How to file accident lawsuits for an amputation injury in Montana
An amputation or disfigurement injury changes your life forever.
Aside from the fact that you’ve already been through a traumatic experience that caused the injury, you now need to relearn how to live with what feels like a different body from the one you had before. You might be experiencing emotional trauma, physical pain, and the adjustment to a new way of life.
All of this is daunting, and you might not know where to turn. As you begin to live with your “new normal,” you might have other questions, too. Questions like:
- How am I going to pay my medical bills?
- How am I going to pay for physical and occupational therapy, and my ongoing treatments?
- What about these prosthetics and adaptive devices?
- How am I going to live now that I can’t earn a living the same way I did before?
- I’ve endured pain and suffering, along with mental and emotional distress. Can I be compensated for that?
- What about my loss of enjoyment of life? Loss of consortium with my spouse or child? Do those matter?
Fortunately, Montana law provides relief for a person who was injured as a result of someone else’s negligence or wrongdoing. A Montana personal injury lawyer can work with you get the financial compensation you need to cover your past, present, and future expenses related to your injury.
What is amputation and disfigurement?
Amputation is when a limb is removed because of external trauma or an internal medical condition like a bacterial infection. An amputation injury can involve any limb or extremity, including arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, and ears.
Disfigurement is when there’s permanent damage to soft tissue (ligaments, skin, muscles, etc.) or bone that includes nerve damage, scarring, burns, or other wounds. Amputation is a type of disfigurement.
Workplace amputation injuries
If your amputation or disfigurement injury is the result of a work-related accident, you’re eligible to receive Montana workers’ compensation benefits.
In Montana, all work-related injuries are eligible for workers’ compensation, which includes past and future wage loss, medical treatments and therapies, and other expenses. It would cover any injury that requires medical treatment—from a cut that needed a few stitches to a catastrophic injury like an amputation.
Should I file a lawsuit for my amputation or disfigurement injury?
If someone’s negligence caused your injury, you’re legally entitled to recover costs.
Negligence is a failure to take reasonable care in a situation when it’s typically expected. In other words, everyone has a duty to take reasonable care of those around them.
You read that right.
Are you responsible for the well-being of a stranger walking down the street? Yes and no. If the person slips and falls on wet pavement, it’s not your duty to “save” them.
But if you’re walking without paying attention (texting while walking, walking erratically and weaving through a crowd, or simply having no regard for others) and you bump into that person, causing them to fall into the path of an oncoming car and be injured, you could be found negligent and liable for their injuries.
There are 4 elements to every negligence claim:
- A duty of care existed between the two parties
- There was a breach of duty, (which means that the person who had the duty didn’t fulfill their obligation to avoid harm to another person)
- The breach of care was the cause of the injury
- The injury caused someone to suffer monetary loss
Let’s look at common causes of traumatic amputation injuries and how to determine who’s at fault.
Common causes of traumatic amputation injuries
- Traffic accidents. Car crashes, bicycle, motorcycle, and other traffic-related accidents are the most common cause of amputation injuries.
- Workplace accidents. Factories, construction sites, coal mines and other workplaces that involve heavy machinery can create situations that lead to these injuries, as well.
- Agricultural accidents. Tractors, and even lawn mowers, can be dangerous equipment if used incorrectly or if the machine is defective.
- Accidents with firearms or explosives. This includes fireworks, accidental gunshots, and military-related injuries.
- Electrocution. An electrocution can cause a traumatic amputation injury in the upper extremities like hands and arms.
These are broad categories of accidents that might result in serious bodily injuries like amputation or disfigurement. But there are lots of ways these injuries can occur.
These accidents (and others) can result in traumatic amputation, but there are also circumstances when a medical situation like a bacterial infection could necessitate amputation of a limb in order to prevent the bacteria from spreading throughout the body.
Types of lawsuits for amputation and disfigurement injuries
Because there are many different scenarios where an amputation or disfigurement injury can arise, there’s also a variety of ways these types of cases are handled within personal injury law.
