The important ways amputation and disfigurement injuries differ from other personal injuries
Written by: Enjuris Editors
Amputations and disfigurement injuries are life-changing and permanent. They require highly qualified attorneys who are well versed in this area of law, because these cases differ from simpler injury cases and often require large settlements.
All accident injuries are challenging, but injuries resulting in amputation or disfigurement—which serve as constant reminders of the horrific accident—tend to be more difficult to overcome than other injuries.
What’s more, according to hospital discharge data, the number of total amputations performed in Arizona each year increased by 85.48% from 1997-2014.
Though recent scientific advances have been encouraging, such injuries are still considered “catastrophic” and generally result in settlements and verdicts larger than other personal injury lawsuits.
The term “amputation” refers to the removal of all or part of a limb or extremity. An amputation might result from an external injury (such as a car accident or serious burn), a severe infection, or a necessary medical procedure.
The term “disfigurement” refers to an injury that impairs the appearance of a person (such as a facial scar).
Disfigurements and amputations are commonly thought of as “catastrophic” or “permanent” injuries. While the causes of these injuries vary greatly, some of the more common incidents that result in amputation or disfigurement include:
Dog bites. In Arizona, the dog’s owner is legally responsible for injuries resulting from a dog bite.
Burns. Burns, like the severe burns sustained by Stella Liebeck in the famous McDonald’s hot coffee case, can cause permanent disfigurement.
Road rash. Vehicle accidents that happen on asphalt, concrete, and other hard surfaces commonly result in skin abrasions that result in permanent disfigurement.
What makes an amputation or disfigurement case different?
Amputation and disfigurement cases tend to result in higher settlements and verdicts. One of the reasons for this is that the medical costs association with an amputation or disfigurement are significant.
In Arizona, the lifetime cost for a person with a unilateral lower extremity amputation is estimated to be more than $500,000.
Amputation and disfigurement victims often require medication, repeated doctor visits, and physical therapy for much if not all of their lives.
Enjuris tip: It’s important to keep track of all your expenses following an accident that results in an amputation or disfigurement. Use our free Damages/Expenses Worksheet to keep track.
But there are also less tangible difficulties that result from amputations and severe disfigurement. Such injuries often carry a host of psychological consequences, including anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, sexual problems, and an inability to make friends.
Further, amputation and disfigurement victims may receive higher compensation based on the simple fact that their injuries are generally more visible to judges, jurors, and insurance companies. Unlike someone who claims to experience neck pain as a result of a car accident, there’s no questioning someone who claims to have lost an arm as a result of a car accident. The evidence of the injury is clearly visible every time the victim enters into the courtroom.
Arizona’s workers’ compensation laws are designed to ensure that employees who are injured at work receive compensation without having to file lawsuits against their employers.
Arizona employees who are injured on the job are entitled to compensation (sometimes called “income replacement benefits” or “wage loss benefits”). The available compensation depends on the type of injury suffered by the employee.
Certain injuries are specifically listed in the Arizona schedule of losses. These injuries include amputations and certain disfigurements. For each injury listed in the Arizona schedule of losses, the amount of compensation you can receive for that injury as well as the length of time for which you can receive the compensation is also listed.
Generally for these injuries, compensation of 55% of the average monthly wage of the injured employee, in addition to the compensation for temporary total disability, should be paid for the designated period.
Arizona Scheduled Benefits for Amputations
Type of injury
Maximum # of months benefits can be awarded
Loss of thumb
Loss of first (index) finger
Loss of second finger
Loss of third finger
Loss of fourth (little) finger
Loss of great (big) toe
Loss of a toe other than the great toe
Loss of major (dominant) hand
Loss of minor hand
Loss of major (dominant) arm
Loss of minor arm
Loss of foot
Loss of leg
Loss of eye (by enucleation)
Loss of sight in one eye
Loss of hearing in one ear
Loss of hearing in both ears
Loss of use of finger, toe, arm, hand, foot or leg (paralysis)
Same as loss caused by separation/amputation
Permanent disfigurement (head, face, teeth)
So, for example, if you lose your thumb because of a work-related accident, you can receive 55% of your average monthly wage for up to 15 months.
What laws exist in Arizona relating to amputation and disfigurement?
In Arizona, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is generally 2 years regardless of whether the injured person suffered an amputation or disfigurement.
Arizona is a pure comparative fault state, which means that if you’re partially responsible for the accident that caused your amputation or disfigurement, your damages will be reduced by your percentage of fault.
Enjuris tip: Read more about pure comparative fault and other ways a plaintiff’s damages might be reduced in Arizona.
Resources for amputation and disfigurement survivors
Speaking with or reading about other people who are going through a similar experience can be very therapeutic. Here are some resources for you to consider: