Motor Vehicle Accidents: Losing a Limb

Motor Vehicle Accidents: Losing a Limb
Motor Vehicle Accidents: Losing a Limb 

The main cause of hospitalization for Canadians between the ages of fifteen and thirty-four is motor vehicle accidents. And although deaths and injuries have been trending downward in recent years, automobile accidents still cause almost 2,000 fatalities and nearly 10,000 serious injuries per year. Most severe injuries will require physiotherapy, surgery, or other medical interventions, and while some will heal with time, many will have lasting and life-changing effects. Among the kinds of injuries that can have a major effect on an accident victim’s life are amputations. Even though doctors work hard to avoid doing amputations, sometimes a patient’s limb or limbs must be removed. In these cases, the accident victim must relearn to perform many daily tasks, and must adjust, physically and mentally. If you or a family member has had to have a limb amputated due to accident trauma, consult a personal injury lawyer. You may be entitled to compensation from your insurance company that will help to ease your way forward.


What to Expect 


People who have experienced the loss of a limb report that there is an initial adjustment period during which there are many emotional, as well as physical, challenges. Immediately following an amputation, the medical focus is on healing the incision and the wound. The patient may remain in the hospital, or may become an outpatient, returning for checkups and to have dressings changed. After medical personnel remove the sutures, they may use a “shrinker sock” or tensor bandage to reduce swelling in the residual limb. The aim is to shape the residual limb so that a prosthesis will fit easily. At this time, patients may have phantom pain, which is feeling as though the limb that is gone is burning or aching. They may also be experiencing mental anguish, unsure of how they will manage without the missing limb or limbs. During this early period, the patient will typically attend physiotherapy three to five times a week.



Once the incision has healed sufficiently, the medical team will recommend a prosthesis clinic. During a fitting, the prosthetist will examine the residual limb thoroughly. Usually a temporary prosthesis is made, in order for the patient to get used to using one, and to help with balance. Then the prosthetist will begin work on a more sophisticated and complex artificial limb to be used after the residual limb is completely healed. Today’s prosthetics are more functional, lighter, and more specialized than ever before. A few variables will help to determine the type of prosthesis. The level of the amputation is one factor; the higher the amputation, the more components the prosthesis will require. Some patients request limbs that are realistic-looking, others are more interested in a limb that will perform certain activities, for example, a hook vs. a hand with fingers. Some people have different prosthetics for different purposes, such as skiing or swimming.


Once the permanent prosthesis has been created, physiotherapists work with the patient to help him or her learn how to use it. Occupational therapists work on daily skills such as dressing, writing, and more. Many amputees put a priority on learning to drive and other tasks that help to maximize independence.



A "New Normal"


The science (and art) behind today’s prosthetics is impressive, and the materials used are lighter and more effective than ever before. But recovery after an accident can be both frustrating and difficult. It takes skill to learn how to use a prosthesis effectively, and that can take time. In addition, a patient may need time to come to terms with the effects of the accident, particularly if other people were injured or killed. He or she may continue to suffer from PTSD or extreme stress. Most times, a patient has to take significant time off work, which can impact both income and self-esteem. He or she may also worry about their attractiveness to a partner or potential partner. Seeing a counsellor or therapist can be key to regaining perspective and moving forward, to adjusting to a “new normal.” During this time, it can also be useful to work with a personal injury lawyer. Although an insurance settlement will not compensate in any way for the loss of a limb, the financial stability can be useful for a patient’s state of mind.



If you or a family member has lost a limb due to a motor vehicle accident, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. No matter who caused the accident, you may be entitled to compensation under the law. Many times, a settlement provides important support for people recovering from an amputation. However, it’s important to speak with someone from a reputable legal firm that has experience in personal injury law and disability, as these cases can be complex, and timelines are important. A firm such as Toronto’s Sokoloff Lawyers has a great deal of experience with all types of personal injury cases, and can provide services in a wide range of languages.


Adjusting to living with an amputation can be challenging. Make sure that you have supports in place to help you maximize your ability to live life to the fullest.