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Amputation/Loss of Limbs Compensation

Amputation claims – a summary

The amputation of a limb has to be one of the most distressing injuries you can imagine. An amputee may have to learn to walk again, may be unable to undertake their usual work or hobbies and they may suffer ongoing ‘phantom pain’ and risks of infection.

Thankfully, life can and does go on – even if it looks different to what it has before the injury. You only have to watch the Paralympics to see how many amputees have triumphed over their loss of limb to compete at the highest level of sports.

For these reasons, amputation and loss of limb compensation claims are typically substantial, reflecting the seriousness of these types of injuries and the impact on your life.

Even the amputation of digits, such as a toe or fingers, can have serious consequences for the individual affected. Losing a dominant thumb, for example, is highly likely to make using that hand much more difficult. You may have to learn to write again.

The question for many is – can you sue for amputation, and if so, how and for what?

The reality is, amputation – also known as loss of limb – is a life-changing injury for the individual. This is why amputation claims are an important legal right for the injured person. If you have suffered an amputation injury as a result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, you can sue for injury compensation.

Although the chances of suffering an amputation may seem to be relatively slim to most of us, the fact is there is a risk in many walks of life. Fortunately, losing a limb does not have to mean losing your independence. But if you have, bringing an amputation compensation claim can enable you to regain your independence and live a relatively normal life.

The most common examples of how an amputation may happen include:

No matter how the amputation occurred, if it was the result of another’s negligence you can bring a claim for compensation. We know money can never undo the physical damage and loss of an amputation and its impact. However, compensation can go some way towards helping with effective rehabilitation and ensuring your recovery is a smoother, more comfortable process.

To discuss your amputation claim with specialist solicitors, contact a legal adviser now on 0800 234 6438 for guidance as to how you can bring your amputation injury claim.

DID YOU KNOW: The latest statistics on amputations in Afghanistan and Iraq for the period 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2020 reveal that:
  • 132 UK service personnel sustained a traumatic or surgical amputation following an injury or illness.
  • Between 7 October 2001 and 31 March 2020, out of 302 service personnel who suffered a traumatic or surgical amputation in Afghanistan, three quarters were medically discharged.
  • Between 1March 2003 and 3 March 2020, half of the 34 UK service personnel who sustained a traumatic or surgical amputation in Iraq were medically discharged.

What types of amputation are there?

Amputations can happen in a number of different scenarios and in many different ways. You can lose a limb – or any other protruding part of your body – without warning in an accident or in a planned amputation to preserve your health. For example, amputation below the knee may be necessary to save the rest of your leg; or limb amputation may be necessary to save your life. Amputations are generally split into two types – traumatic amputation and surgical amputation/

Traumatic amputation

This occurs where an individual suffers the loss of a limb immediately when the accident takes place, as a direct result of it. These types of amputation are often known as ‘traumatic amputation’ – caused directly by a sudden and unexpected event rather than as a planned course of action.

This could happen in a road traffic accident, a workplace accident, as a result of an explosion or while using machinery. For example, workers have lost hands, arms and legs in different accidents involving machines in the workplace; and sadly, it’s not unusual to hear of servicemen losing a leg in an explosion.

Traumatic amputations are particularly life threatening because of the immediate loss of blood caused, at a time when you and witnesses will be waiting for emergency services to arrive at the scene.

Surgical amputation

‘Surgical amputation’ takes place when medical professionals make the difficult decision that amputation is necessary to preserve your health or life. For example, where an accident has caused such catastrophic injuries to a limb, emergency doctors have to decide that there is no option but to amputate in order to save your life.

To illustrate, a worker in a factory accident may have had her arm crushed so severely when the machine she was operating malfunctioned that the arm could not be saved. Amputation therefore becomes unavoidable.

Surgical amputation is often deemed necessary because an injury has caused a decrease or loss in blood supply in the blood vessels serving the limb. This can lead to necrosis – the dead of the body tissue – which cannot be healed. Amputation becomes necessary to prevent the necrosis advancing.

