Find out your compensation options in addition to workers’ comp benefits for losing a finger or other body part at work.
Employees working with moving machinery are most at risk for amputations. However, amputations can and do occur in every kind of workplace.
OSHA receives reports of an average of seven amputations each day from only 26 states. ¹
The actual number is believed to be much higher, with some sources estimating as many as 29 workplace amputations happening daily.
The vast majority of workplace amputations involve fingers, with about 10 percent of amputations reported for a combination of hands, toes, feet, and other body parts.
Loss of fingers or other body parts are life-changing injuries. You’ll be dealing with medical treatment, psychological adjustment, and long-term disability from your loss. What about your financial future?
Workers’ compensation insurance pays benefits to employees injured on the job. Depending on the circumstances and severity of your workplace amputation injuries, you may have additional options for financial compensation.
Workers Comp Wage Replacement
Employees can expect their injury-related medical bills to be paid and to receive at least a portion of their base pay from their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
Never trust the workers’ comp insurance company to calculate correctly how much your weekly wage benefit will be. More often than not, they get it wrong, and the mistake won’t be to your benefit.
Each state has its own wage replacement formulas and payment limits. It’s up to you to make sure your base pay is calculated correctly.
In most states, your base pay is based on an average of your weekly pay for the prior 52 weeks. Demand a copy of your wage history information used by the insurance company. Look it over carefully.
- Are there weeks missing? If you had a seasonal layoff, those weeks should probably not be included in the calculation.
- Are the amounts correct, including raises, gas allowances, and overtime?
- Did you change from hourly to salaried? If so, was the salaried amount correct?
Your wage replacement benefit is typically two-thirds of your base pay, subject to maximum limits. If your average weekly gross pay (before taxes and deductions) was $900, two-thirds would be $600.
Each state has a weekly maximum workers’ comp benefit, meaning that’s the most you can get, even if you earned very high wages before your injury. State maximums can range from approximately $780 to over $1300 per week.
Find out your maximum weekly wage benefit with this SSA Chart of States’ Maximum Workers’ Compensation Benefits.
Once your weekly benefit amount is locked in, that amount will be the basis for any later disability payments or settlements from worker’s comp. Make sure it’s right.
If the workers’ compensation insurance company won’t explain their calculations or refuses to change errors, contact a worker’s compensation attorney to help you with your case.
Specific Loss Lump-sum Settlements
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.
Your workers’ comp loss schedule will depend on the state where you work. You can get your state’s loss schedule from your State Worker’s Compensation Office.
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. In many states, the lump sum is a multiple of your weekly wage benefit, multiplied by your loss-of-use percentage.
Example of a specific loss payment calculation:
Sam lost part of his index finger in a machine accident at work. His doctor determined Sam still has 50 percent use of his finger since Sam can still bend it now that it’s healed. His loss of use is 50%
Sam’s weekly workers’ compensation wage benefit is $600.
For this example, a lost finger qualifies for a lump sum equal to 10 benefit weeks multiplied by the loss of use rating.
10 x $600 = $6,000.
$6,000 x 50% = $3,000
Sam is entitled to a lump sum of $3,000 for his finger amputation.
The specific loss payment is separate from other workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ comp benefits generally won’t include payment for pain and suffering or emotional distress.
Workers’ Comp Permanent 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 can be done despite the injury.
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 entering data, a window close to her desk shattered. A shard of 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 your primary physician’s evaluation of your overall ability to work, or the evaluation from the doctor hired by the insurance company to perform an independent medical exam (IME).
The physician should look at several factors when deciding the rating, including age, general state of health, education, work skills, and sometimes appearance.
The workers’ comp insurance company will consider the doctor’s permanent partial disability rating before making a settlement offer.
The settlement is supposed to offset the loss of future wages from your injury, especially if you can’t go back to the type of job you were doing before the accident, but the insurance company will offer what they think is just enough to get rid of your claim.
If you don’t agree with the insurance company’s settlement offer, immediately contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney . Your attorney can contest the physician’s rating, the rating schedule itself, and the amount of the lump sum settlement.
Injury Lawsuits Outside Workers’ Comp
Workers’ compensation will cover your medical bills and some of your lost wages after a workplace amputation. It won’t replace all your wages, pay for replacement services, or compensate you for your pain and suffering.
An injury lawsuit outside of workers’ comp allows injured workers to seek full recovery for all your damages, including all your lost wages, future lost wages, your spouse’s consortium claims, and an amount for your tremendous pain and suffering. Injured workers can also seek punitive damages against negligent parties.
Don’t wait to talk to an experienced personal injury attorney to find out who can be held responsible for your injuries, and the full value of your amputation claim.
Workers’ comp generally disqualifies employees from filing a lawsuit against their employer for their injury. However, there are important exceptions:
- Your injury was caused by intentional or egregious conduct by your employer
- Your employer is harassing you or fired you for filing a workers’ comp claim
- Your employer is discriminating against you because of your disability
- Your employer did not carry worker’s compensation insurance
Workers’ compensation does not restrict you from pursuing compensation from third parties who may have caused or contributed to your terrible injury.
A third-party is any other person or company, besides your employer, who caused the circumstances leading to your injury.
Defective Machines: The majority of workplace amputations are caused by machine accidents. If you were injured by a defective machine or tool, you might have grounds for a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment and the company that installed or maintains the equipment.
Vehicle Accidents: If your amputation injuries happened because of a vehicle crash while you were working, you have the right to seek compensation from the at-fault driver in addition to your workers’ compensation claim.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability
Suffering the loss of a finger or any other body part will leave you with some level of disability.
Depending on your age, work history, and medical status, if you’re unable to return to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits.
It’s not easy to qualify for Social Security Disability based on an amputation, but this option shouldn’t be overlooked if you can’t work. You can talk with a personal injury attorney for assistance.
Keep in mind that the social security disability standards are less strict for disabled workers who are already nearing or at retirement age. The reasoning is that older workers would have a harder time learning new skills and changing jobs after a partially disabling injury.
Why not just retire early? Because your monthly payment will be much less at 62 than at your full retirement age, but your disability payment will usually be closer to the larger amount, and your monthly payment will not decrease when you do reach full retirement age.
Get the Help You Need
Simple work injury claims can usually be handled directly with your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company. But amputation injury claims are not simple.
Amputations are life-changing permanent injuries and complex, high-dollar compensation claims. You’ll need help to explore all your options for long-term compensation.
There’s too much at stake to risk facing the insurance company on your own, much less filing a lawsuit against the other parties to blame for your loss, pain and suffering.
Get the help you need to maximize your compensation. There’s no cost to find out what an experienced personal injury attorney can do for you.
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Workplace Amputation Questions & Answers
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