Workers Compensation & Social Security Disability for Loss of Limb and Amputation
Losing an arm, leg, arm, hand, finger, or toe in a workplace accident can leave you with hardship, pain, permanent disability, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. You will need months to complete your recovery. And when you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) for your amputation injury, you may still be unable to return to your pre-injury job and to make as much money as you did before you lost your limb.
Understanding your legal options after an occupational injury that causes amputation or loss of limb is important. This article provides a basic overview of what to expect after your limb amputation – both medically and through the Virginia workers’ compensation process. If you have any questions, or are looking for an experienced workers compensation attorney who has helped many injured workers win their case and obtain a workers compensation settlement for an amputation injury, call, text, or email Corey Pollard: 804-251-1620 or 757-810-5614. We are here to help.
Workers’ Compensation for Arm (Upper-Limb) Amputation
Most arm amputations result from occupational injuries sustained in workplace accidents. Though motor vehicle accidents, construction site accidents, and industrial accidents at warehouses, factories, and other production facilities that use heavy equipment and machinery are the most common causes of arm amputations, a loss of limb can happen to any type of employee in any work environment.
Depending on the location and severity of your arm injury, there are three possible amputation sites. The arm can be amputated:
- At the shoulder – If your arm is amputated at the shoulder, then you will lose the entire arm.
- Above the elbow
- Below the elbow
What Happens After the Arm is Amputated?
After your arm is amputated, you will likely work with a prosthetist. A prosthetist is an expert who consults with individuals who have lost a limb to design, fit, build, and adjust an artificial limb, which is called a prosthesis.
An arm prosthesis usually consists of a socket in a rigid frame, which is called an interface, component parts, and a cover. Components may include: fingers; a hand; a hook; a wrist unit; and, an elbow unit. Your shoulder muscles control the movement of the hand or hook.
You will undergo rehabilitation for your arm amputation as well. This includes exercises to improve your conditioning and to stretch and strengthen the shoulder and other muscles.
You get to decide whether to use a prosthesis and, if you do, what type. It is not, however, required. Several of my clients have decided not to use a prosthesis following an occupational injury resulting in loss of limb because they do not like the way it feels.
Complications of Loss of Arm Injuries
When you lose an arm in a workplace accident, you will start to rely on the healthy arm and shoulder. This can lead to injuries to the healthy arm and neck.
Under workers’ compensation you are entitled to benefits for injuries to the healthy arm caused by overcompensating for the initial workplace injury.
Workers’ Compensation for Leg (Lower-Limb) Amputation
As with arm amputations, many leg amputations result from occupational injuries and motor vehicle crashes. Another common cause of lower-limb amputation is complication from other disorders or surgical procedures.
The leg may be amputated at the hip, above the knee, or below the knee. Your prosthesis will depend on where your leg is amputated. Components may include toes, a foot, and a knee unit.
Rehabilitation is important following the loss of a leg. This is because the muscles at the hip or knee joint tend to shorten depending on where your leg is amputated. As a result, you may experience contractures that affect the range of motion in the leg and affect the way the prosthesis fits.
You will also be taught to how to put your prosthesis on, how to take it off, how to walk with it, and how to care for it.
Complications of Leg Amputation Injuries
If you require an above-the-knee amputation, then your prosthesis will be heavier than if you had a below-the-knee amputation. Controlling the prosthesis takes skill and experience. And walking will require much more energy regardless of where your leg is amputated.
As a result of the loss of your leg and the increased energy required to walk, you may start putting more weight and stress on your health leg. In turn, this can lead to arthritis or an injury to the remaining leg.
You are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if your loss of limb results in injury to the healthy limb. This is what’s known as the “compensable consequence” theory.
Pain Following an Amputation or Loss of Limb Due to a Workplace Accident
Many people feel pain after an arm or leg amputation. This is called phantom pain, though it’s very real.
Your physician may prescribe pain medication to deal with the pain following your loss of limb or surgical amputation.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Available for Amputation or Loss of Limb
You may be entitled to the following workers’ compensation benefits after your amputation injury or loss of limb in an industrial accident:
- Temporary total disability payments – An amputation injury or the loss of a limb is considered a catastrophic injury. Most employees who suffer an amputation injury will miss time from work. You are entitled to replacement income for these lost wages.
- Temporary partial disability payments – Following the loss of a limb, you will likely be restricted to light duty work. The more physically demanding your job at the time of injury, the greater the likelihood that you will be unable to return to that job. If you do return to work, but make less because of your amputation, you may be entitled to these benefits to make up some of the wage loss.
