About 185,000 people require an amputation every year. Most of these procedures are related to medical conditions, such as vascular disease, cancer, or diabetes. But 45% of amputations result from trauma.
Almost any accident can result in a traumatic amputation. A hand could get caught in a machine in a workplace accident. A car accident could crush your foot. Medical malpractice may lead to an infection that requires amputation. In all of these situations, the loss of a vital limb or body part will likely affect the rest of your life.
Here is a guide to amputation injuries and recovering compensation for them.
How Do Amputation Injuries Occur?
Traumatic amputation usually happens in one of two ways:
Amputation in the Accident
An accident may sever a body part. This usually happens at a joint when the force of the accident disarticulates the part from the body.
Although doctors have the technology to reattach severed body parts, they cannot save every detached limb. A reattachment surgery requires the surgeon to reconnect nerves, blood vessels, and muscles. If a body part suffers severe damage in an accident, surgeons might have a more difficult time with the reattachment.
Amputation After an Accident
An accident could damage a body part so severely that doctors recommend amputation. For example, a crushing injury might damage a limb’s blood vessels, nerves, and bones beyond repair.
Doctors have practiced surgical amputation for over 2,500 years. The process has remained the same since ancient Roman times:
- Tie off blood vessels and nerves
- Remove the damaged body part
- Smooth any exposed bone
- Shape the muscles to form a stump
- Form a skin flap to cover the stump
The greatest concern after an amputation is infection. In an open amputation, doctors leave the skin flaps open so they can clean the wound as it heals.
What are the Risk Factors for Amputation Injuries?
Modern microsurgery has made amputation less common than ever before. But some injuries cause so much tissue damage that doctors must amputate.
Some activities that create a risk of injuries severe enough to require amputation include:
Car accidents present several risks for amputation. An airbag can inflate with so much force that it can tear your thumbs as they grip the steering wheel. A front-end collision can push the engine into the firewall, crushing or trapping your foot. Your elbow could go through the driver’s side window during a rollover accident, causing severe damage to your arm’s bone and tissue.
A passenger car usually weighs about one-and-a-half tons. A pick-up truck can weigh as much as two tons. These massive weights can crush bones and tear flesh when the vehicle hits a motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian. Doctors may need to amputate after such severe damage.
Workplaces are filled with amputation hazards. Factories, farms, machine shops, and repair facilities require workers to carry heavy objects, work around moving vehicles, and operate dangerous machinery. A mishap in the workplace can amputate a body part or cause damage so severe that doctors must amputate.
A defective product can pose an amputation risk, particularly when a product lacks safety guards, automatic kill switches, and warning labels.
A product has a design defect when users cannot safely use the product for its intended purpose. A product has a manufacturing defect when its manufacturer introduces a hazardous flaw in the product. A warning defect arises when a manufacturer fails to explain how to use the product safely.
What is the Process for Recovering from Amputation Injuries?
Amputation injuries require therapy and counseling for recovery. Physical therapy can strengthen your body so that you can adapt to life without the amputated body part.
For example, loss of a leg will require you to strengthen your remaining leg and your upper body so you can lift yourself.
Mental therapy and counseling can also help you to cope with the loss of a body part. Studies show that about 50% of female amputees and 35% of male amputees experience depression. Amputees also have a higher rate of alcohol abuse. Seeking counseling can help you avoid these negative consequences of amputation.
What Complications Can Arise from Amputation Injuries?
Amputations can lead to complications, which may include:
Bacteria can invade the site of the amputation, causing an infection. Osteomyelitis is the term used to describe inflammation and swelling in a bone due to infection. Osteomyelitis after an amputation may require surgery to remove additional bone that has died from the infection.
Weakness and Instability
The stump and the areas surrounding the stump might experience weakness and instability after an amputation. Weakness may arise from nerve damage in the stump or loss of muscle tissue. Instability usually comes from the loss of the bone that supports and anchors the muscles.
Weakness and instability can frustrate amputees that must overcome these problems to use a prosthesis.
Phantom Limb Syndrome
Phantom limb syndrome occurs when the nerves in the stump send confusing signals to the brain.
Phantom limb is not a psychological disorder. The nerves that formerly ran to the lost body part have been severed or folded into the stump. But the brain’s map still associates them with the missing body part. As a result, the brain misinterprets these nerve signals.
The brain can rewire itself using a property called neuroplasticity. Eventually, the brain learns where the nerves run and associates signals from them with the right location in the body.
What Compensation Can I Recover After an Amputation Injury?
Losing a limb due to someone else’s negligence could entitle you to recover substantial damages. In an injury case, your damages are designed to compensate you for your economic and non-economic losses.
Economic losses include your medical expenses, lost income, and decreased earning capacity. Your past and future medical expenses due to amputation could be enormous. The loss of an important body part like an arm or leg could even impair your ability to earn a living.
Your non-economic losses should compensate you for including:
- Physical pain
- Mental suffering
- Loss of activities
You may experience all of these non-economic losses after an amputation. As a result, your non-economic damages after amputation could be substantial.
Contact a San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer for Help
Do you want to learn more about the damages you can recover after an amputation injury? Contact our San Diego offices at (619) 777-5555 for a free consultation and case review. Our attorneys at Mission Personal Injury Lawyers, P.C. are standing by.