Work injuries that result in amputation are one of the most serious and disabling types of workplace injuries. Amputations can occur as a consequence of machine operation, such as the use of power presses, saws, grinders, conveyors, milling machines, and also during materials handling activities.
Rates of Amputation in the United States
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most workplace amputations occur because of unguarded machinery, inadequate training and poor safety practices and procedures.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Department of Labor showed that in 2017 about one in every 20,000 workers had an amputation related to a workplace injury. However, amputation rates are higher in certain industries:
- Manufacturing: 2.1 amputations per 10,000 workers
- Construction: 1.4 amputations per 10,000 workers
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting: 1.4 amputations per 10,000 workers
Though overall workplace injuries have been steadily decreasing over the past few years, incidences of amputation have risen in manufacturing, accounting for 57% of all worker amputations in the U.S.
What Qualifies As An Amputation?
For an injury to qualify as amputation, the worker must have lost at least 50 percent of their limb. This means that shaving the tip of a finger in a meat slicer would not qualify for disability benefits. However, the worker’s medical bills and lost wages would be covered under the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance policy.
But the 50 percent requirement does not apply to losing a hand, even if it is considered less than 50 percent of an arm. The worker would still be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits.
The Effects of an Amputation
The devastating effects of amputation is not only physical but also psychological trauma and emotional discomfort. The amputation site can cause reduced mechanical stability and practical limitations such as increased use of the opposite limb.
A further potential complication of amputation is the phenomenon of “phantom limb” – where the injured worker reports they can actually feel a body part that is no longer there. The symptoms of phantom pain can include aching, burning, and even movement. Researchers believe that such symptoms relate to the relationship of the brain with the body, which mimics information to the rest of the brain about a limb regardless of whether it exists or not.
Life after an amputation is a challenge that does not have to be faced alone. There is a wide range of treatment options to assist an injured worker to restore function and emotional well-being following an amputation, including exciting advances in prosthetics.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Injured Workers With Amputation
Because amputation is a very serious and physically debilitating workplace injury, workers can expect a sizable settlement if they hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
A qualified workers’ compensation lawyer will fight for a worker’s right to permanent partial disability. Once the worker’s injury is treated, they will need to schedule a visit with a doctor who will conduct a physical examination and provide a partial disability rating that will take into consideration the worker’s age, overall health, work skills, education, and injury. This rating will help determine how much workers’ compensation benefits the worker is entitled to.
If the injured worker disagrees with the rating, a workers’ compensation lawyer will help them contest it.
What To Do After An Amputation Injury
If you’ve sustained a devastating injury that has resulted in an amputation, you are eligible for significant compensation. Whether you’ve lost 50 percent of a limb or less, your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier is required to cover the cost of your medical bills and lost wages.
Call the most experienced and qualified workers’ compensation attorney in Orange County, Thomas Martin, PLC, to receive the representation you deserve.