An amputation involves the removal of a body part. About 185,000 amputations happen every year in the U.S. Over half of these amputations resulted from diseases such as diabetes and vascular disease. Roughly 45% involved trauma.
An amputation is a serious injury. It deprives you of the use of the amputated part. It also causes permanent disfigurement. Both of these facts can support a claim to substantial damages after an accident.
Here is a quick guide to the common causes and effects of amputation injuries and the compensation you may be able to seek for them.
How Amputation Injuries Happen
Amputations can happen in two primary ways:
A traumatic amputation happens when your accident causes the loss of a body part. For example, a machine without a safety guard could cause you to sever your finger in a workplace accident.
A traumatic amputation can also happen when a body part becomes trapped. Rescuers might need to amputate your body part to save your life or remove you from the scene of the accident.
In some situations, doctors can reattach severed body parts. For example, doctors can often reattach fingers. This surgery has a 70% success rate if you can get to a hospital quickly and are able to keep the severed finger clean and cool.
Surgical amputation happens when you sustain an injury so severe that doctors recommend amputation.
Some situations where you might need a surgical amputation include:
- Crushed bones
- Nerve damage
- Collapsed blood vessels
In these situations, doctors often cannot repair the bones and soft tissue to make the body part viable. In other words, the body part will not have the blood supply, structural support, or nerve connections to function and remain alive. If doctors cannot make the body part viable, the tissue will die.
Rather than risking your life, doctors will remove the body part and leave you with viable tissue for a prosthetic.
A surgical amputation takes several steps.
Doctors will generally:
- Remove the damaged tissue
- Smooth the bone
- Tie off blood vessels
- Sever nerves
- Form a stump at the end of the limb
In some cases, doctors will not suture the stump. Instead, they will leave it open so they can treat any infection that develops in the stump.
Complications from an Amputation Injury
Unfortunately, the loss of your body part only begins the long process of recovery. Complications might develop after your amputation, including:
An infection happens when bacteria enter an open wound. The bacteria release chemicals that can kill the tissue. As your body fights the bacteria, you may experience:
Infections are a common complication from amputations. They happen more frequently with traumatic amputations, as bacteria can enter your wound during your accident. But the conditions in hospitals also contribute to many infections.
Doctors and nurses will clean your stump regularly and watch for signs of infection. They usually treat infections with antibiotics. If left untreated, an infection could prove to be fatal.
Phantom Limb Sensations
Phantom limb syndrome happens when you experience sensations that seem to originate in your amputated body part. Some common sensations include:
The amputated body part might even feel like it is still attached. Over 80% of patients with amputations experience some form of phantom sensations.
Phantom limb syndrome is not psychosomatic or “all in your head.” The phantom sensations come from nerves in your stump that previously ran to your amputated body part.
When these nerves produce signals, the brain maps the signals to your missing body part. The sensations are real, but your brain misplaces them based on an old map.
Over time, your brain will update its map. But this process could take several years. During that time, you could continue to experience phantom sensations.
Depression and Anxiety
Many patients experience depression and anxiety after an amputation injury.
Some causes include:
- Feelings of loss
- Concern over how the amputation will affect them
- Fear of social isolation
- Inability to participate in activities you used to enjoy
- Anger over the accident
Treatment for depression and anxiety after an amputation injury will depend on the root causes for the particular patient. For example, in some cases, therapists find that helping patients grieve for their lost body parts can help them cope with their loss.
Risk Factors for an Amputation Injury
Amputations can result from any kind of accident. But some types of accidents have a higher risk of amputations than others.
Over 70% of traumatic amputations involve upper limbs. Many traumatic amputations happen at work during construction accidents and other workplace accidents.
Workplace accidents can cause amputations of the fingers, hands, and arms in many ways. Your upper limb could get crushed by a falling object. You could get trapped in a machine. A vehicle could run over you as you’re unloading it.
In a car accident, your leg or foot could get trapped or severed as the passenger compartment collapses. You could also suffer a crushing injury to your upper limbs in a rollover accident.
But pedestrian accidents, bicycle accidents, and motorcycle accidents have a much higher likelihood of resulting in an amputation injury than a car accident.
Unlike car occupants, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcycle riders lack the protection of a steel passenger compartment. As a result, a collision can quickly crush bones or mangle the soft tissue.
Compensation for an Amputation Injury
For car accidents, Florida uses a no-fault auto insurance system. Under this system, you generally cannot seek compensation from the at-fault driver unless you suffer a serious or permanent injury or your medical expenses exceed your policy limits.
An amputation injury usually qualifies as a permanent injury. This means that you can usually seek compensation for an amputation caused by someone else’s negligent driving or behavior.
Workplace accidents operate differently. Florida usually limits employees to their workers’ compensation benefits for accidents that are suffered at work.
But Florida also allows third-party lawsuits to be filed if your injury resulted from the actions of anyone aside from your employer. Thus, you may have the right to sue a negligent driver or the manufacturer of a defective machine if their actions led to your amputation injury.
If you suffered a traumatic amputation or surgical amputation due to someone else’s actions, you may have the right to pursue injury compensation.
To discuss the compensation you can seek for your amputation injury, contact Allen Law Firm, P.A. to schedule a free consultation. Our compassionate attorneys will listen to the facts of your case and work with you to create an effective legal strategy.