Traumatic amputation is the loss of a body part that happens as a result of an accident or injury. Most often, it’s a finger, toe, arm or leg. This is a permanent disability that affects the injured person in a variety of ways. Aside from the need for one or more surgeries and mobility or movement issues, patients are also often left with a loss of positive self-image or inability to practice self-care.
There is rehabilitation for amputation victims, but some people are more successful in their recoveries than others. Rehabilitation programs are designed to help a patient recover to their highest level of functioning and independence, and to improve their quality of life physically, socially, and emotionally.
Johns Hopkins Medicine says there are several variables that can affect a person’s recovery:
A partial amputation is an injury where the amputated body part remains partially attached by some bone, tissue, or muscle. This is the most common amputation injury for people outside of military combat.
Within a partial amputation diagnosis, the doctor will also evaluate the degree of soft tissue, nerve, bone, or vascular injury. When your injury is sharp or guillotine-style, the well-defined edges leave minimal damage and often result in an easier reattachment.
A complete amputation injury is when the part is completely severed from the rest of the body.
An amputation that happens by crushing tends to result in a less successful rate of reattachment because there tends to be more soft tissue and arterial damage.
Some people suffer an avulsion amputation, which is forceful overstretching and tearing of tissue. When that happens, it’s unlikely that the limb can be reattached because of extensive damage to all different levels of nerves and vascular tissue at the separation site.
Although there’s a variety of ways an amputation injury can happen, they’re most often attributed to:
A disfigurement is any injury that leaves you permanently scarred. The most common types of disfigurements include:
In many cases, a physical scar can be treated with plastic surgery or prosthetics, but the emotional trauma and mental distress associated with any type of scarring, disfigurement, or amputation injury can last a lifetime.
If you’ve suffered an amputation or disfigurement injury, there are 2 primary paths to legal (financial) recovery:
What’s the difference?
If you were injured at work, or during the course of completing work-related tasks or duties, you’re eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. There are 2 major benefits to a workers’ compensation claim:
When you accept workers’ compensation benefits, you give up the right to sue your employer for the injury that’s the subject of your claim. The only time you can file a lawsuit related to a work-related injury is if the injury was caused by the negligence of a third party.
In other words, if a manufacturer was negligent because a piece of equipment was defective, if you’re injured by a hazardous condition on a worksite that’s owned by someone other than your employer, or if you’re involved in a car accident during work, you might be able to file a lawsuit against the person or business that caused the accident.
Workers’ compensation benefits would provide a portion of your lost wages if you’re unable to work, and it would cover your medical treatment related to the injury. However, workers’ compensation doesn’t cover pain and suffering, emotional distress, or other non-economic damages.
If your injury was caused by the negligence of a person or entity (business, government agency, manufacturer, etc.), you can file a personal injury lawsuit.
In order to recover damages from a personal injury claim, you must prove these elements:
In essence, you’re entitled to remain unharmed while using equipment or products, when you’re lawfully on another person’s property, while using the road legally as a driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist, and in other situations. If someone causes you to be injured, they can be held legally responsible to pay damages.
Damages in a personal injury lawsuit can include these costs:
Each state follows 1 of 4 rules for how a plaintiff’s case is handled based on whether the plaintiff had any role in causing their own injury. In some states, even if a plaintiff had some responsibility for their injury, they can still receive a damage award that’s reduced by their percentage of fault.
North Carolina follows a pure contributory negligence standard, which means that no damages will be awarded to people who share any degree of fault whatsoever.
How might this contributory negligence rule affect an amputation or disfigurement case?
Here’s an example:
If you’re ever at the scene of an accident where a person appears to have an amputation, there are a few steps you can take to increase the likelihood of a successful reattachment (along with avoiding death or serious illness):
Shock can be a result of the emotional trauma of the accident.
If you or someone in your family has suffered an amputation injury, it’s important to explore your legal options as soon as possible.
If it was a work-related injury for which you’ll be pursuing a workers’ compensation claim, it’s essential that you notify your employer immediately, and the notice has to be provided in writing within 30 days of the accident. You’re also required to submit notice to the North Carolina Industrial Commission within 2 years of the injury, but the sooner you can file, the sooner you can begin receiving benefits.
For a personal injury claim in North Carolina, you have 3 years from the date of the injury to file a claim — but don’t wait that long. There can be several steps in the legal process, and it can take time... especially for a complicated case with a severe injury.