Severe and ongoing infection, tumours and cancer can also lead to a medical decision that amputation is necessary to save or prolong your life.

Other types of amputation

As well as limbs and digits, there are circumstances where other parts of the body are amputated, such as the ear or the nose. For example, dog bites, criminal assaults and cancers have resulted in surgical amputations of the ear or nose becoming necessary.

If you have lost a smaller body part as a result of a traumatic or planned amputation as a result of someone’s negligence, you can make an injury claim.

DID YOU KNOW: Amputation of the leg below the knee is the most common type of amputation

What are effects of different amputations?

Amputations can involve different limbs, digits and other parts of the body. Most amputations come under the general terms, ‘lower limb amputation’ and ‘upper limb amputation’ and include:

Some of these types of amputations are far more serious and life-changing than others. However, we know that losing any part of the body, however small, is extremely distressing.

A specialist injury solicitor will be equipped to help you on the road to recovering the compensation you deserve.

Common causes of limb amputations

Sadly, amputations happen in many different walks of life. They can happen in road traffic accidents and explosions; at theme parks; and on the battlefield. Wherever your amputation has happened in whatever circumstances, a legal adviser is available on 0800 234 6438 to talk you through the background and connect you to the best injury solicitor for you.

The most common causes of limb amputation are accidents at work, medical negligence and accidents in public places.

Amputations as a result of employer negligence

A number of occupations are considered high risk, such as building and construction, factory, quarry and mining work. Amputation is a particular risk in industry where machine tools, heavy machinery, equipment and/or vehicles are in use.

If, for instance, someone is using a machine tool where the guard is faulty or missing, there is a heightened risk of the worker being dragged into the machine and losing a limb.

Thankfully, the law protects UK workers by imposing strict health and safety responsibilities on them to ensure the workplace is safe. Employers should have procedures and processes in place to identify promptly any risks to health and safety and to deal with problems in a timely way. These are known as ‘risk assessments’ and should be carried out regularly – and acted upon when risks are identified.

As well as the general obligations on employers, there are specific requirements where machines and equipment are in use (The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008).

For example, employers must ensure equipment and machinery is safe and suitable for use and accompanied by safety measures, such as guards and emergency stop devices.

The reality is, that accidents in the workplace do happen but most are avoidable. Typically, they occur where machines and equipment are not regularly serviced or monitored; the worker is poorly trained and supervised; or protective measures are not in place or have failed.

If an accident happens and injuries such as amputations result, it is highly likely they are the result of the employer having breached its health and safety duties. In these circumstances, the injured worker can bring an injury claim.

Successful amputation claims can result in big pay-outs. So it is reassuring to know that the claim will be against the employer’s insurance company and not the employer itself. So you need not worry that making a claim will risk putting your employer out of business.

It is also helpful to know that employers are legally required to report crush accidents and injuries and amputation injuries to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) under RIDDOR (The Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013). This includes amputations that become necessary as a consequence of the injuries sustained (surgical amputations).

We therefore strongly recommend that you check with your employer that the incident and your injuries have been formally reported under RIDDOR. You could also ask if an HSE report has been made available.

DID YOU KNOW: In 2018/19, there were 574 amputations reported as a result of work-related accidents

Amputations as a result of medical negligence

Unfortunately, amputations can be a direct result of medical negligence, which is where a doctor (or other medical professional) does not perform their work to the required standard. Amputations following medical negligence are rare, but there are situations where the very people who we trust most when we have a medical issue can let a patient down badly – with life-changing results.

Doctors and health professionals have a high duty of care towards their patients. Negligence or carelessness in diagnosis and/or treatment or during surgery can lead to more serious complications. Where negligence leads to an amputation that was otherwise avoidable, it is only right that the patient should hold someone responsible for such a catastrophic error.

Wrong diagnosis or delays in correctly diagnosing and treating an individual can also lead to an amputation that could have been avoided. For example, missed infections, undiagnosed diabetes or a reduced oxygen supply to the limbs can lead to amputation if left untreated.

Or you may have had to undergo an amputation because a doctor or member of medical staff failed to treat a leg ulcer correctly.

