One of the greatest losses that a person can experience is the loss of an arm or a leg. Our firm has experience in handling amputation cases all the way through trial. In fact, we are one of a small number of law firms in America to have handled an amputation trial to verdict in the last 20 years. We have handled cases including the detachment of an arm as well as several leg amputation cases.
Amputations can result from drunk driving, truck crash injuries, car versus motorcycle collisions, and other negligent or reckless activities resulting in very serious injuries to a person’s arm or leg. The law requires that the person at fault for the amputation pay all economic and non-economic (personal) losses experienced by the injured person. In the case of people who undergo an amputation as a result of someone else’s conduct, those financial and personal losses are substantial.
In terms of the financial losses (which the law calls “economic damages”), oftentimes the person will not be able to return to their pre-injury employment, and as a result of that they will usually experience wage loss as well as facing a lifetime of future wage loss or what the law calls “Diminished Earning Capacity.” In an amputation case, we hire a vocational rehabilitation expert and a forensic economist to determine the amount of future wage loss. An amputation lawyer must hire these experts in order to obtain payment for those losses.
Another important financial aspect of these cases are the substantial medical bills that will be required over time. First, the medical bills for our clients with amputations often are $500,000 to $1,000,000 in medical bills before the trial. This amount is called “past medical bills” in most states. We have had clients with as many as 12 surgeries before the amputation in the attempt to save the leg after trauma, and then many surgeries after that. An amputation trial lawyer is tasked with recovering those funds for past medical bills during a trial to be able to pay the hospitals, doctors and / or the insurance companies back that paid for the services. Then, we must consider the future economic losses for the future medical bills of the client. We have learned that oftentimes with an amputation below the knee, an infection will set in and the client will have to get a second amputation above the knee. The probability of that surgery has to be built into the legal case and the future medical bills determined, both in terms of the potential for infection, the necessary medical care, and a potential future surgery. Then that number must also be provided to the insurance company or jury with a request that that those be paid. Again, an amputation lawyer must seek reports from the client’s doctors about those future costs, and hire experts in vocational rehabilitation or life care planners in order to obtain payment for those losses.
A large financial issue in amputation cases is the cost of the prosthetic limbs and the need to replace that prosthetic multiple times over the course of the client’s life. One prosthetic is generally agreed not to be enough for a person as different prosthetics have different purposes (one for walking and a waterproof, slide resistant one for being in the shower for instance). For prosthetics that are closer to providing a restoration of normal movement (and allowing the client to get back to a more normal way of life) tend to cost a lot more money because they involve more complex ankles and foot mechanisms. In the case of an amputated arm, the hand prosthetics can be very complex and sustain repetitive wear. For this reason, every few years the prosthetics have to be replaced because they wear out and start breaking down. When you consider two or more expensive prosthetics with different attachments (such as ankles or prosthetic feet), and then replaced every few years as the cost of healthcare increases, the costs of prosthetics over a lifetime is a very substantial amount of financial loss. Often times the cost for prosthetics alone over a lifetime exceeds $1 million.
Of course, the financial loss is nothing compared to the personal loss of losing an arm or leg. The loss of quality of life associated with the loss of an arm or leg, is devastating for most people. Despite having a prosthetic that allows them to do some things, they often can’t go out and do the activities they used to do before. Dr. DeShaw, as a former doctor, also has unique knowledge of brain based changes and neurological symptoms experienced by amputees including phantom pain and how that will impact the amputee over the course of their life. As a result the “non-economic damages” (the monetary amount used to compensate a person for their personal loss) is very substantial. While the reasonable amount will vary in every case (particularly based upon the state and a person’s lost income and future medical care needs), one jury outside Oregon evaluated a double leg amputation as being worth $95 million (including $83 million for the injured husband and $12 million in loss of consortium for his wife). Another jury outside Oregon evaluated a single leg, below the knee amputation case as being worth $34 million. Values for an amputation case will vary depending upon many factors, and as always the amount of insurance coverage available from the at-fault person often dictates the final outcome of a case for the injured party.
Learning about amputations and prosthetics is a steep learning curve for a lawyer, and the lawyer must be willing to hire highly qualified expert witnesses to provide opinions and testimony including surgeons, a prosthetist, a vocational rehabilitation expert, a forensic economist and more. Medical texts and journal articles will be required and read in order to understand the likelihood for future surgeries and prosthetics. In addition to handling our own cases, and actually trying an amputation trial, we have obtained and studied the trial transcripts of most of the other amputation trials tried in the past 20 years to learn the best methods of trying an amputation case. We know that the outcome of a legal case involving an amputation will impact the rest of the client’s life. The value of a law firm that handles a small number of cases such as our own, allows us to work diligently on behalf of our amputation clients.
If you have sustained a traumatic amputation as a result of someone else’s wrongdoing, it helps to have an amputation trial lawyer with experience. We want to assist those who have sustained a traumatic amputation to be able to get their medical care paid, their future medical care paid, their wage loss paid, and get full compensation for the pain, humiliation, change in quality of life and mental suffering that they’ve experienced and will experience the rest of their life as a result of the loss of their limb.