The loss of a limb or a hand or foot can happen for any number of legitimate medical reasons. Diabetes is the leading cause of amputations of toes, feet and legs. Then, there are the traumatic amputations that are perfectly preventable. Nobody expects to be put in such a position. Traumatic amputations are incredibly painful, the medical costs are overwhelming and the emotional consequences can flatten a person. We understand the challenges that traumatic amputees are facing, and we are prepared to confront the legal issues that amputees must deal with.
A traumatic amputation occurs when a body part like a toe, foot, leg, finger, hand or arm is severed as a result of an accident. These amputations might even affect an ear, the lips or the nose. They’re entirely different than surgical amputations that occur in an operating room, but there are times when the nature and extent of the trauma suffered by a person necessitates surgical amputation. About 80 percent of all traumatic amputation victims are males between the ages of 15 and 40. Tragically, about 600 children suffer lawn mower-related amputations every year.
Classifications of Amputations
Traumatic amputations are categorized as either partial or complete. In a partial amputation, the body part remains partially attached to the victim’s body, usually by tissue, a tendon or a muscle. When a complete amputation occurs, the body part is completely severed from the body.
According to the Amputee Coalition, about two million people in the United States are living with some type of an amputation. About 45 percent of those amputations were caused by trauma. Here are some of the types of accidents that cause traumatic amputations:
- Motor vehicle, truck, motorcycle and bicycle crashes.
- Industrial machinery and construction accidents.
- Agricultural machinery accidents.
- Lawn mower and snow blower accidents.
- Dangerously defective products.
- Explosions from fireworks, guns and military explosive devices.
- Natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados.
- Falls from high locations
- Door slamming.
- Dog bites.
At least one of three common mechanisms of injuries are involved in traumatic amputations. They include the following:
- Tremendous pressure from a crushing force.
- An avulsion when a part of the body is pulled or torn away.
- Guillotine separation from sharp edges.
Of these types of amputations, crush injuries are the most common. They involve significant tissue and bone damage, and as a result, reattachment is more surgically complex and less likely to be successful. As opposed to crush amputations, guillotine amputations usually present far less tissue damage. They are much more likely to have fewer reattachment and recovery complications. For purposes of reattachment, avulsion amputations tend to have the worst outcomes.
What to Do
The most common traumatic amputations are partial amputations to the hands involving the loss of one or more fingers. Next in frequency is the traumatic loss of an arm. In the event of any type of amputation, call 911 right away. Specifically tell the 911 dispatcher what happened. Follow any instruction that you might be given. Try to control blood loss by keeping pressure on the wound. Assuming that there are no back or neck injuries, lay the victim on his or her back. Find an object about a foot high and elevate the victim’s feet on that object. Then, cover the victim with a blanket. These steps might help prevent the victim from going into shock. Should pressure and leg elevation fail, a tourniquet must be used. If saline solution is available, clean the area of the wound with it. If it is not available, use water. Either one might help reduce the chances of infection. If you locate the amputated body part, wrap it in a clean towel or plastic bag, In either case, it should be kept cool with ice, but try not to have the ice directly on the body part.
The complete or partial loss of a limb will require extensive medical treatment and subsequent rehabilitation. Although prosthetics are available, there is no substitute for a natural body part. Amputees are going to need lengthy physical and occupational therapy in order to achieve flexibility and resiliency with a prosthetic device. It is also likely that in the future, one or more other prosthetic devices will be needed.
At best, pain management after an amputation is difficult. The pain from the amputation itself will subside, but some pain might still come from the stump of the amputation. That is known as residual limb pain. Pain might also be felt in the area of the missing body part. That is known as phantom pain. For example, a person might feel pain, burning or itching in their right ankle and foot, but he or she can look, and there is no right ankle or foot. Professional pain management needs to be considered.
Most traumatic amputation victims suffer permanent emotional wounds too. They never had time to mentally prepare for losing a body part, and it’s suddenly gone. They experience depression, a significantly reduced sense of self, a distorted body image, loneliness and increased dependency. Memories of the traumatic event can also trigger post-traumatic stress disorder and symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares or outbursts of anger. Professional counseling also needs to be considered.
Maximum Medical Improvement
In order to maximize both an amputee’s physical and emotional well-being, the following health care professionals will likely be involved in their rehabilitation:
- An orthopedic surgeon.
- A psychologist or psychiatrist.
- A prosthetics professional.
- A rehabilitation specialist.
- An occupational therapist.
In addition to these professionals, an architect might be required for home modifications along with an employment consultant, an economist or life planner. Records and reports from all of these health care providers and professionals will be thoroughly reviewed for purposes of preparing a client’s case and clearly defining each and every item of damages that he or she has suffered.
Damages for amputations:
Two different categories of damages apply in amputation cases. Those are characterized as economic and non-economic damages. For example, past and future medical bills and costs of care along with past and future lost earnings would be classified as economic damages. Once a jury decides on the extent of economic damages, they’re relatively simple to calculate. Then, there are non-economic damages. It’s perfectly within the province of a jury to award non-economic damages, but they’re more difficult to put a value on, especially in amputation cases. Here are some of the factors that an award of non-economic damages can pivot on in an amputation case:
- The location of the amputation. What was amputated, and whether it was above or below a joint.
- Whether or not a hand or arm amputation occurred on a dominant side.
- How the amputation affects the victim’s employment and social life.
- How well one or more prosthetic devices might restore function and mobility.
- The degree of any stump or phantom pain.
- The presence of any psychological or psychiatric disorder caused by the amputation.
- The age and life expectancy of the amputee.
- Whether any future degenerative changes are to be expected.
- The victim’s prognosis as a whole.
Do Not Speak With the Other Side
In any traumatic amputation case, the opposing insurer knows that it is financially exposed for a large loss. It will do whatever it legally can do to minimize its loss. That includes taking a written or recorded statement from you. Kentucky law does not require you to give any type of a statement to an opposing insurance company. That insurer is only going to shift some or all of the fault for your accident over onto you in efforts to attack your credibility and devalue your case by using your own words against you in the future. Talk with us instead. Whatever you say to us is privileged and confidential.
Contact a compassionate Louisville Amputation Injury Lawyer today.
After suffering a traumatic amputation injury, your medical bills will be overwhelming, and you must start over again with prosthetic devices, rehab specialists, and mental health specialists. You may even require vocational training in order to learn a new occupation along with modifications to your home. We are fully aware and sympathetic with how a traumatic amputation injury will affect you for the rest of your life. We are here to help you on this next journey. We have a strong history of delivering favorable settlements and verdicts and affording victims the compensation necessary to attain the highest quality of life possible.
Whether your case involves a motor vehicle or trucking industry accident, a pedestrian or bicycle accident or a workplace accident, you or a family member should contact us at your earliest possible convenience to arrange for a free consultation and case review. We are going to listen to you carefully about the facts surrounding your accident and how it has impacted the lives of you and your family. We will be prepared to answer your questions too. After that, we will advise you of your full range of legal options. Do not give that opposing insurer an opportunity to try and devalue your case. Our objective is to maximize its value for you. Contact us as soon as possible after any traumatic amputation in or around Louisville or anywhere else in Kentucky.