Can you receive workers’ comp after an amputation or disfigurement from a work accident?
Despite stringent safety guidelines, accidents still happen in the workplace. Some of these accidents lead to severe injuries that result in loss of limbs. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, there are 50,000 new amputation cases each year. Losing a limb is a life-changing event with significant financial implications.
When work-related amputations happen in Arizona, the injured employee can often turn to workers’ compensation for financial help.
Types of workplace amputations
Amputation refers to the removal of body parts, such as limbs, through surgery or trauma. Here are the most common types of amputations:
Upper limb amputations
Upper limb amputation varies from a loss of a finger to the removal of an entire hand. Finger amputations at work are very common. Common upper limb amputations include:
- Metacarpal amputation — removal of the whole hand, leaving behind the wrist.
- Hand amputation — loss of fingertips or entire finger.
- Wrist disarticulation — removal of the entire hand plus the wrist joint.
- Below elbow amputation — partial removal of the forearm.
Lower limb amputations
Lower limb amputations range from removal of toes to loss of an entire leg. Sometimes, it extends to parts of the pelvis. Below are some examples of lower limb amputations:
- Partial foot amputations — partial or full loss of the toes.
- Ankle disarticulation — removal of the entire foot at the ankles.
- Transtibial — amputation of the leg below the knee.
- Transfemoral — amputation of the leg and the knee.
- Hip disarticulation — removal of the whole portion, including the femur.
- Hemipelvectomy — amputation of the entire legs and parts of the pelvis.
Questions and answers about compensation for a job-related accident, injury or illness in Arizona
Common causes of workplace amputations and disfigurement
Power tools and machines can cause partial or entire loss of a limb. Other common causes of amputation in the workplace include:
- Slips and falls
- Contact with sharp objects and equipment, such as knives and saws
- Falling heavy or sharp objects
- Getting trapped by moving parts like gears and belts
- Malfunctioning equipment
Occupations with the highest amputation risk
The risk of injury varies depending on the working environment. Some professions are naturally more dangerous than others. Below are some occupations with the highest rates of amputations:
- Military personnel
- Logging workers
- Iron and steelworkers
- Manufacturing employees
Treatment and recovery process after amputation
Amputation has a profound effect on a person. Even a lost finger at work can severely limit your physical ability to perform in your career. The course of treatment will depend on the severity of the injury.
Here are some treatment options for workers who suffer limb loss due to a work accident:
This is a procedure that re-attaches the severed limb. The goal of the procedure is to restore the victim’s ability to use the amputated limb. For replantation to work, the damaged tissues are first removed then bones are rejoined with pins. Lastly, the nerves, blood vessels and tendons are repaired.
Sometimes the limb that was lost cannot be re-attached. This can happen when there is extensive nerve damage or the replant will cause more pain, so amputation is the next best thing. Surgical amputations remove damaged tissues and help stop the spread of infections. During this process, the remaining stump is prepared for prosthetics.
Rehabilitation is an essential step to whether the parts were successfully re-attached or not. The wound is monitored and dressed to speed up healing. For replant patients, rehabilitation helps them heal and learn to use the replanted limb. For amputees, rehabilitation gives them the chance to accept their new situation and learn to use prosthetics.
Emotional and financial recovery following an amputation
Losing a limb is never easy. It’s customary to feel anger, disbelief or grief. In addition, the financial and economic impacts of an amputation can change the course of your life.
Workers who suffer injuries while on the job are typically able to be compensated through Arizona’s workers’ compensation system. However, you have to file a claim to receive these benefits. Here are the steps necessary.
- Notify your employer. In the case of amputations, your health should be your top priority. Next, it’s vital you notify your employer as soon as possible about the accident. Your employer should, in turn, inform their insurance carrier and the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA).
- Seek medical help. In addition to emergency first aid, you will need to see a doctor regularly. Be sure to attend all medical appointments and follow the doctor’s recommendations. Your doctor will write up a medical report of the incident. This document will come in handy in case of disputes.
- Fill and file claim forms. To formally launch your claim, you must fill out 2 forms. The first one is the Worker’s and Physician’s Report of Injury, which can be found at the doctor’s office. The second form is the Worker’s Report of Injury. Both these forms must be filled accurately and adequately. Don’t forget to file them with the ICA.
Impairment rating scheme
If your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier accepts the claim, they will be responsible for compensating you per the Arizona impairment scheme. This is a guide that converts impairment into loss of limb value. Smaller body part injuries are converted into larger body part ratings and finally into the whole body.
The schedule is used to determine how the impairment affects the patient’s earning ability. A total disability, such as loss of both feet, attracts larger compensation. The impairment rating is a complicated affair, which is why you will likely need to find a workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure you are treated fairly and justly throughout this process.
Get help from an Arizona work injury lawyer
Amputations don’t just put you out of work, they change you for the rest of your life. Hiring an experienced work injury lawyer can take a lot off your plate so that you can focus on your recovery.