- Permanent partial disability payments – As we discuss below, you will be entitled to compensation for your permanent impairment and loss of use of the affected body part. The amount of these benefits depends on many factors.
- Permanent total disability payments – If you injure two or more body parts in the same accident, or if you lose one limb and then suffer impairment to the other due to compensation, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits for the remainder of your life.
- Medical treatment – You are entitled to the payment of lifetime medical expenses, including prostheses, replacement prostheses, rehabilitation, and pain medication, for your loss of limb. You may also be entitled to medical care for depression or PTSD related to the accident that resulted in your loss of limb.
- Vocational Rehabilitation – Many amputees want to get back to work, but need help learning new job skills since their old job is no longer available. These benefits are available under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
- Lump Sum Workers’ Compensation Settlement – We have negotiated settlement for many amputees.
How Much is My Amputation Injury and Loss of Limb Worth under Workers’ Compensation?
Many workers comp claims based on amputation or loss of limb start off paying temporary total disability benefits.
Once you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), you may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits based on your loss of a scheduled body part due to the work accident.
In most workers’ comp cases, permanent partial disability benefits are not available when you are receiving temporary total disability benefits. This is not the case, however, in cases involving amputation injuries or loss of limb because no amount of treatment will bring back the injured body part.
Virginia has its own schedule of workers comp benefits for loss of a limb. Our schedule is different from the federal schedule of body parts.
Virginia Schedules of Benefits for Amputation or Loss of Limbs
The Virginia schedule of benefits for amputation or loss of a limb is as follows:
- Loss of an arm is worth 200 weeks of compensation
- Loss of a leg is worth 175 weeks of compensation
- Loss of a hand is worth 150 weeks of compensation
- Loss of a foot is worth 125 weeks of compensation
- Loss of a thumb is worth 60 weeks of compensation
- Loss of the first finger (index finger) is worth 35 weeks of compensation
- Loss of the second finger is worth 30 weeks of compensation
- Loss of the third finger is worth 20 weeks of compensation
- Loss of the fourth finger (little finger) is worth 15 weeks of compensation
- Loss of the first phalanx of the thumb or any finger is worth one half of the compensation for loss of the entire thumb or finger
- Loss of the great toe is worth 30 weeks of compensation
- Loss of an other toe is worth 10 weeks of compensation
- Loss of the first phalanx of any toe is worth one-half of the compensation for the entire toe
Your compensation rate is based on your average weekly wage (AWW). The AWW is based on your earnings with the employer over the 52 weeks prior to your injury.
Who Decides the Percentage of Loss of Limb for an Amputation Injury?
The main dispute in workers compensation cases involving amputation or loss of use is what percentage of loss you have experienced. Your loss of use is determined by an impairment rating given as a percentage. Your employer’s insurance company will often hire a doctor to give you an impairment rating, which is often much lower than that given by the doctor your experienced workers’ comp attorney will send you to. If the doctors disagree on your amount of impairment due to the amputation injury, then the Commission will decide the case at hearing.
Getting the appropriate amount of workers’ comp benefits for your loss of limb can be complicated. You should expect a long fight with the insurance company. Talk to an experienced workers comp amputation injury lawyer to make sure you get every penny you deserve under Virginia law.
Other Sources of Income and Benefits for Workers Who Have Suffered Amputation Injuries and Loss of Limb
Depending on whether you lost multiple limbs or body parts in the workplace accident, you may also be entitled to permanent and total incapacity benefits, which is a lifetime award of wage loss benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Many disabled workers with amputation injuries are eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits also, which is something that disability lawyer Corey Pollard can help you obtain. The Social Security Administration uses a different standard than the Workers’ Compensation Commission, so it’s important that you consult with an attorney who can assess how your medical condition, age, education, and past work experience will affect your eligibility.
If your amputation injury was caused by another party’s negligence, you may want to pursue a personal injury lawsuit. Because amputation injuries are often caused by defective machinery and equipment, you may have a product liability case along with your workers comp and SSD claims.
The following organizations offer additional resources and help to amputees and workers who have suffered loss of limb:
Corey Pollard Helps Injured Workers and Amputation Injury Victims in Virginia
Our goal is to help all injured workers in Virginia. If you’ve sustained an amputation injury at work then you may be entitled to workers’ comp and SSD benefits.
Getting these benefits, however, may be difficult. Hiring an attorney can give you the best chance possible at recovering maximum compensation for your loss of limb.
Call, e-mail, or text us for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney. We’re here to answer your questions and help you and your family recover following the loss of limb. We represent amputation victims across Virginia, including those in Richmond, Roanoke, Fairfax, Fredericksburg, Newport News, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach.