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Is it possible to put a value on the loss of a lower limb?

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It is a sad statistic that in the 10-year period between 2009-2019, there were 937 compensation cases where a patient lost a limb due to medical negligence.

There are a variety of reasons for this including failing to refer patients for appropriate vascular care or poor diabetic care. In the worst cases, the wrong limb can be amputated by surgeons in situations known as ‘never events’ because they should never happen.

This is a terribly distressing situation for anyone to be in, and people need a lot of care, rehabilitation, specialist physiotherapy and technical equipment to help them get back as close as they can to how they lived before.

Having Shoosmiths assisting you can make a huge difference in terms of accessing rehab as early as possible and receiving the most appropriate prostheses and other necessary equipment and accommodation.

Sharon Banga, a medical negligence specialist solicitor in the Shoosmiths Birmingham office, said:

“Losing your arm or leg is more than the loss of an essential body part, it is also the loss of independence and freedom. It is a devastating injury, physically and psychologically. However, the implementation of an early rehabilitation programme starts the journey along the road to some degree of “normal” life. Therefore, we seek to secure an early admission of liability by ensuring that we instruct the right medical experts to consider the issues of whether the amputation was due to negligence and we then strive to achieve an early significant interim payment to enable us to source state of the art prosthetics, as well as specialist physiotherapy and other assistance needed urgently. This can make a real difference long term.”

How a lower limb amputation claim is valued

No amount of money can make up for the shock and pain of needlessly losing a lower limb above or below the knee, but a compensation award can assist in providing for a person’s needs arising from the disability.

Maybe the most important is a suitable prosthetic limb which enables mobility but also is made of enduring, flexible and easy to handle materials and is colour matched for the individual. 

It is impossible to say at the outset of a case what the value of the case is as this depends on the extent of the injury suffered, what input the client needs to have an independent life as possible and whether the Defendant has accepted liability. As solicitors we require the assistance of expert witnesses to assist us in determining some aspects of a client’s claim.

Every case is different and has to be individually assessed, but generally, the following losses will be claimed in cases where a client has suffered an avoidable amputation:

Care costs

People who have suffered an amputation will most likely have required significant care early on after their amputation and care that is ongoing with consideration also needed for the future.  A care expert will assess the needs and set out the costings of a commercial care team providing the assistance.

Therapies costs

An amputee will often need a number of therapies to assist with their everyday living including specialist physiotherapy, occupational therapy and often also varying types of pain management if it is that they are suffering from phantom limb pains.

Phantom pains are discomfort in the residual limb which ‘remembers’ when it was cut off or compromised. These pains can recur and can lead to the involvement of pain management specialists and pain management techniques.

Counselling / Psychiatric assistance

Having to cope with the loss of a limb can understandably be a struggle mentally. It’s important that compensation in these circumstances allows for specialist assistance in the form of counselling, CBT or other types of therapies available.

Accommodation

It is important for someone with a prosthesis to live in a single storey house to ensure safety at all times and to account for potential wheelchair use.

Equipment and transport

Technological advances mean there are frequently new products becoming available that assist an amputee in becoming more independent. These can range from a range of prosthetics to environmental controls to assist a person in their home. It is often the case that upon securing an interim payment for a client after an admission of liability, Shoosmiths are able to assist with implementing some of these items and the above-mentioned therapies as the claim is ongoing.

A client is also likely to require adapted transport to enable them to travel safely. The costs of purchasing and maintaining these items are calculated and included in any clinical negligence claim with the assistance of expert advice.

Loss of earnings

It is likely that an amputee who was or would like to work is likely to suffer a loss of earnings compared to what they would have been able to earn in their lifetime had the amputation not been needed. This loss of income is included within the claim.

The injury itself

The claim will include a sum for the amputation itself to reflect an acknowledgement that the client has suffered a significant injury that should have been avoided. We use guidelines and previous reported cases to assess the appropriate level in each individual case.

If you are concerned that you or a family member has suffered an avoidable amputation, please do contact us with regards to a potential claim.

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Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2022

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