Amputation Injuries

As serious injury specialists, Aston Knight Solicitors deal with amputation injuries regularly, resulting from areas such as road traffic accidents, accidents at work, medical negligence and more. Here we explain how we can help you or a loved one who has suffered an amputation injury.

1. The road to recovery

Personal injury law is a “tort law” which basically means the purpose is to put the claimant back in the position they were before the negligent action took place i.e. what would life have been like if the incident in question had never happened?

At Aston Knight Solicitors we often find that when dealing with serious injuries such as amputations, whilst the injured person quite rightly seeks a strong settlement, their immediate focus is in trying to piece their life together again after an invariably devastating and traumatic injury. Here we take a look at some of the way the legal claim process can assist beyond merely financial compensation.

(a) Prosthetics

When dealing with amputation injuries one our main focal points is to recover high quality prosthetics for the injured person. Whilst even the highest quality prosthetic or even robotic limb available at present won’t fully replace your loss, biotechnology in this area has made substantial progress in recent years, and, in the field of robotics continues to do so. Often the NHS will offer some form of prosthetic but in our experience they are often poor cosmetically i.e. others can detect the difference, resulting in the injured person becoming self-conscious. In recent years a number of incredibly lifelike prostheses have come onto the market, often undetectable. Not all prostheses are functional i.e. allow for movement and control, but in our experience even the purely cosmetic options, if of a high enough quality, offer a significant improvement in quality of life to the user, mainly in being inconspicuous.

The law states that the fact treatment is available through the NHS is to be ignored when deciding what items an injured person can recover compensation for so please do not think that just because the NHS has provided some form of prosthetic that you cannot look at other, often far superior options as part of your case.

Prosthetics often have a finite life-span – even when they still function, regular use/wear and tear can mean that their appearance alters resulting in them becoming noticeable, again affecting the self-confidence of the injured person.

During your case we will obtain a report from a clinical prosthetist to determine not only what the best options available on the private market are for you but, crucially, how often replacements will be needed. We then factor all those costs into your settlement, using mathematical formulae to ensure the money you receive now will be enough for the future, so that you will have security knowing that for the rest of your life you will be able to afford very high quality prosthetics as and when you need them.

(b) Rehabilitation

Of course, getting back to how you were does not simply come down to high quality prosthetics. A lot of treatment and rehabilitation may be needed to enable you to return to your past-life or, if it has been a life-changing injury, to transition into another role. Not every case involves a rehabilitation programme: much depends upon the severity of an injury; a lost finger is unlikely to but a lost arm or leg would often do; your solicitor will provide advice tailored to you and your particular injury.

The law requires both the Claimant’s and Defendant’s solicitor to work together to rehabilitate the injured person. In cases in which liability is admitted the parties will agree upon a rehabilitation company who undertake what is known as an “Immediate Needs Assessment” or “INA” for short. The INA will involve a detailed review of the injured person’s present situation including treatment needs such as physiotherapy, potential employment retraining needs, help around the home needs and more – essentially to try to set out the optimal path to the quickest and best recovery that can be made. The Defendant’s solicitor is then expected to meet the cost of the various recommendations.

Regrettably, we find many defendant insurance company law firms try to abuse the rehabilitation process by insisting on the use of poorly regarded rehabilitation companies owed by insurance companies in order to ensure the money spent on rehabilitation goes back into the insurance industry. As experienced specialist solicitors we are always mindful of this and will ensure only high quality rehabilitation companies are used in your case, with no links to the insurance industry.

If liability for your accident is denied i.e. the Defendant does not agree it was their fault, it follows there is no obligation upon their solicitors to offer rehabilitation. There are NHS rehabilitation programmes available but waiting times can be lengthy and you will need to ensure this is regularly chased up. If an admission of liability is later received you can of course then transition onto a private programme as advised above.

