Compensation for Amputated Fingers and Loss of Body Parts at Work



Workers' compensation insurance pays benefits to employees injured on the job. Work injuries range from the most common soft tissue injuries (strains and sprains) to more serious, non-soft tissue injuries (fractures and herniated disks). These are mostly treatable injuries and workers can eventually resume their former job duties.

Some on-the-job injuries are much more serious (severe burns, spinal injuries, head trauma, and finger amputations). Workers' comp provides additional benefits for these types of injuries.

Specific Loss

Workers' compensation statutes generally classify an on-the-job loss of a finger or other body part as a "specific loss." In the case of finger amputation, specific loss means the use of all or part of your finger is lost forever. To address specific loss claims, each state has a specific loss rating schedule.

You get the rating schedule from your state's workers' compensation official.

Insurance companies use the schedule to determine pre-set, lump sum payments for workers whose body parts have been amputated, or otherwise made unusable, as a result of their injury. Lump sum payments can vary, even for the loss of the same body part. For instance, an orchestra musician who lost a finger would probably receive a much higher payment than a grocery store cashier.

The specific loss payment is separate from other workers' compensation benefits. In addition to paying for medical treatment, rehabilitation, out-of-pocket expenses, and partial lost wages, workers' comp pays the injured worker a separate, one-time, lump sum payment for the loss of his finger (or other body part). Workers' comp benefits generally do not include payment for pain and suffering, mental anguish, or emotional distress.

Finger Amputation and Permanent Partial Disability

Finger injuries that result in amputation are usually considered a permanent partial disability. A permanent partial disability doesn't leave the worker totally unable to work. While the finger loss may make it impossible to resume previous job duties, a worker may be successful in a different job that accommodates his disability.

Unfortunately, there's no guarantee an employer will have a suitable job for a returning disabled worker. Unless you have a contractual relationship with your employer, or company policy states otherwise, you may have no choice but to seek employment elsewhere.

Example: Office Worker Loses Finger

Amy is a right-handed data entry technician. Her job demanded accurate and prompt entry of information. One day while she was inputting data, a window close to her desk shattered. A shard of flying glass struck Amy's right hand and completely severed her index finger.

Workers' comp covered all of Amy's medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, and two-thirds of her lost wages. She was also paid a separate lump sum settlement for her amputated finger. While Amy couldn't resume her duties as a data entry technician, she accepted a different position with her company in the quality control department.

A permanent partial disability rating is based on the primary physician's evaluation. The physician considers several factors when deciding the rating, including age, general state of health, education, work skills, and sometimes appearance. He sends his rating to the workers' comp adjuster handling the claim, and a determination is made for the amount of the lump sum settlement award.

The settlement depends on your state's disability rating schedule and formulas used to determine amounts for the loss of specific body parts.

If you don't agree with the insurance company's settlement award, seek legal advice from an experienced workers' comp attorney. Your attorney can contest the physician's rating, the rating schedule itself, and/or the amount of the lump sum settlement.

Fired After Loss of Body Part

In many cases it's illegal for an employer to fire or refuse to hire a worker because she has a disability. Most states have discrimination statutes and regulations based on the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, it's unlawful for employers to discriminate against a worker with a disability.

The ADA allows exceptions for employers who meet specific criteria. If an employer can prove that a position accommodating the disability is not available, or that accommodating the disabled worker creates an undue economic hardship, the company is exempt from charges of discrimination. This often happens with smaller, "mom and pop" businesses.

Example: Finger Amputated in Paper Cutter

Fred worked for a small, family-owned printing company. He was passing a ream of paper through a paper cutter when his finger slipped and was amputated. Workers' compensation paid Fred's medical care, out-of-pocket expenses, and partial lost wages. He was also awarded a lump sum settlement for his amputated finger. But when Fred tried to return to work, he learned he'd been let-go.

Fred unsuccessfully sued under his state's disability discrimination laws. The court found Fred couldn't return to his previous job duties due to the loss of his finger, and since Fred worked for a small company with a limited number of positions, his employer was not legally required to accommodate Fred's disability.

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