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Suffering a motorcycle accident, an accident at work or a mistake from a medical professional can be incredibly distressing, but when that incident results in amputation, the consequences can be devastating. An amputation can have a serious impact on your life, your loved ones and your independence. Our client, Jake, was supported by Caroline Morris, Senior Chartered Legal Executive, when he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident. His rehabilitation journey was supported by PACE, and he made incredible progress even during lockdown restrictions. At Fletchers, our team of specialist serious injury & medical negligence solicitors will take the stress out of the claims process. We have over 30 years’ experience dealing with amputation cases, so you can rest assured we’ll bring the best legal minds to your case.
An amputation is the surgical removal of part of the body, such as an arm or leg. In very serious accidents, an amputation can also be ‘traumatic’, where the limb is lost in the accident itself. This can be common in motorcycle accidents. Medical negligence can result in amputation if there is a failure by medical staff to identify and treat your symptoms. For example, a failure to diagnose infection in a wound, issues relating to circulation or the mismanagement of diabetes or misdiagnosis of cancer may result in an amputation. Medical mistakes that result in amputation can leave an overwhelming impact on patients and their families. People may suffer psychologically, as they come to terms with losing a limb, and they may have difficulty finding a suitable prosthetic limb. They may need to make adjustments to their lifestyles, such as having to change their job or retrain, or they may need to change or modify their home. Patients will almost certainly need to undergo extensive rehabilitation. They may also need a new or modified vehicle and require a substantial care package tailored to their needs. An amputee may also experience difficulties with phantom limb pain and contracture.
Most of the amputation cases that we deal with are either caused by serious accidents such as motorcycle accidents or accidents at work, or by medical negligence. If you’ve undergone an amputation due to medical negligence, or negligence has occurred during the aftercare of your amputation, then you may be able to claim compensation. If your amputation was caused in an accident that was not your fault, then you should be able to claim compensation. Compensation is not only for your pain and suffering, but is also crucially for the adjustments needed for your lifestyle and future care and treatment. It may be that as a result of an amputation, you need to make changes to your home to assist your new lifestyle. Accommodation experts can provide evidence on this and may decide that single level accommodation is required, as well as modifications and adjustments. These adjustments can significantly improve quality of life. Patients may also need a new or adapted vehicle following an amputation to help them adjust to their circumstances and regain independence. We regularly obtain payments from the negligent party for adapted cars, motorcycles and bicycles that are able to be used following the loss of a limb. Following an amputation, some patients may require private sector care to help them with tasks that they would have previously carried out themselves. Our legal team will work with specialist care experts to assess your current and future needs. Many people who have undergone amputation surgery, report feelings of grief and bereavement. Some may experience feelings of depression, anxiety, denial and feeling suicidal. As a result, it is very important for those who have undergone amputation surgery to speak to their care team about their feelings. It may be that they need additional treatment, such as antidepressants or counselling, to improve their ability to cope.
It is important to remember that a claim for negligence must be made within three years of the accident, or with medical negligence, the date which you became aware of the mistake affecting you. This is known as the “date of knowledge”. However, if the claim relates to a child under the age of 18, the time limit for bringing a claim will not begin to run until their 18th birthday. If the person involved does not have the mental capacity to recognise the mistake, there can be no time limit. If you’re unsure about the timescales of your case or if there is any ambiguity around the details of your case, our dedicated serious injury solicitors can quickly assess the facts of your case to help you understand if you have a claim.
Amputation surgery is usually performed under a general anaesthetic or with a spinal anaesthetic, which means the body is numbed from the waist down. Prior to the operation, the surgeon will carry out the following checks to ensure the limb is removed at the right point:
Following this, the surgery is carried out; and this involves removing the damaged tissue but carefully leaving the healthy tissue behind. Any crushed bone is also removed and the bone is smoothed at the stump. Blood vessels and nerves are sealed off; and the muscles are shaped accordingly. This shaping of the muscle and smoothing of the bone is important, as this will allow for a more comfortable fit of the prosthesis – should you choose to use one.
The effects of amputation are both physical and psychological. When you lose a limb, your mobility and dexterity will naturally be impacted. There is certainly an element of retraining and re-educating the body in terms of mobility, balance and strengthening. A good rehabilitation programme and a suitable prosthesis that suits your lifestyle is imperative to your recovery. Psychologically, it is normal to grieve the loss of a limb. You may experience some feelings of isolation as you come to terms with this new reality. Effects of amputation can include:
Working with a multi-disciplinary team of rehabilitation specialists, legal advisors and psychotherapists will help you to adjust and rebuild your life towards a more positive outcome.
As a rule, a hospital stay following an amputation varies upwards of five to 14 days. However, this depends entirely on the complexity of the surgery and any complications that may arise afterwards. Your surgeon and medical team should be able to advise you on what to expect following your surgery and how long your recovery should take. They will also be able to make a full assessment of your overall health and fitness.
Amputation can be a serious complication of diabetes, and usually follows the development of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). This condition causes the blood vessels to narrow and reduce blood flow to your legs and feet. This is why people with diabetes are usually advised to check their feet each day, because the lack of blood flow can also cause nerve damage; preventing them from feeling pain and therefore spotting a wound or ulcer on the feet. A wound that goes unspotted can then become infected, particularly as reduced blood flow also slows down healing. Developing PAD means that the body is less effective at fighting infection and can lead to irreparable damage. This is why amputation is sometimes associated with diabetics; specifically amputation of the toes, feet and lower limbs.
Lower limb amputation is reported to be the most common type of amputation, according to a study with Web-MD. This is certainly one of the common types of amputation we see in our clients. Of lower limb amputations, an above-knee amputation is usually the last resort. This is because maintaining the knee helps to ensure better mobility and is generally an easier transition for patients to make. In some cases, an above-knee amputation may come later if medical complications continue.
Following surgery, your rehabilitation team will advise you on the best exercises to strengthen and retrain your body. For an above-knee amputee, the focus will likely be on the following:
An above-knee amputee will have limited mobility due to the loss of the knee, so it is important to work with your physiotherapist to help develop this during your recovery.
A below-knee amputee will generally have a good range of mobility due to the retaining of the knee, but it is still important to work closely with your rehabilitation team to build on your coordination and strength. Your physiotherapist may guide you through the following exercises:
All post-operative training programmes should be tailored to your specific needs and capabilities.
Caroline is a Chartered Legal Executive and Senior Lawyer at Fletchers, with over 23 years’ experience working in the personal injury sector. In addition to leading her very experienced team of serious injury practitioners, Caroline handles some of the most complex and high value cases in the firm. She represents adults and children who have suffered life changing injuries, including brain injury, spinal cord injury, amputation and serious orthopaedic injuries. She is also very experienced in dealing with fatal cases and cases being brought against the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority. Caroline considers client care to be of the utmost importance and is passionate about securing the best possible settlement to for her client to enable them to achieve the best life after injury. Recognised nationally by the Legal 500 as a very tough litigator who has a knack of developing a real rapport with her clients’ and someone who is adept at handling high value, complex matters for both adults and children.
Peter is dedicated to supporting victims of catastrophic medical negligence injuries and endeavours to provide a clear and coherent approach to claims. He recognises the effects serious injuries can have and therefore ensures his customers’s need for support is met. Peter also has a vast amount of experience working with customers who have been injured abroad and is able to act under international law to provide the best outcomes.
As one of the leading medical negligence solicitors in the North West, Trevor has considerable experience and medical negligence specialism in dealing with cases involving birth trauma, orthopaedic, ophthalmic, general surgery and diabetic related claims.
As well as supervising a serious injury team, Julia handles some of the most serious and complex personal injury cases, not just in the firm, but in the UK, being one of only literally a handful of people in the country with the experience and expertise to be able to deal with such accidents. Julia is also a Legal 500 recommended lawyer, noted for being 'tactically very astute'.
Iain is a solicitor who joined Fletchers from a large firm in Liverpool becoming a member of our specialist medical negligence team. With over 7 years of experience in the personal injury sector, Iain works strenuously to help customers who are have sustained severe and life changing injuries.
Michael has worked in the personal injury sector since 2006 and qualified as a solicitor in March 2010. He joined our Medical Negligence Serious Injury team in 2016, bringing a wealth of litigation experience and after helping to establish a new medical negligence team at his previous firm. He has experience in dealing with life changing catastrophic injuries in particular; cauda equina, amputation and fatal accident cases and has recovered millions of pounds in damages for his Clients. Michael prides himself on his relationships with his Clients and he and his team regularly receive excellent client feedback.
Ged is a serious injury solicitor, who has dedicated his career to fighting for victims of catastrophic injury, and recognises the difficulties and challenges faced from the outset. Alongside working as a solicitor, he volunteers for the spinal injury charity Back-Up, and actively engages with fundraising for the brain injury charity Headway.
Andrew Clark has not only worked in the serious personal injury & motorcycle accident claims industry for over 30 years, he was one of the 'original nine' employees when Rob Fletcher founded Fletchers in 1987 !A highly experienced solicitor with many notable high value settlements to his name, no one on the country has dealt with more motorcycle accident cases than Andrew. Andrew now oversees the Serious Personal Injury team, with all the Serious Injury Team Leaders reporting into him.