Workers’ compensation claim
If your amputation injury happened at work, you’ll want to file a workers’ compensation claim. But workers’ compensation might not be the only remedy.
In some instances, you might have both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit.
For example, if your injury is the result of defective personal protective equipment (maybe you fell off a scaffold because of a faulty harness), you might be able to recover expenses through both your employer’s workers’ comp policy and file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the harness.
Workers’ compensation insurance doesn’t cover things like pain and suffering, loss of consortium, or other non-economic damages. A lawsuit against the product manufacturer (if applicable) or for a separate cause of action is the only way to recover those damages.
Personal injury lawsuit
If your amputation or disfigurement injury was caused by a motor vehicle crash that’s the fault of the other driver, you might be able to recover damages through a personal injury lawsuit—in addition to your auto insurance policy.
For instance, if you had an accident with a drunk driver, the court might find that the other driver was 90% at fault for the accident. You might be 10% at fault because you could’ve reacted sooner and swerved out of the way. If that happens, your damage award would be reduced by 10%. However, if the court finds that you were 51% or more at fault, then you wouldn’t be able to recover ANY damages.
Medical malpractice lawsuit
Medical malpractice is when your injury is caused by a hospital or doctor. Sometimes, it’s because of what the doctor did (if they made a mistake), but it can also be because of what the doctor didn’t do (failure to treat your illness or injury in the appropriate way or failure to diagnose).
The medical standard of care is that a medical provider (doctor, nurse, hospital, etc.) is required to treat you in a way that’s reasonable based on how a similarly trained and experienced provider would in a similar circumstance in the community where you’re receiving treatment.
|Medical malpractice example:
|You’re suffering from a bacterial illness and your doctor determines that the only way to prevent infection from spreading to the rest of your body is to amputate the affected limb from just above the elbow.
She says this is the only way to treat your specific situation and that doing this surgery immediately is going to save your life.
She surgically removes your left arm to “cut off” the spread of bacteria. You make a full recovery from the bacterial infection, but you’re now living without a left arm.
Later, you learn that there was another drug or treatment that the doctor should’ve known could treat the bacteria without removing your limb.
In this example, would you have a case for medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice cases are often more complicated than other kinds of personal injury cases. Your lawyer’s first move will likely be to find expert witnesses who will testify that a similarly trained doctor in that hospital and circumstance would’ve known about the alternate treatment and used that method, instead.
They would probably ask questions like:
- What are the risks to the alternative treatment?
- Might those risks have played a role in the doctor’s decision?
- How likely would it have been that the alternative treatment would be successful in your case?
Through these and other questions, your lawyer might be able to build a strong medical malpractice case.
Product liability lawsuit
A product liability lawsuit arises when your injury was caused by a manufacturing or design defect.
Many of these accidents are because of unsafe use of the product or machines (for example, most children shouldn’t be operating a lawn mower without supervision). But often, the accidents are because the manufacturer didn’t include some safety features or instructions.
If you were seriously injured by a lawn mower or any other product, even though you were using it correctly based on its included safety instructions, you might have a lawsuit against the manufacturer because of a defect.
Determining damages in an amputation or disfigurement lawsuit
How much you can recover in damages depends on the nature of your injury, how it affects your lifestyle, and the nature of the liability.
The court will look at:
- Economic damages: The amount of damages that can be quantified (costs for medical treatment, lost wages, adaptive devices, etc.)
- Non-economic damages: Pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and other losses that don’t have a specific dollar value
- Punitive damages: Sometimes, the court will assess additional damages that are intended to punish a defendant if it determines that the defendant’s actions were malicious or especially egregious
Talk to a Montana amputation lawyer
A Montana personal injury lawyer is the advocate and legal counsel you need to get your costs covered following an amputation or disfigurement accident. If your life has changed following a serious bodily injury, they’ll help you get on the right track to recovery.
Resources in Montana for amputation and disfigurement survivors
- Treasure State Orthotics & Prosthetics
- Amputee Coalition (Montana Amputee Group)
- The Given Limb Foundation