A Life-Changing Event: Limb Loss and Amputation Injuries
The loss of a limb cannot be taken lightly. An amputation demands major changes in an accident victim’s life. Among the many life alterations that may be required of a person with an amputation include learning to use a prosthetic device, dealing with phantom limb pain, and finding and mastering a new line of work if the person has not been left permanently disabled.
Amputation caused by an accident can leave the victim and their family on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical expenses and lost wages. But if the injuries were caused by someone else’s recklessness or negligence, it may be possible to recover many costs, including those for pain and suffering. If you or a loved one has lost a limb and you suspect negligence, let the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler fight for you.
Amputation and Limb Loss Statistics
In the United States, roughly 2 million persons have lost a limb, and estimates are that approximately 30,000 amputations due to trauma occur each year in our nation, or 45 percent of total amputations. A little more than half of all limb loss is a result of peripheral vascular disease, diabetes, and cancer—56 percent of the total. The number of persons who live with the loss of a limb is expected to double by 2050, to 4 million.
In Maryland during 2013, 3,053 amputations were performed in hospitals for all the reasons cited above. Of the total, 2,883 were lower-extremity amputations, with 604 below-the-knee amputations being the most common, followed by 486 above-the-knee amputations. Upper-extremity amputations totaled 170.
Other facts about traumatic limb loss are:
- Roughly 30 percent of people with limb loss have problems with anxiety and depression.
- The majority of those who undergo traumatic amputation are between the ages of 15 and 40.
- Four-fifths of those who experience accidental amputation are male.
- The second most-common traumatic amputation is the loss of an arm. The most common traumatic amputation is a partial hand loss (removal of one or more fingers).
What Could Cause You to Lose a Limb?
A number of accident situations could mean the direct loss of a limb or leave you with such severe injuries that medical professionals have no choice but to amputate. The most common situations that can cause accidental limb loss and amputations are:
- Vehicular crashes. Motor vehicle collisions are by far the leading reason for traumatic amputations. Severe burns and blunt force trauma may necessitate removing a damaged limb that cannot be saved. Those who ride bicycles and motorcycles are particularly vulnerable to limb loss trauma. Because many crashes are caused by persons demonstrating negligent behaviors such as driving under the influence, speeding, and distraction due to smartphones, victims of amputation caused by a crash may bring a lawsuit to recover damages for their losses.
- Workplace accidents. OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reported that, in 2015, the workplace was responsible for 2,644 traumatic amputations, with 57 percent of the limb losses occurring in manufacturing. A number of job areas carry a great risk of amputation, including construction, the wholesale and retail trade, the oil and gas industries, industrial workplaces, and agriculture. Amputations with occupational causes can happen because of dangerous work conditions that managers or owners resist fixing despite repeated complaints and citations.
- Medical malpractice. With the aging of our population and the increase in diabetes, amputation is sometimes the only solution. But occasionally mistakes are made. While not all medical mistakes translate into malpractice, the failure to properly treat infections (especially in patients suffering from diabetes), the failure to prevent blood clots from forming during surgery, and amputating the wrong limb can all be grounds for a medical malpractice suit.
- Defective products. While these types of amputations are less common, it is unfortunately children who often suffer. Tiny fingers can get entangled in all sorts of recreational equipment and toys. One play slide was recalled during 2016 because of finger amputations.
Adding Up the Costs of Limb Loss and Amputation
Losing a body part can feel extremely personal, as if you are not really yourself any more. Such physical damage and its accompanying mental and emotional harm, when added together, often result in six-figure financial costs.
The various medical services and lifestyle modifications necessary to maintaining one’s life that can add up significantly include:
- Prosthetic limbs do a world of good, enabling some persons with amputations to avoid complete disability. But prosthetic limbs are expensive because they do not last forever—the average is three to five years—and they must be custom-made. Additionally, weeks of physical therapy are usually needed to adjust to the prosthetic device. A new prosthetic leg can cost between $5,000 and $50,000.
- Physical and psychological therapy. A person who has suffered from losing a limb will undoubtedly require physical therapy in order to adjust and may well need psychological therapy to cope with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If the person intends to return to work, occupational therapy may also be called for.
- “Rehab” is standard for anyone who has experienced an amputation, because the victim must relearn daily tasks and sometimes even the most basic of activities like walking.
- House and vehicle modifications. Those with amputations may need permanent changes in their living situations, requiring modifications of their homes and vehicles. A new vehicle with special controls could be called for; the cost often exceeds $40,000 in 2018 prices. Railings, ramps, and other modifications to the home or a standard vehicle can run into tens of thousands of dollars.
- Pain medications and pain treatments. Persons with amputations can experience severe pain, even after the wounds have physically healed. In the case of phantom limb pain, the person often must learn to live with the situation, which calls for therapies and treatments of many types.
The aftermath of an injury that caused the loss of a limb or other amputation is often life-changing for the accident victims and their family members; such injuries can take years of patience and dedication to overcome. If you believe your or a loved one’s limb loss was due to negligence, we invite you to seek legal assistance to determine your options.