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Living with a Prosthetic Arm After an Accident

prosthetic arm

The loss of an arm in a car, motorcycle, bicycle, or pedestrian accident is known as traumatic amputation. While such a severe injury is less common than many other types of crash-related injuries, they do occur. In fact, car accidents are a leading cause of traumatic amputations. Limb amputation is not only disfiguring, but it represents a lifelong disability.

While sometimes traumatic arm amputations can be reattached by a skilled surgeon, often the patient will fare better by allowing the injury to heal and then getting fitted with a prosthetic arm.

Adjusting to and learning to accomplish activities of daily living with a prosthetic arm will take a significant amount of time and will require extensive physical and occupational therapy. Obviously, there is much pain and suffering involved with losing an arm, the recovery process, and rehabilitating after being fitted with a prosthetic limb. 

Personal Injury - What is an Arm Prosthetic Case Worth?

If the accident that caused your traumatic arm amputation was due to the negligence of another person or entity, you may be entitled to recover monetary damages related to your injury. An arm amputation is a catastrophic injury. It is painful, disfiguring, and permanent. It is disabling and can affect every aspect of one’s life. It will result in time lost from the job and may require the person to switch careers. Because the repercussions of an arm amputation are so great, the monetary value of a legal claim against the person who caused the injury accident is potentially very high. 

If you lost an arm in an accident and are now facing the remainder of your life with a prosthetic limb, retaining a skilled personal injury attorney with experience in catastrophic injuries and all the effects they can have on a person’s life will be essential. 

The Process of Being Trained with a Prosthetic Arm

When a person loses all or part of an arm, initially, it can be extremely debilitating - especially if it was the dominant arm.  Rehabilitation should begin as soon as feasibly possible.  

The goal of upper extremity rehabilitation is to restore as much of the person’s function as possible. The sooner training with a prosthesis can begin, the greater the likelihood that the patient will accept it as a functioning part of their body.

Amazing advances in prosthetic technology have been made to facilitate interactions with computer technology.

Prosthetic therapy can begin as soon as the sutures or staples have been removed from the stump site. In this pre-prosthetic period, the patient is about two to three weeks post-surgical, and healing of the stump is well underway.  The goals of this early time period of training include:

  • Shrinking and shaping the stump, which usually is too swollen to accept the final prosthesis
  • Desensitizing the stump so it can receive a prosthesis - techniques include massage and vibration therapies
  • Increasing muscle strength of the residual upper extremity
  • Keeping the normal range of motion around the arm, including shoulders and elbows, if still present
  • Finding out which muscles can be used in the myoelectric process
  • Learning to do activities of daily living with an amputation
  • Providing information to the patient and family about prostheses
  • Finding out the patient’s future goals

Approximately three weeks after the amputation of the limb, a prosthetic may be fitted to gauge the patient's ability to later accept the prosthesis.  The window of opportunity for trying on the first prosthesis is about 21-30 days after amputation.

Living with a Prosthetic Arm

The patient may start with a simple prosthesis, after which a more sophisticated prosthetic arm that allows for bending at the elbow and finger movement may be ordered. The patient should have at least two prostheses to serve as a backup if the preferred prosthesis needs repairs.

The finished prosthesis, no matter how sophisticated, will never replace the lost arm.  This is where education and psychological support are necessary, so the patient doesn’t give up on using a prosthesis altogether.  Expectations will need to be realistic at all stages of the prosthetic training. The first few visits to rehabilitative specialists will likely be comprehensive and include many questions and answers about what is to be expected in the future.

Returning to Work with a Prosthetic Arm

Depending on the type of work the patient did before the amputation, they may be able to return to their usual job with a prosthetic hand and arm. However, this is not always the case. If the amputation and prosthetic render a person unable to return to their prior line of work, retraining into a new career may be necessary. This vocational loss would be presented as part of the damages if a personal injury resulted from the arm amputation. If the new career pays less than the prior career, there will also be a significant loss of earning capacity. Many other complex issues surround a wage loss/loss of earning capacity claim. An attorney who has experience with amputation cases can ensure that all the value of your claim is captured. 

Contact a Prosthetic Arm Attorney 

A catastrophic amputation injury causes permanent disability, disfigurement, and, often, chronic pain. If the amputation resulted from an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, experienced legal counsel that understands the life-changing repercussions of such an injury will be essential to your personal injury case. 

I'm Ed Smith, a Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer. If you would like our compassionate, free, and friendly legal advice about your potential case, contact us at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

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