attendant care, housekeeping, home maintenance, and lost wages. If the injury wasn’t related to a car accident, you may still have coverage under your property insurance.
But if your estimated damages run higher than your coverage—as is often the case with amputations—and you weren’t 100% to blame for the accident, there’s also the option of suing the other driver.
If your insurance claim is denied, or if you need to bring legal action against an at-fault third party, it pays to have a team of experienced personal injury lawyers in your corner. Getting the compensation you deserve, especially in an accident so severe, can be a long and involved process. Hiring representation that’s sympathetic to your circumstances and knows all the ins and outs of the legal system is your best shot of coming out on top in these complicated personal injury cases.
Get the Best Compensation Possible for Your Loss of Limb
Though the loss of a limb will have repercussions for the rest of your life, a well-structured compensation package can be just the thing to help get your life back on track. Though the physical and emotional consequences of amputation are often more severe than those resulting from other personal injuries, there are systems in place to make sure you’re covered for all expenses, as well as pain and suffering. And with the best personal injury lawyers looking after your case, you can rest assured that all the consequences specific to amputations are also provided for.
Have You or a Loved One Suffered an Amputation?
If someone’s recklessness, carelessness, or negligence has caused you the loss of a limb, you need an experienced, knowledgeable legal team to help you get the compensation you’re entitled to. The dedicated personal injury team at Mackesy Smye want to make sure your quality of life isn’t diminished by this loss. Use the form below to contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation.