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Sudden Loss: The Causes of Traumatic Amputation

Traumatic amputation is an ongoing source of catastrophic injury in the United States. Recent figures reveal a growing incidence of accidents such as these: 30,000 annually, at the last count. Although the causes of traumatic amputation are manifold, the consequences are fairly uniform in their devastation, and may include such issues as loss of income, chronic pain and a greatly reduced quality of life. Traumatic amputation can range in severity from losing a toe or finger to losing an entire arm or leg. Understanding the legal implications of an injury such as this begins with understanding the causes of the accident.

Traumatic amputation can occur in many different environments and vocations, but few present as many injuries as construction sites. Construction sites are hazardous by definition, as they contain a volatile combination of heavy machinery, shifting obstacles and employees with various levels of experience and training. Add to this the very real possibility that scaffolding may fail, or that equipment may malfunction, and it becomes less surprising that so many amputations should occur on building and construction sites. Other common causes include falling materials, electric shocks and even chemical burns — many of which can result in a neuromuscular injury that may result in the loss of a limb.

Factories present a similar litany of hazards. Depending on the type of manufacturing, for instance, many factories contain machinery that is designed specifically to blend or cut materials in bulk, leaving sharp surfaces and open heat close to human hands. The rise of robotics along modern assembly lines adds another layer of hazard, as many such manufacturing processes are now fully automated, and may not have been designed with adequate safeguards if a person should become entangled with the machinery. One errant cutting or grinding action from a drill press or milling machine can lead to a traumatic amputation in a matter of milliseconds.

But construction sites and factories represent just one piece of a larger landscape of hazardous workplaces. Traumatic amputation can occur across any number of disciplines and industries, including the meat packing industry, textile plants, sawmills and commercial kitchens. Although OSHA regulations are designed to minimize risk, a combination of design flaws and user error may still result in a catastrophic injury of some kind. Most people who work in these industries understand that some risk may be involved, but even signing a waiver to this effect does not indemnify the manager or supervisor from liability if the jury finds a workplace to be fundamentally unsafe.

And traumatic amputation is not relegated to job injuries alone. Another major source of such injuries is the automotive industry, where a car or truck accident can result in a severed digit or limb in an instant. Most such injuries are crush injuries, which occur when a driver's or passenger's arm or leg gets pinned in the wreckage from a collision. But traumatic amputation can also occur if a limb is broken or severed by exposed sheet metal or a road hazard. Often driver error is to blame, although defective products such as malfunctioning brakes, headlights, seat belts or air bags may play a contributory role as well.

Defective products can cause traumatic amputation in other contexts as well. One of the most common and tragic is when a child loses a finger or hand due to a slamming door, either at home or in a car. Inadequate child safety features may be to blame for accidents such as these, although many courts demand a standard of reasonable care be met by the parents as well. One notable exception: recent years have seen a rise in child stroller recalls due to fingertip amputation, which occurs when children place their hands in the joints of a closing collapsible mechanism. The liability for such preventable injuries typically falls to the manufacturer alone.

Traumatic amputation is a nonreversible injury, but that doesn't mean that victims have no avenues of recourse moving forward. Most courts will apportion damages in the case of amputation based on a number of factors, including negligence, poor design and appropriate caution. In states where pain and suffering can be levied on top of medical bills, the settlements can be substantial indeed. If you have suffered a traumatic amputation due to the negligent or hazardous act of another person, you may have a case that warrants the attention of an attorney.

Hard Hat Hazards: Understanding Construction Site Amputation

Construction sites represent some of the most dangerous job sites in America year after year. Because they are by definition incomplete structures, most construction sites come with a litany of shifting hazards. These may include such diverse issues as unsecured heavy equipment, uneven surfaces, exposed blades, shaky scaffolding and defective tools. No wonder there are more than 150,000 construction site injuries across the nation each year — a staggering figure when you consider that nearly one in 10 construction workers suffers an injury every year. This article was written to make some sense of injuries such as these, and to explain the different liabilities involved.

Falls are one of the biggest culprits on construction sites. Although contractors and employees receive training in elevated work environments, construction site falls remain a major source of serious injury year after year — hardly surprising when you consider the many surfaces involved. Deadly falls can occur from unsecured scaffolding, cranes, roofs and even elevator shafts. Scaffolding in particular tends to fail for a variety of reasons, from poor design and inadequate anchoring to a collision with heavy equipment. In cases such as these, the liability may reside with a contractor, owner or a third-party manufacturer.

Falling materials remain a wellspring of serious injuries every year as well. Although some of these injuries can be minor in nature, this is not the case when something massive slips from a surface or a line. Falling bricks, beams, joists, windows and equipment may all result in life-changing brain injuries and spinal injuries, and a few inches in either direction can give rise to a traumatic amputation. Every year sees new cases that involve equipment failures landing on top of an employee as well, including dropped hooks, detached tools and even falling scaffolds.

One of the principal issues at any construction site is that human beings are not the only parties at work. Heavy earth-moving equipment is regularly deployed for digging and placement, and machines such as these often do not adhere to the same safety standards required of roadworthy vehicles. Open cabs, poor sight-lines and nonexistent bumpers can turn even a small oversight into a deadly collision, either with a worker or with another vehicle. The noise on construction sites may play a contributory role as well, preventing otherwise alert construction workers from hearing OSHA-mandated beeps and warning tones before it is too late.

Leave behind the issue of cranes, tractors and bulldozers, and a different hazard emerges: electrical shock. Construction sites are often wired for high voltage with minimal protection, the better to power a required panoply of professional tools and lighting. Add to this the frequent appearance of incomplete home or building wiring throughout the site, and it becomes more clear how so many electrical shocks are sustained each year. Whether the issue is exposed wiring, conducting liquid spills or non-grounded equipment, major electrical surges can occur in an instant. Extreme cases can result in nerve injury that will result in amputation, often within seconds of the circuit closing.

Chemical burns occur for related reasons, including poorly secured volatile materials and falling equipment. So-called pressure vessels are designed to house dangerous chemicals, or to keep extremely hot chemicals safely under control. Any defect or user error with a pressure vessel can result in a leak or explosion, and a worker in harm's way can sustain a major burn from escaping gases. Toxic exposure may arise from the use of other chemicals as well, including bonding agents and smelting metals, which is why the liability for securing such dangerous compounds rests with so many responsible parties.

Construction sites are especially dangerous, and insurance premiums remain high as a result. If you have been injured as a result of a construction site accident, however, you may decide that your insurance settlement isn't enough. Major injuries that require lifelong therapy or rehabilitation can run well into seven figures to treat, and that is before you even consider the potential hit to your future income. If you have suffered an injury on a construction site and another party may be liable for that accident, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to recover what you deserve.

The Growing Problem of Defective Product Amputations

Defective products can come in a number of shapes and sizes, from power tools to vehicles to everyday consumer items. Although some defects are largely harmless, others may present an unreasonably dangerous risk for users. In extreme cases, this risk can result in life-altering catastrophic injuries, including traumatic brain injury, spinal injury and traumatic amputation. Recalls may arise from repeated issues with injuries of this sort, but it is important to exercise due caution on your own as well: somebody is inevitably the first to fall victim to a defective product.

One of the most well-known examples of a defective product that has been linked to an amputation risk is child strollers. Recent years have seen millions of these products recalled by the manufacturers, often for the same reason: a child's finger or hand can get caught in the apparatus as it is being collapsed for transit. The problem is that a scissor scaffold design uses interlocking pieces of sturdy plastic or metal, and many young people find themselves curiously reaching into the device as it is folded. The result can be a lost fingertip or worse, which has prompted manufacturers to issue new designs and canvas covers for these exposed hazards — alas, too late for hundreds of families.

Car seats have undergone similar scrutiny from regulators and parents alike, and with good reason. Anyone who has tried to install a child car seat recently has likely experienced some confusion at the complexity of these devices. When you factor in five-point harnesses, locking base mechanisms, lengthy tethers and the debate over which direction to face, there is plenty of confusion to go around. Today an increasing number of rulings have held that manufacturers may be held responsible for a failed car seat, even in cases where a parent or guardian did not install it correctly. The reason: poor instructions and design.

And of course children are hardly the only population at risk from defective products in vehicles. A number of related issues have arisen with seat belts, air bags and even braking mechanisms. Seat belts, for instance, may fail in an accident, especially if they are designed with a push-button release that can be depressed by flying debris or a knock from behind. Air bags have long been a source of similar litigation, particularly if their design fails to adequately protect a smaller adult in the event of a head-on collision. And defective brakes are a perennial source of litigation in cases where they fail catastrophically without any indicator light warnings before the pad was gone. Any of these accidents can result in an amputation by crush injury or a sharp surface, leaving manufactures liable for millions of dollars.

Defective products affect other types of vehicles as well. Construction equipment gives rise to lawsuits often in cases where workers or visitors to a site sustained an injury. Defective scaffolding, for instance, may result in a fall accident that results in an amputation. And issues can affect earth-moving equipment and heavy cranes, particularly if they cannot be adequately controlled or stopped safely. Burst pressure vessels on vehicles and in manufacture can leave workers burned badly enough that amputation is the only viable medical remedy.

Finally a number of defective consumer products may result in a traumatic amputation. Foremost among these may be dog leashes. Bad design and poor instructions can result in significant burning by holding the wrong part of a leash when a dog bolts, for instance, and amputations have also arisen as a result of leashes becoming wrapped around limbs and digits. Plenty of warnings have gone out about the dangers of these products in recent years, but no amount of press releases can indemnify a manufacturer from being held liable for a hazardous product they leave on the market.

If you have suffered a traumatic amputation as the result of a defective product, it is important to act. Manufacturers are often loathe to offer a full settlement right away, so it may be wise to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney about the best way to proceed. Traumatic amputation can leave you with a lifetime of high expenses, and the best way to recover what is yours is through the courts.

Costs and Compensation for Amputation

Traumatic amputation is considered a catastrophic injury for a number of reasons, but foremost among these is the shock and pain that comes with the loss. No matter if the amputation affects a digit, part of a limb, or an entire limb, the consequences of that injury can be profound. Although many people appeal to the insurance industry for relief following a traumatic amputation, it is not unusual for the associated expenses to significantly exceed what most policies offer. This is why our legal system provides several avenues of recovery for the victims of amputation, provided they can prove that liability rests with another party.

What kind of compensation can you expect? Today a number of rulings have extended the different expenses beyond simple medical bills. One of the largest ongoing expenses associated with a traumatic amputation is the cost of orthotics and prosthetics, for instance. Because this technology is constantly evolving, and because the devices themselves require ongoing maintenance and evaluation throughout their lives, a responsible financial settlement will cover the full cost of upkeep and upgrades, including money for future technologies that may not yet exist.

You can also recover the expenses associated with ongoing medical and nursing care. Traumatic amputation brings a host of collateral problems with it, including the need for therapy and rehabilitation on a continuing basis. Some victims may require live-in or daily aid as well, including assistance getting around or performing essential tasks. Going through the courts to recover what you deserve is a wise way to pursue the cost of major expenses such as these, as insurance companies are notoriously reluctant to pay for nurses, therapists and other credentialed caregivers.

What else can you recover in a traumatic amputation settlement? One of the biggest expenses for any catastrophic injury is the loss of income. Depending on your vocation and future prospects, the loss of an arm or a leg may render you physically unable to perform the work that until now has been your livelihood. Courts will typically calculate your current and future earning potential, and apply this figure to a larger calculation to determine the loss of income you can expect. The full figure may then be added without alteration to the total settlement you have earned.

There are some further avenues of recovery that may be considered intangibles. Of these, pain and suffering is typically used as a sort of catch all for the many repercussions that do not fit neatly into a mathematical construct. Pain can be difficult to quantify, but there is no question that chronic pain can diminish your quality of life and affect other issues such as relationships and productivity. Victims of a major accident such as this may also face headaches, depression, insomnia and the other symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which will require further therapeutic and medical intervention. All of these issues can increase the settlement you are awarded, and act as a further deterrent to negligence.

Traumatic amputation can occur in a variety of settings and for a variety of reasons, so assigning liability is not always simple. Workplace traumatic amputation can involve negligence on the part of your employer, contractors, the property owner and various third-party vendors whose products may have played a role. Construction site amputations can involve everyone from the general contractor to the architect, owners, tool manufacturers and any number of equipment providers. If you suffer a traumatic amputation in a car accident, liable parties can range from the other driver to manufacturers, dispatching organizations and even the sub-contractors who make the individual parts.

Recovering the full cost of a traumatic amputation requires an experienced eye in sorting out issues of overlapping liability. Although many insurance companies will offer a quick settlement, typically you can earn a far higher figure by working with an attorney who understands the many nuances of catastrophic injury law. With proper preparation, it is not unusual for cases such as these to settle out of court to everyone's satisfaction. Amputation is an injury that can never be reversed, but smart legal representation may help you reclaim something closer to a tolerable and affordable lifestyle.

Workplace Amputation

Most people imagine their jobs to be places where risk is predictable and routine is paramount. In fact, OSHA statistics paint a somewhat less rosy picture of workplace safety, including a dismayingly high incidence of traumatic amputations each year. The truth is that although several jobs are inherently dangerous, the guidelines associated with securing such locations are often ignored or overlooked. Worker's compensation claims are designed to offset the exorbitant expenses associated with a traumatic amputation, but sadly the expenses in question can often dwarf what worker's comp will cover. This is why working with an experienced amputation attorney is a good way to get a better settlement.

Workplace amputation can occur in practically any industry, but there are some common culprits that recur every year. Construction sites often represent the highest source of traumatic amputation, which is unsurprising when you consider how such sites are administered. With heavy machinery in constant motion, unsecured scaffolds and wiring, and obstacles that can move throughout the day, it is easy to understand how so many accidents happen. That doesn't mean such accidents are inevitable, however, or that contractors and owners can ignore effective safeguards.

The most common causes of construction site amputation are falls, cuts, burns and so-called crush injuries, in which an arm or leg gets pinned between two objects. Any of these may be traced to a variety of responsible parties, including the general contractor, property owner and the company that manufactured an unsafe product. Chemical burns can occur when pressure vessels are poorly secured or guarded as well, leading to catastrophic contact with hot or caustic gases. And scaffolding falls occur more often than many people imagine, resulting in impacts with machinery and cutting surfaces that can sever a digit or a limb in an instant.

Similar hazards exist at factories nationwide, which is why so many related industries make OSHA's list of worst offenders every year. From meat-packing plants to sawmills, factories are designed specifically to perform manufacturing tasks with superhuman speed. Often these include cutting, grinding, smelting and pressing — dangerous acts that can quickly claim a life or a limb without proper safeguards in place. Here, as in construction, the liability may rest solely with the factory owners, or it may include equipment manufacturers, contractors and other third parties. The key is to understand what went wrong and why.

Traumatic amputation often occurs at another common workplace as well: farms. Although such injuries may occur at family farms with limited means, far more common are injuries at major corporate agricultural depots. Like factories and construction sites, these industrial farms make use of automated equipment, on-site processing and plenty of heavy machinery in their efforts toward greater efficiency. The danger arises when this machinery is poorly secured, either as an ongoing problem or following a return from the fields in which that machine was being used to cut or grind. Many farm hands and employees are unable to return to work following a traumatic amputation, making the need for an appropriate settlement all the more pressing.

Many people don't consider traumatic amputation in a car accident a form of workplace injury, but it can be in certain circumstances. The most common by far is the shipping industry, in which drivers are asked to haul loads many thousands of miles in vehicles they never chose or inspected. If an auto accident or a truck accident leads to traumatic amputation in the course of a job like this, you may be able to win a suit against your employer for poor safety and maintenance protocols. Similar awards can arise from other sources of liability, including manufacturers of unsafe or defective products such as air bags, seat belts and braking systems.

Workplace amputation can occur in countless industries. If you have suffered a catastrophic injury such as this and do not relish the thought of relying on workers' compensation to pay your bills, you may be able to claim a much higher settlement by speaking with an experienced attorney. Good legal representation can help you sort out the source of liability, contact the appropriate parties and recover the full and fair settlement you deserve for your losses.