A real-life example is where a patient with a family history of thrombosis visited his GP with leg pain. The GP knew the family’s medical history but diagnosed a sprain. The pain continued to worsen and his foot became discoloured. Four days later he called emergency services and was treated for thrombosis. However, the blood supply to his leg was significantly reduced leading to a below-the-knee amputation.

DID YOU KNOW: There are over 9,500 lower-limb amputations in the UK every year due to diabetes, equating to around 185 per week.

One of the most common types of amputation that lead to an injury claim is wrongful amputation as a result of surgical error. Wrongful amputation amounts to serious medical negligence and happens when surgeons remove the wrong limb (or other body part).

Before a planned amputation takes place, the surgical team will mark up and prepare the correct limb/body part to be amputated. However, if the wrong limb is selected for amputation and surgery goes ahead, the results will be catastrophic. You may think this kind of accident is rare, but it takes place more often than you might think.

There is also a risk of wrongful amputation where x-rays and scans are wrongly positioned so that the wrong body part is identified for amputation; incorrect consent forms, eg consent has not been given; and even when the wrong patient is brought for the surgery.

Surgical error can also lead to amputation. For example, if a surgeon makes a serious mistake during surgery which cuts off the blood supply to a limb or part of the body causing irreversible damage, amputation may become unavoidable.

Public liability amputations

A risk of amputation also arises in public places, such as public parks, leisure centres and theme parks. Any authority or person owning or occupying land and premises that are open to the public have a duty of care to minimise the risk of injury to visitors where they have access.

If an accident occurs in public, and a local authority, business or other organisation responsible for the property or land was at fault, an injury claim can be made.

One of the most high-profile incidents in recent years of amputations involving accidents in a public place happened at Alton Towers theme park in 2015. Five passengers were seriously injured when the Smiler ride crashed – two female passengers suffered leg amputations.

Merlin Entertainments, which owns Alton Towers, was fined £5 million for health and safety breaches and the two female passengers launched compensation claims. One said in November 2019 that she had settled her claim and won a multi-million pound settlement.

The fact is, amputations can happen as a result of a traumatic injury anywhere in public or on premises where members of the public are free to visit.

Any organisation that owns or operates land and premises where members of the public visit are legally required to hold public liability insurance to cover the risk of injury. Whether the injury occurred as a result of an accident in a park, supermarket, in offices, a restaurant or on the street, you can bring an injury claim if it was someone else’s fault.

Am I eligible to make an amputation claim?

One of the earliest questions anyone has when they suffer an injury is whether they can make an injury claim. An amputee who has lost a limb or other part of their body because of someone else’s negligence or breach of duty of care can bring a claim. You can bring a claim whether the accident happened at work, in public or as a result of medical negligence.

Your amputation claim will be brought against the insurer of the person or organisation who should be held legally responsible. So long as your solicitor can show that you were owed a duty of care, the accident happened as a direct result of a breach of duty of care and the amputation – and any other injuries you may have suffered – happened as a direct consequence, you will win compensation.

You can also make a claim on behalf of someone else if you are a close relative. A parent, for example, can bring a claim on behalf of a child under 18 who has suffered a loss of limb.

However, it is important to bear in mind that you generally have three years from the date of the incident to start legal proceedings for compensation. After three years, you may be ‘time barred’ from making a claim, which could be disastrous in the event of such a life-changing injury as amputation.

There are cases where surgical amputation takes place some time after the incident that eventually led to the amputation. In these circumstances, the 3-year ‘limitation period’ may run from the date you first became aware that the incident (such as a mis-diagnosis) directly led to the amputation.

If in doubt, don’t assume you can’t make a claim because of the passage of time. We strongly recommend talking things through with specialist solicitors so that you’re aware of your rights.

If you want to make a claim on behalf of a child under 18, you have until they reach the age of 18 years to start a claim, at which point they can make a claim in their own name before their 21st birthday. However, it’s always wise to start the ball rolling as soon as you can while events are fresh in your mind.

