An amputation injury is one of the most severe traumas you can experience. Over 2 million Americans have amputations. About 50% of these amputations resulted from diseases like vascular disease and cancer, while about 45% were traumatic amputations.
Amputations will leave you with lifelong disabilities. The severity of the disability will depend on the body part that was amputated.
In many cases, doctors can fit you with a prosthesis that can mimic some of the functions of the amputated body part. But prostheses have not advanced to the point to which they can replace all of the functions lost with an amputation.
Here is a quick guide to the causes and effects of amputation injuries and the compensation you can recover for them.
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How Do Amputation Injuries Happen?
Traumatic amputations happen in two ways.
An accident can cause the disarticulation of a limb or body part. 70% of traumatic amputations involve the upper limbs. This often occurs because of the risk of losing fingers, hands, and arms in workplace and construction accidents.
An accident can also cause so much damage that doctors cannot save the body part. More accurately, the trauma to the body part can destroy blood vessels, nerves, bones, and soft tissue, preventing doctors from reconstructing it. As a result, doctors may recommend amputation as the best course of action.
Some common injuries that might require amputation include:
Crushing injuries happen when pressure on a body part traps and compresses the tissue. Nerves and blood vessels can sustain damage that destroys their structure. Bones can fracture into tiny shards that doctors cannot rebuild. As a result, doctors may need to amputate to save your life.
Blunt Force Injuries
A sharp, rapid impact can snap bones and tear soft tissue apart. The damage to the tissue and bones can render the body part unusable, even if doctors can reconstruct it.
Penetrating injuries happen when a foreign object pierces the skin. Penetrating injuries can physically sever a body part from the body. They can also sever blood vessels, causing bleeding and tissue death.
Burn injuries can char the flesh, leaving little viable tissue available for reconstruction. Doctors may need to remove so much dead tissue that they have to amputate the body part.
Exposure to toxins in water, air, and food can cause tumors. When these tumors grow in the bones and soft tissue of a body part, doctors may need to amputate to remove the tumor and stop the cancerous cells from spreading.
What Are the Risk Factors for Amputation Injuries?
Some accidents pose an increased risk of injuries that lead to amputations, including:
Construction sites play host to large machines, heavy vehicles, and power tools. Accidents at a construction site often involve crushing injuries, burn injuries, and penetrating injuries.
Car accidents can produce a lot of broken glass, which can cause penetrating injuries that shred tissue. A front-end collision can compress the passenger compartment, crushing an occupant’s feet and legs.
Even the airbag poses an amputation risk. The airbag can inflate with so much explosive force that it can tear the thumbs from your hands as they grip the steering wheel.
Motorcycle accidents are notorious for severe leg injuries. Motorcycle accidents can damage leg tissue in several ways. For example:
- Colliding with a vehicle can crush a rider’s leg
- Sliding along the road can tear the soft tissue of the leg
- Getting trapped under a motorcycle can crush a rider’s leg
Unfortunately, no protective gear can prevent crushing injuries. Severe tissue damage that can require an amputation is an unfortunate risk of riding a motorcycle.
Pedestrian and Bicycle Accidents
Pedestrians and cyclists are not protected from collisions with vehicles. The force of a collision can crush or tear the tissue in the arms or legs. As a result, doctors may need to amputate the damaged tissue.
What is the Amputation Process?
When tissue requires amputation, a doctor will remove the damaged tissue. The surgeon will carefully close the blood vessels and sever the nerves running to the damaged tissue.
The doctor will prepare a stump, including a skin flap to close the wound. But the doctor might not close the skin flap at the end of the surgery. Leaving the wound open will allow the medical staff to keep the wound clean and reduce the risk of infection. An open can also allow the doctors to remove additional damaged tissue if necessary.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Amputation Injuries?
Amputation injuries do not always heal properly. Some potential complications from amputations include:
Bacteria can collect in the wound and cause an infection. An infected wound can damage the stump. In severe cases, it can spread through the blood, causing organ failure or even death.
In addition to the pain you experience in the stump, accident victims experience phantom pain that feels like it comes from the missing limb.
This is not imaginary. Phantom pain is real pain that comes from severed nerves. But since the brain takes time to remap the nerves, it misinterprets the pain signals.
Mental Health Problems
Around 20% of women and 37% of men with amputation injuries experience depression or anxiety. These problems can stem from the pain, mental anguish, and diminishment in their quality of life caused by the amputation.
What Compensation Can I Recover for Amputation Injuries?
Compensation can include reimbursement for economic losses like medical expenses and lost income.
An amputation could result in substantial expenses for surgery, hospitalization, and physical therapy. If you experience depression and anxiety, your damages may also include mental health counseling and medication.
An amputation might also require you to miss work or even change jobs. Your damages will include the income you lose while you recover from your injuries.
If you need to retire or change jobs, your damages will include your diminished earning capacity. This means that you can recover the difference between your income before your accident and your income after the accident.
Most importantly, you can recover compensation for your physical pain and mental suffering after your injury. As mentioned above, your pain and suffering after an amputation can be substantial. Your pain and suffering will support a claim for non-economic damages on top of your economic losses.