Remember, you are also free at any stage, whether liability is admitted or not, to seek treatment that has been advised to be potentially beneficial such as physiotherapy or counselling. Indeed, the law expects injured people to be proactive in their recovery efforts – it is what is known as the “duty to mitigate”. So, for example, if a doctor recommends a particular treatment then unless arrangement is already in hand via a rehabilitation programme, whether NHS or private, you will be expected to be proactive in seeking this. Your solicitor will work closely with you in co-ordinating your case and the various treatment plans but always remember that the law expects a proactive approach at all times and this is something the judges consider when determining how much compensation to award.

(c) Early financial help

Prosthetics and rehabilitation are of course great steps towards your long term recovery goal but what if you have been left unable to work and are struggling to manage on benefits, which could be much lower than the salary you were accustomed to, and required to meet your outgoings.

In admitted cases a mechanism exists to assist named “interim payments.”

Interim payments are when you receive part, or parts, of your compensation early, which are then deducted off the final settlement figure at the end (this does not mean you receive less – you receive the same total amount overall just that with interim payments you receive the money in stages rather than all at the end).

Interim payments can be a very useful tool for an injured person struggling to get by whilst their case progresses. Due to the often large quantity of specialist medical and other expert evidence needed to ensure an injured person recovers the maximum settlement possible, together with the court process, even cases in which liability is admitted early can take a number of years to reach settlement.

If your case has not yet begun in the court (this is a complicated point that your solicitor will explain and is too detailed for this article) the decision as to whether to provide an interim payment is at their discretion of the Defendant, or, rather, their solicitors and/or insurance company. Often they will adopt a sensible approach, appreciating their conduct may later be criticised by a judge if they refused to make an interim payment to a struggling injured person. On occasion however they will adopt a difficult stance, or seek to abuse the process; Aston Knight Solicitors adopt a robust stance for the injured clients we act for however and if there is a legal entitlement to an interim payment this will be pursued, including making an application to the court for the matter to be decided by a judge if needs be.

If the court proceedings have already begun (this does not mean simply the trial – cases can be in the court system for 18 months or longer before reaching trial, if needed) then we can ask a judge to determine whether an interim payment should be made, so things are a little easier at that stage as the Defendant’s solicitor/insurance company has less scope for opposition.

The law as it stands at present requires two main tests to be met to determine whether a particular amount sought as an interim payment should be awarded or not:

  1.  Whether the value of your injuries and money lost up to that point is more than the amount being asked for. This can often be a tricky point as for the majority of serious injury cases the bulk of their compensation is in fact made up of future losses such as future prosthetic costs, future lost earnings, treatment needs and so forth – sometimes the past loss element is only a small portion. This could limit or cap the interim payment value but in the court is allowed to take a broader look at things and if the judge thinks a particular future loss is highly certain he or she can use this to raise the cap and award a higher interim payment.
  2. There must be a real need for the interim payment as opposed to waiting until the end of the case. This will vary depending upon individual circumstances, struggling without earnings is a typical example, which is often the case if an amputation injury results in a person being left unable to work.

It perhaps goes without saying that, unfortunately, in cases in which liability is not admitted, there is no obligation upon the Defendant to make an interim payment. In cases in which a split liability settlement is reached for example 50/50% the Defendant will of course only have to pay 50% of the total claim value so any interim payments received will be deducted from 50% of the total claim value, which is a factor a judge will consider if he or she is asked to make a decision based on the I and II criteria above.

2. Securing the best outcome

We have looked at some of the help available through the claims process on the road to recovery but what of the overall outcome itself?

  • How your compensation will be calculated

A very frequent question personal injury solicitors will face early on in a case, and indeed often throughout it, is how much is the case likely to settle for? For reasons explained below, this can be a very difficult question to answer until later on in the case.

The way personal injury settlements work is that a number of different types of compensation stack together, almost like layers in a cake, to reach a total value.