To find out how we will help you make a claim, get in touch as soon as you can and speak with an expert legal adviser on 0800 234 6438, or arrange a call back using the claim form on this page.

How much compensation could I expect to receive for my amputation claim?

Loss of limb claims are, by their very nature, complex and typically lead to substantial levels of damages. Although a financial settlement can usually be reached with the other side, it can take lengthy negotiations to ensure the full physical, mental and financial impact of the amputation are fairly into account.

‘General damages’ is what you will be awarded for the actual amputation and other injuries you have sustained and its physical impact on you and your health. How much you receive will depend on the circumstances around the amputation and the impact on you and your life.

For instance, your mobility may be seriously impeded; you may be unable to continue in your usual profession; and you may be in continuing pain. Your injury lawyer will discuss the ongoing impact of your injuries with you so that they can fully understand the extent of them.

Minor amputations will attract a lower compensation sum than major limb amputations, reflecting the relatively minimal impact on the person’s life. So, if you’re wondering what might be the average pay out for a UK personal injury claim following an amputation, there isn’t one.

However, here is a guide as to what you could expect to receive based on formal guidelines (issued by the Judicial College) which lawyers and judges take into consideration:

Do bear in mind these figures are intended only as a rough guide. Your specialist lawyer will discuss compensation with you in more detail. You can also use our calculation guide here.

In addition to these general damages, you can also claim ‘special damages’ in relation to your financial losses (past and future). Your solicitors will take the financial impact of your injury into consideration when making your amputation claim.

This means you can claim for lost earnings as well as the costs of additional items of expenditure which you will need to enable you to achieve an independent life. For example:

Can I ask for an interim compensation payment?

A limb amputation causes immediate logistical and mobility problems for an amputee apart from the pain and suffering involved in such a traumatic injury.

You may be unable to live comfortably in your home as before, without adaptations being made. You may need a wheelchair and a vehicle large enough to transport it. You may also need money to pay for further medical treatment and physiotherapy at a time when you may have lost your job. In these cases, your solicitor may be able to request an interim payment of damages to fund such costs. So, it is important you and your injury lawyer identify your needs as early as possible to ensure your immediate future is as comfortable as possible.

However, do bear in mind interim payments can only be made if the other side has admitted liability. If they do admit responsibility for the loss of limb injury, an initial compensation payment can be made by the insurer to enable certain costs to be met. This amount will then be deducted from the final settlement once agreed. Your solicitor will be able to negotiate an interim payment on your behalf.

Will my amputation claim help cover my loss of earnings?

For amputees, the most serious worry might be the prospect of losing your employment. We understand that the financial worry can be acute, at a time when you’re still coming to terms with losing a limb or other part of your body because of an accident that was not your fault.

While we know not everyone who has lost a limb will lose their job permanently, they might still be left unable to return to work for weeks or many months. In the meantime, you may be on reduced pay or on no pay at all.

If you need more than four consecutive days off sick to recover after an accident at work, you should be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay as a minimum. However, many employers are more generous than this and will pay more. Your contract of employment may state what your entitlement is in these circumstances, or your employer will be able to tell you if it operates a sick pay scheme.

In some cases, if your accident happened at work and your employer is liable for your injuries, they may agree to pay more generously, even if they don’t have to.

You may also be worried that when you do get back to work, you will be on a phased return or placed on ‘light duties’ and, therefore, you may be only paid a reduced wage.

The nature of your injuries may mean a relatively long recovery period is needed before you can return to your normal job (if at all). If your normal employment involves physical labour, standing for long periods of time, or carrying files or boxes, your employer may allow you to come back to work on lighter duties to aid your recovery.

You might not, however, receive your full pay while on lighter duties – but it can help ease your back into work. Any shortfall in your earnings while on light duties can form part of your overall compensation claim.

In some cases, you might have had to find a new job altogether because of your injuries, especially if your accident was particularly serious. The chances are, your injury will mean you could be in a lower paid job.

Fortunately, your injury claim will include loss of earnings so that you’re not unfairly losing out. To ensure your solicitor claims the maximum amount you’re entitled to, you will need to prove what you were earning before the accident (or before the amputation took place). This can include overtime and bonuses that you believe you are missing out on.

