Amputation/Lost Limb Claims
There are few injuries or medical procedures that are more life changing than amputations. Whether it’s the loss of a thumb or the loss of a leg, the individual affected will have to undergo a huge amount of readjusting to enable them to live a relatively normal life.
Losing a limb, or part of a limb, can follow complications from diabetes, through vascular problems or because of serious illness such as meningitis or a gangrenous leg ulcer. Unfortunately, many amputations and loss of limb are entirely preventable. Serious car accidents, accidents at work, or other accidents involving crushing injuries, for instance, can result in the loss of a limb. Although an extremely rare occurrence, in hospitals it’s not unknown for the wrong limb to be accidently amputated.
Unfortunately, amputations also come with additional health risks, not to mention the trauma, and intensive rehabilitation that will be necessary. These health issues may include chest infections, pressure sores, infection of the wound site, phantom pain, and even heart attacks and strokes.
Types of amputation
When you think of an amputation, most people normally think of a leg or an arm – but amputations also include the loss of an ear, a hand or a finger or thumb, a foot or toes, or even the nose. Partial amputations of fingers are far more common than whole limb amputations.
Amputation compensation amounts
The amount of compensation you may receive for an amputation depends on the nature and severity. Under the Judicial College Guidelines, for instance, the loss of an arm at the shoulder could be compensated upwards of £100,000, whilst an amputated middle finger could be compensated in the region of £50,000 to £75,000. The loss of part of the index figure may be compensated to the tune of around £15,000, whilst the amputation of the big toe could be compensated in the region of £24,000 or more.
Claiming compensation for an amputation
If an individual loses a limb in circumstances that were preventable, they can make a claim for personal injury compensation. How and where the amputation took place will be an important factor in how your amputation damages claim will progress.
Amputation through medical negligence
Where the amputation resulted directly from a mistake at the hospital or in a private clinic, you should be able to bring a medical negligence claim against the NHS Trust or the clinic involved. In addition, if you were suffering an illness or condition, such as a vascular condition, that was not managed properly and this led to your limb being amputated, you may be able to claim compensation.
However, to be successful in a medical negligence claim, you must be able to demonstrate that the hospital or clinic had a duty of care towards you, that this duty was breached and the amputation was a direct result of that breach. In the case of wrongful or mistaken amputation – this should be straightforward. In other cases, it may not be quite so clear – and you will need very strong evidence to support your case, including expert medical evidence.
Workplace accidents resulting in amputation
Whether you have lost a limb while using equipment for which you were inadequately trained, or you have lost a finger by using a faulty machine that had not been regularly checked and maintained, you should be able to make a claim against your employer. The Health and Safety Executive will probably have been informed of the accident, and any evidence from its investigation will be vital in support of your claim.
Amputations in a RTA
Losing a limb in a road traffic accident can be particularly traumatic because of the complete lack of warning that such a life-changing event is to occur. The risk of post-traumatic stress following the accident is a particular risk for RTA victims. Fortunately, the personal injury claim will be made against the at-fault driver’s insurance company (or the Motor Insurance Bureau if the driver was uninsured or cannot be traced). The police incident reports and any subsequent convictions may help bring your compensation claim to an early conclusion.
Occupiers’ liability and negligence
Injuries to limbs that lead to amputation can happen when the victim is on someone’s else’s property. In 2012, for instance, a man’s big toe was amputated by a shopping centre escalator that continued running for several minutes after his foot became trapped.
Visitors in shopping centres, leisure centres, supermarkets and the like can expect to be kept safe while on and in those premises. The occupiers of those premises owe a legal duty under the Occupiers Liability Act 1957 to protect the health and safety of all those who enter their premises. Where this duty is breached and someone loses a limb, or a partial amputation, as a result, they can claim compensation. This ‘occupiers’ liability’ is a form of negligence which specifically imposes a duty of care on those in control of premises.
Claiming for expenses and costs (rehabilitation, loss of earnings, etc.)
If you are making an amputation compensation claim, the amount you will be claiming by way of special damages is likely to be substantial. Special damages are intended to cover the cost of rehabilitation, expenses, and so on, and is separate to the general damages you would receive for your injury, pain and suffering (see above).
Your rehabilitation needs may well be extensive. If you have lost an arm or a leg, your home will undoubtedly need adapting, or you may have to consider moving to a more suitable home. Your vehicle may need to be modified, or you may need to replace your existing car to enable you to drive once again.
Furthermore, you may be considering a suitable prosthetic limb – and even a bionic limb, depending on your needs and aspirations. You might also have ongoing private physiotherapy and medical support to help you get back to work – all of which needs to be paid for. You can claim the expected rehabilitation costs as part of your compensation claim.
In addition, if you are forced to take time off work due to the injury, or are unable to return to the same level of employment as before the injury, then these losses (and future loss of earnings) will be calculated as part of your compensation payout.
Starting an amputation claim
How you start your claim for compensation following an amputation depends on where and how you sustained the injury. Gather as much information and evidence as possible that will help in making your injury claim.
You should take specialist legal advice to ensure you proceed in the right way – and do so as soon as possible. There is a time limit of three years to start formal legal proceedings (unless the victim is a child – in which case, time does not start to run until they are 18 years old). It is always best to choose an injury solicitor who has expertise in the area of amputation claims.