Typically, when dealing with an amputation injury, the following are common inclusions in a settlement (please note each settlement is highly specific to the particular injury and person involved and factors such as whether liability is admitted in full or split, can make a substantial difference):

– The lost limb itself – UK courts value injuries much lower than most people would think; awards can range from the low teens for a lost digit to tens of thousands for a lost limb: generally, the more severe the injury and the more areas of your body affected the greater the amount will be. We will obtain a medical report from a specialist doctor in the relevant field of medicine e.g. a hand surgeon for a finger amputation.

– Psychological injuries – amputation injuries are often traumatic and may lead to psychological injuries in addition to physical ones. We will obtain a report from a senior psychiatrist and typically awards can range from £10,000 to £40,000, but can be greater or lower; again much depends upon the severity of the injury: some people recover psychologically very quickly whereas others are left with long-term injuries and, as expected, the amounts awarded reflect those differences.

– Other injuries – what many people might not realise is that amputation injuries may often have a cascade effect upon other areas. For example, the loss of a particular limb may lead to the injured person compensating whether consciously or subconsciously, which can lead to strains, wear and tear and other injuries. Another feature can be the onset of Chronic Pain or even Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, both being pain disorders which can develop after a significant injury. It can therefore often be common for us to need to seek medical reports from separate medical specialities to that of the lost limb.

– Future prosthetic costs – these can be surprisingly high. Even a lost finger can require a prosthetic of a few thousand pounds which, on its own may not sound much but if it has to be replaced every two years, and the injured person is relatively young, then once inflation is factored in this can amount to a considerable value, sometimes in excess of £100,000.

– Lost earnings, past and future – this is a very individual-specific issue and will vary considerably depending upon whether you were able to return to the same work or not, how much you earned, how much you may be losing out on now if you have had to retrain into a new role, whether your retirement age may be affected and many more. Loss of earnings claims can range from a few thousand pounds to in excess of £1 million – it all depends upon the individual circumstances.

– Care and assistance needs – this can be time spent by a family member, friend or in some cases paid assistance. The basic logic is that if you had to pay someone to look after you or your home due to injuries then it would only be fair to recover an equal amount for those that did so voluntarily. In serious injury cases we will often obtain a report from a specialist care expert detailing your needs both from the time of the accident and into the future. Again, much depends upon the severity of injury, degree of recovery and independence.

– Aids and appliances – if appropriate, we will obtain a report from an occupational health therapist who will visit your home and determine what aids and appliances may be available to improve your quality of life and maintain your independence. Much like the prosthetics example above, there is often an annual cost as items will wear out over time and/or require maintenance and, again, this element can often form a significant addition to your overall settlement.

3. Why Aston Knight Solicitors?

Many personal injury solicitor firms will gladly accept serious injury cases such as amputation injuries but few have the requisite skills to run the cases as necessary to both recover the optimal levels of compensation available for these injuries and to ensure the client’s road to recovery progresses as best possible.

Aston Knight Solicitors are a specialist firm; each and every solicitor has substantial experience in handling serious injury matters and a proven track record of success. This level of experience is critical in any serious injury matter including of course amputation injuries. Our specialist reputation in the legal industry has resulted in strong links with the leading barristers in serious injuries; the most highly regarded medical expert witnesses; the leading clinical prosthetics agencies, rehabilitation industries and more. The quality of expert witness in a matter can often be a critical factor in a case as if ever there is a dispute regarding the value of a particular element of a case, and a judge has to determine the issue, then a highly regarded and senior expert witness can greatly increase the probability of the judge finding in the claimant’s favour.

Above all we pride ourselves upon offering a considerate and empathetic approach in what for many people will be one of the most difficult things they face in their lives. Remember, we have been there for many people in the same position as you so we know what matters to you and take immense pride in the settlements we have recovered and our fabulous client feedback.

We hope this page has been useful but, ultimately, the legal process is a very complex one and so this can only be a summary of some of the key factors.

We offer a no-obligation initial consultation and so if you or someone you know has been affected by any of these issues please feel free to telephone us on 0800 999 6661 or email info@astonknightsolicitors.co.uk and we’ll be pleased to assist further.