It’s only fair that you should not be left out of pocket because of someone else’s negligence. The claim will also include any loss of pension benefits.

For more information, you can speak to an adviser for free on 0800 234 6438, or fill your details into one of our secure forms on this page.

Should I worry about losing my job because of medical appointments?

If you’re back at work, it’s quite likely you’ll need time off work to attend medical appointments, physiotherapy, counselling and the like. Unfortunately, your employer does not have to allow you time off for these appointments and even if you are, you may not be entitled to be paid for your time out. However, if you satisfy the definition of ‘disabled’ under discrimination law, you may have a legal right to paid time off for your medical appointments. If this is an issue, your solicitor will be able to advise you.

I can no longer work after a loss of a limb – what am I entitled to?

Losing the ability to work after a limb amputation or any other serious injury can be mentally devastating and potentially financially challenging. The consequences of being unable to work could be disastrous for the amputee and their family – were it not for the legal responsibility of those at fault to pay appropriate compensation. This is why an important part of your claim for special damages is loss of future earnings. The law allows you to claim a fair amount of compensation, taking into account your loss of future earnings and job prospects.

Loss of future earnings is based on your predicted loss of earnings were it not for the accident. Accurately predicting loss of earnings is not an exact science and can be complex depending on your circumstances.

Your specialist lawyer will take full details of your pre-amputation career prospects and income and other information, such as your life expectancy. Additional factors will be taken into account, such as:

Your solicitor will then calculate a proposal for a fair level of compensation for loss of future earnings and negotiate with the other side.

DID YOU KNOW: A 25-year-old who lost most of her left ear after her ponytail became tangled in a rotating power drill at work is suing for injury compensation. The worker, who was also scalped, underwent surgery nine times before her ear was eventually amputated. The Coventry engineering firm has admitted breaching health and safety rules and was fined £62,500 in August 2021.

Can I claim for psychological harm?

The loss of a limb is, without a doubt, a traumatic experience both physically and mentally. To lose such a visible and key part of the body, whether in an accident or in a planned surgical removal, involves psychological trauma which can be as incapacitating as the physical impact of the injury.

The mental trauma may hit immediately or it can hit you in weeks or months later. You may suffer debilitating phantom pains, reactive shock, post traumatic stress disorder or depression and anxiety. Counselling and therapy will be crucial in helping you get through the trauma and learning to cope with the psychological trauma you may be suffering. So it can be reassuring to know that you are entitled to claim compensation for your psychological suffering in addition to your actual physical injuries.

In time, you will need to have an expert assessment carried out by a psychologist or psychiatrist to include a specific claim for psychological injuries. However, you need not worry about this because your injury lawyer will arrange this for you at the right time.

What is the claims process?

The initial process for an amputation claim is straightforward. You and your solicitor will go through the background to the circumstances that resulted in the amputation and your solicitor will advise you who should legally be held responsible.

A letter giving notice of your claim will be sent to the other side and your solicitor will gather the information and evidence to support your claim. Once the claim has formally been issued by the court and served, the other side may admit responsibility – in which case, negotiations to settle your claim can begin.

If liability is denied, your solicitor will then gather as much information as possible to build the strongest case they can on your behalf. This will involve medical expert reports and, in some cases, a psychological report. Usually, claims can still be settled before court becomes necessary. But if going to court becomes unavoidable, your solicitor will guide you through the process every step of the way.

DID YOU KNOW: Team GB canoeist Robert Oliver won a bronze medal at the 2021 Paralympic Games – 13 years after his right leg was amputated as a result of medical negligence. After snapping both his tibia and fibula in a football match when he was 20, medics failed to diagnose compartment syndrome. After 17 operations, he eventually underwent the amputation for which he was awarded a six-figure sum in injury compensation.
About the Author

Nicola Laver LLB

Nicola is a dual qualified journalist and non-practising solicitor. She is a legal journalist, editor and author with more than 20 years' experience writing about the law.

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