What you need to know about amputation and disfigurement injuries before you hire a lawyer
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 are very complex and typically require large settlements.
Nothing can describe the intense shock of waking up in a hospital bed and realizing that your arm or leg is missing. It was there this morning; now you’re on the other side of a car accident, and it’s gone.
An amputation or disfigurement injury is lifelong and permanent, though scientific advances are leading to promising surgeries that might be able to restore some semblance of normalcy. As these are in their early stages and cost-prohibitive, most people make do with prosthetics or reconstructive surgery after having suffered such a grievous wound and must relearn even the most basic tasks.
Beside the shock of the accident itself, a new amputee or victim of disfigurement must also deal with the emotional fallout of having to face this unwanted challenge, and many patients will experience severe situational depression.
What is considered amputation or disfigurement?
Amputation refers to the removal of a limb – this can be as small as part of a finger digit or as large as a leg, and it can be because of external trauma or because of an internal medical emergency such as a bacterial infection.
Disfigurement is permanent damage done to soft tissue (ligaments, skin, muscles, fascia, etc.) or bone. This damage can include nerve damage, severe scarring, burns or other grievous wounds. Amputation is a type of disfigurement, and both are catastrophic injuries. This category of injuries requires lifelong rehabilitation.
Technically, anything that could physically disfigure the body or face or remove a body part would be considered this type of case. Here are some of the more typical cases that can be the underlying cause of an amputation or disfigurement case:
- Dog bites: A dog’s owner would be liable for any injuries and scarring that result from a dog’s attacking of a human.
- Road rash: Sliding on pavement at high speeds or being hit by an air bag during a car crash causes skin peeling, abrasions and burns. (See motorcycle accident story)
- Fires/chemical burns/hot liquids: All of these can potentially cause severe disfigurement and require plastic surgery to rectify.
- Fractures and amputations from accidents: These can result in bodily movement restriction or hampered performance that requires rehabilitation and relearning of physical skills.Accidents are popular among the following:
What makes amputation or disfigurement cases different?
The extensive nature of these injuries and their lifelong implications indicate how much an amputation patient will be paying in medical bills. That’s not even saying how much it will cost to pay for continuing care after surgery and rehabilitation. This patient will need physical therapy, medications, medical equipment, doctors’ visits and much more over the course of his or her lifetime.
Additionally, the facts of an amputation and disfigurement case are usually quite complicated.
There will be far more medical testimony than a normal case, and the insurance companies involved will have mountains of material through which to sort. Depending on how many parties are named, proving fault could be a battle in itself. Many amputation cases also require naming third parties, such as when machinery was involved that was defective in its safety warnings.
These types of cases are a strange blend of personal injury and potentially medical malpractice (if the injury was caused in a hospital or by a doctor), motor vehicle cases (if the injury was caused on the road), workers’ compensation law (if the injury happened on the job) or product liability law (if the injury was caused by faulty machinery or a bad product), among other types of cases as well.
Steps to take if you’ve suffered an amputation or disfigurement injury
First and foremost, if you’ve been injured in such a way, find the care you need and get yourself to a place mentally where you are prepared to proceed with a lawsuit.
There are statutes of limitations for personal injury depending on the state in which you are located, and if you are at risk of running out of time to file, simply have an attorney – any attorney – file the necessary paperwork in order to preserve your claim.
To truly pursue the claim, however, you want to have an expert. You will want someone who specializes in amputation and disfigurement law, as there are many aspects that your normal personal injury attorney would overlook.
Have a loved one help you gather the relevant evidence that will help your attorney.
While your lawyer will handle most of the investigation, whatever you can provide will certainly assist with the inquiry. This includes medical records, bills, outstanding expenses, police reports and whatever other documents you have.
Once you have appropriately determined liability and how much compensation you are owed, you can attempt to settle with the defendant’s insurance company. If you can reach a settlement out of court, then everything ends and everyone goes home. If not, then you may have to proceed with a lawsuit.
Speaking with other people who are going through a similar experience can be very therapeutic. Here are some resources for you to consider:
- The Amputee Coalition
- "Handling Reactions to Facial Disfigurement"
- "The Psychology of Losing a Limb"