In some of the most severe medical malpractice cases, a patient may suffer the loss of a limb as the result of a medical provider’s negligence. An amputation is an unexpected and life-changing injury that involves complicated medical treatment and brings a host of difficulties for the victim and his or her family. Medical malpractice victims who suffer amputations can seek recovery for their expenses and injuries. Each state has different rules regarding medical malpractice cases and the amount of recovery that a victim and his or her family can seek for their injuries.
In order to recover compensation for an amputation, the plaintiff must bring a negligence claim against the medical provider. The first element of a negligence claim requires the plaintiff to show that the defendant owed him or her a duty of care. Doctors and medical professionals have a duty to follow the commonly accepted practices and procedures in their specialty for their particular geographical location, and to apply those methodologies in light of each patient’s conditions and demographics.
After establishing that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant failed to act according to the duty of care. Most states refer to the failure to act according to the standard of care as a breach. Breaches can occur in many medical situations, including the failure to diagnose a condition, the failure to prescribe appropriate treatment, or the failure to provide timely care. At trial, the parties will most likely provide evidence from an expert witness who can describe the applicable duty of care and provide testimony regarding the ways in which the defendant breached that duty. In a medical malpractice incident, the expert witnesses will most often be medical professionals who specialize in a field associated with the plaintiff’s injuries.
Next, the plaintiff must show that the defendant’s breach was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Causation requires showing that the plaintiff would not have suffered injuries but for the medical professional’s failure to act according to the standard of care. For example, if a medical provider fails to diagnose a cancerous tumor that would more likely than not have been identified by another provider, he or she is the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. Tumors are a frequent cause of amputations, in addition to severe car accidents, premises liability cases, and surgical errors.
Finally, the plaintiff must provide evidence establishing the nature and extent of his or her injuries. In cases involving an amputation, victims typically have significant medical expenses. The cost of care associated with the loss of a limb may include hospital time, surgery, physical therapy, medication, and long-term medical care. Many amputees also experience mental issues, including depression, anxiety, and fear. A defendant may be liable for the costs associated with these injuries.
Additionally, amputations often affect the victim’s ability to return to his or her occupation in the same capacity as before the accident. For example, a professional athlete, delivery driver, or chef may not be able to continue working in these capacities if they lose a hand, arm, leg, or foot. An amputee can seek compensation for his or her loss of income and loss of future earning capacity from a negligent defendant.
In many states, a spouse or close relative can also seek compensation from a negligent defendant by filing a claim for loss of consortium. This action is designed to compensate the spouse or close family relative for the loss of their loved one’s companionship, society, and services. Some states limit the individuals who may bring an action for loss of consortium to spouses, while other states allow parents, siblings, cousins, and other relatives to seek compensation for their loss of consortium.