Representing clients who have a lawsuit involving an amputated thumb, finger or arm involves many unique issues. Working with a variety of professionals that treat amputation injuries is absolutely necessary, but also dealing with the psychological and mental aspects of losing a limb, finger or thumb requires special attention. This article explores some of these issues.
I represented a client who underwent a thumb amputation which also adversely affected the fingers of my client’s right hand – the client’s dominant hand. My client endured four surgeries including the amputation of his right thumb. After seeing what he has been through, I have come to appreciate the massive psychological impact of an amputation injury.
My client cannot button his own shirt, cannot do a simple task like hook together the button on every typical pair of blue jeans. He lost the ability to use a simple kitchen utensil and had to re-learn that task with his left hand. And for a right-handed person, imagine being unable to give a typical handshake to every individual you ever meet in your daily life.
These types of daily psychological reminders are devastating to a person that suffers an amputated thumb, finger or arm.
How Amputation Injuries Occur
Amputation injuries can arise from industrial equipment failures/defects, use of saws, high speed tools, from crush injuries and many other types of accidents. You need to discuss the implications of the amputation with your treating surgeon. I learned from the client mentioned above that his doctor was proposing to do a thumb-to-toe reconstruction surgery.
I learned there is an orthopedic surgery done around the United States and in other nations involving removing the big toe off the person’s foot and reattaching it where the amputated thumb was. I even saw a story on Shark Week on Discovery channel where a surfer who suffered traumatic thumb amputation due to a shark attack successfully underwent the reconstruction and was doing well. Doctors have learned to try to reattach nerve endings in a successful digit-toe reconstruction surgery, and a person can re-learn the opposable thumb movement that is one of the most essential human functions that distinguishes us from all other animals on the planet.
My client who suffered this amputation injury endured traumatic mental stress – who wouldn’t? He can’t work in his previous job and he is currently, after many surgeries, still trying to determine what job he can retrain for with one good hand because of the loss of his right thumb and weakness in his other fingers of that right hand. He was an electrician and a welder. Those jobs are not realistic now.
I had my client assessed by a vocational counselor to determine what his capacity without his right thumb, in relation to jobs that he might look for or retrain for in the future. This type of opinion is absolutely mandatory in a major amputation case where the client was working and lost their occupation because of injury or disability.
Importance of a Life Care Plan
When a client is looking at future surgeries as a result of amputation or an amputated limb, an attorney must go to a qualified life care planning nurse or rehabilitation expert in order to present the actual costs of the future surgical procedure, including any physical therapy or rehabilitation costs associated with that future surgery. Unfortunately, in our state and federal courts, the judges will not allow an attorney to present a claim for money for future medical expenses or surgeries unless there is adequate evidence. This means professional medical testimony. Accordingly, obtaining a medical professional opinion on future medical expenses or costs is absolutely mandatory and is something that experienced injury attorneys often must develop and present in case of a jury trial.
Different persons that suffer amputation respond differently with regard to the psychological and mental aspects of this devastating injury. Depending upon the client’s specific situation, if they are seeing a psychologist in order to cope with the implications of amputation, then certainly an injury attorney must develop this evidence and plan to present the devastating psychological consequences.