Can Car Accidents Lead to Amputations?February 8, 2022
Although it is not the most common type of injury resulting from a car accident, some passengers or pedestrians involved in car accidents lose limbs. There is no denying that amputations of an arm, leg, or other body part changes a person’s life forever. It affects their mobility, their ability to work and earn income, and their mental and emotional well-being.
This discussion explores how car accidents lead to amputations, when amputations are surgically necessary, and what to do if you or someone you care about loses a limb in a preventable car accident.
Why Amputations Occur
In the United States alone, more than two million people are living with an amputated limb. Some of these amputations are due to serious car accidents. Amputations can happen during a collision or may be medically necessary after the fact.
Amputation happens through trauma such as an accident or other personal injury. Sometimes they are surgically necessary because of injury, blood loss, cancer, infection, and other conditions. After a traumatic amputation, the person must undergo surgery to remove injured tissue and foreign objects, stem blood loss, and properly close the wound.
Here are some of the ways limbs are lost after an accident:
Crush syndrome. Trauma is the second leading cause of amputation. A crush injury happens when pressure or force is applied to a body part, most commonly when part of the body is squeezed between two objects.
In a car accident, this can happen if the person becomes pinned inside the vehicle or between another car and an object. Crush injuries cause bleeding, bruising, broken bones, and lacerations.
Crush injuries can also lead to something called compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome refers to intense pressure in a limb resulting in severe nerve, muscle, vessel, and tissue damage. If the limb becomes too damaged, it may need to be amputated. In some cases, amputation is necessary at the scene to extricate the person from the vehicle.
Infection. Any skin wound has the potential to introduce infection into the body. Severe infection can kill skin tissue. If the infection does not respond to treatment, the affected body part can become permanently damaged and require surgical removal.
Laceration. A laceration is a wound produced by the tearing of the body’s soft tissue. Lacerations can lead to limb loss. In car accidents, broken glass or metal can cut the body. If the passenger is ejected from the vehicle, they can suffer lacerations from traffic signs, buildings, trees, and other objects.
Lacerations can potentially lead to infection. Deep lacerations can damage the nerves, tissue, and bone to a point at which they cannot be salvaged.
Vascular disease. Vascular disease is the leading cause of limb amputation. Good blood circulation throughout the body is essential to keep limbs healthy. If blood flow is compromised in a certain part of the body, the limb dies.
There are some conditions that gradually impede blood flow to a limb or extremity, particularly peripheral arterial disease (PAD) and diabetes. However, a sudden physical trauma, as in a vehicle collision, can damage the body in a way that interrupts circulation to a certain body part, which requires amputation.
Possible Complications of Amputation
Whether traumatic or surgical, every amputation comes with possible risks and complications. They include:
Bleeding. Some bleeding is expected with any type of surgery. However, excessive bleeding or postoperative bleeding that cannot be managed can be life-threating. A blood transfusion or even surgery may be necessary for some patients.
Blood clots. If a patient has limited mobility after surgery, they can develop dangerous blood clots. Medications and therapy are used to prevent blood clots after amputation and other surgical procedures.
Infection. Infection is always a risk with trauma to the body, including amputation of a limb. As described above, some infections are difficult to treat with antibiotics and can cause further tissue damage requiring more surgery. Some infections can lead to death.
Muscle weakness. Depending on where the amputation occurred on the body, the person may experience limited mobility that leads to muscle weakness in the remaining body parts. For example, someone who loses a leg may spend most of their time in a wheelchair. Their other leg muscles can atrophy from lack of use.
Phantom pain. More than half of amputees have the sensation their limb is still there, and some have pain in that area. This is generally treated with therapy and medication.
Depression and mental health issues. Although the physical complications after amputation have been discussed, the emotional and mental impact after limb loss cannot be understated.
Any traumatic limb loss can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with PTSD may have panic attacks, nightmares, and flashbacks to the day of the accident. Symptoms can severely interfere with the patient’s sleep, work, and the overall quality of life.
When someone is suffering emotional pain and trauma after amputation from a car accident, they are not the only one in pain. Friends, family, and spouses of people with limb loss often have feelings of anxiety, sadness, and guilt. Some become caregivers for their loved one, which can be emotionally and physically demanding as well.
What Does Recovery after Limb Loss Involve?
Recovery after amputation involves several components. Physically, amputees may need additional surgery, medication to treat infection, and special prosthetics to help with mobility and quality of life.
Occupational therapy is beneficial to help amputees relearn how to perform certain activities. Everyday tasks such as getting dressed or cooking on the stove may need to be done differently after amputation. Emotionally, amputees often turn to counseling to deal with depression and anxiety and rebuild their confidence.
Recovery after amputation is difficult. However, with the right medical care, mental health support, and rehabilitative therapy, amputees can go on to lead very full lives after their car accident.
Medical Costs Associated with Limb Amputations
Part of the stress some amputees feel has to do with the economic burden they experience after a traumatic injury. Some costs involved with traumatic or surgical limb loss include:
- Costs for amputation surgery
- Costs for future surgeries
- Costs for physical and occupational therapy
- Costs for medications to treat pain and infection
- Costs for prosthetics and medical aids
- Costs for counseling
For many amputees, amputation surgery is not the only procedure they must undergo. Revision surgery is often necessary to reconstruct the area, reduce pain, or improve mobility. Each surgery comes with new risks, more downtime for recovery, and the emotional toll of another procedure.
If you have experienced a limb amputation resulting from a car accident, you may have cause to bring a claim for your losses. From surgery and therapy to prosthetics and lost wages, compensation may be available to recover these costs.
Easing the economic burden of a serious injury can offer some peace of mind so you can focus your time and energy on your recovery. You can regain your joy for life after the loss of limb.
Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Clients Recover from Permanent Car Accident Injuries
If you or someone you love suffered a life-changing, permanent injury in a car accident, the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton can help. We know the toll a serious injury can take on a person’s physical and mental health, and we use every legal tool available to help you move forward with life. Our experienced lawyers will guide you through the process to help you get a suitable compensation package. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent clients throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.