Finger tips are the most commonly injured part of the hand and wrist and by far the most commonly amputated. Fingers come into contact with a variety of potential risks on a day to day basis such as: power tools, doors, knives, machinery and household appliances. The loss of a finger or its function can have a major impact on a patient’s home and work life.
You may be able to claim compensation for a full or partial finger amputation if it resulted from someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Negligence may arise in a variety of settings.
If you have crushed, cut off or otherwise lost the use of a finger at work, you may be able to claim work injury compensation
from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work. This includes:
If you are injured because your employer neglects to provide safe systems of work, equipment or a safe environment, you may be able to sue for personal injury compensation.
Jeff accidentally cuts off his finger while working on a milling machine. Jeff has received no training in respect of the machinery and it was not fitted with a hand guard to prevent workers putting their hands too close to the blades. Jeff can claim compensation from his employer for his personal injuries.
Rick is also working on a milling machine. He has been trained by his employer how to use the machine safely and is aware of the risks and necessary safety precautions. Nonetheless, he removes the hand guard because it was getting in the way and subsequently loses a finger in the blades. Rick is unlikely to get compensation for his injuries as they were due to his own negligence. However, he could apply for Workers Compensation payments while he is off work.
Professions with a higher incidence of finger amputations include: operating engineers, construction equipment operators, ground maintenance workers, labourers, construction workers, electricians, garbage collectors, truck drivers, sawmill workers, wood manufacturers, sheet metal workers, air conditioning installers and mechanical power press operators.
See also: WorkCover claims
If you sustain an injury in a car accident and it was totally or partially due to the fault of another driver or vehicle owner you can claim compensation from the owner of the vehicle that caused the accident through their Compulsory Third Party insurer.
Examples: Three of Jeff’s fingers are crushed under his motorcycle when a delivery truck collides with him after it fails to stop at a red light. Jeff can claim compensation from the owner of the delivery truck through its CTP insurer.
Rick’s thumb is crushed under his motorcycle in an accident. The accident is caused because Rick did not look properly before pulling out onto a main road. Rick is unable to claim compensation for his injuries because the accident was totally his fault (although exceptions may apply for catastrophic accidents). If the accident occurred after July 1, 2016 he may be able to seek necessary and reasonable medical and rehabilitation services through the National Injury Insurance Scheme of Queensland (NIISQ).
See Also: Car and road injury claims
Occupiers (including owners of private property and public authorities), have a duty of care toward people coming onto their premises. They must take reasonable care to make sure entrants are not exposed to risks that are likely to cause injury. This means if there is something that is potentially dangerous on their property they must rectify it or warn people of the danger.
Common scenarios include someone slipping on a floor surface, tripping over an unexpected obstacle on the ground, falling into an unmarked hole in the pavement, or being hit by falling debris from a building site.
Examples: Jenny is adjusting the weights on the chest press machine at the gym according to the instructions when suddenly a cable snaps and weights fall and crush her thumb. The machine was faulty and had been reported to the gym staff but it had not been fixed. Jenny can claim compensation for her injuries from the gym.
Johnny was playing football at school when the ball became lodged in a tree above a 2 meter high palisade fence with pointed tips. Johnny’s friend gave him a lift so he could retrieve the ball, but as he reached up he slipped catching his middle finger on the tip of the railings. Johnny was aware there were sharp edges on the tip of the fence and that he was not allowed to climb it. There was also adequate teacher supervision provided by the school. Johnny cannot claim compensation since his injury was not caused by an act or failure to act by the school.
At work: Employees in a range of professions face the risk of serious hand injuries working with and around machinery, tools, saws and other equipment. Finger amputations can result from working with sharp or fast moving objects, heavy machinery and malfunctioning equipment or serious burn injuries.
General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you have experienced as well as any permanent loss of enjoyment of life as a result of your injury. They are calculated by reference to the ISV Scale which rates the seriousness of any injury between 1 and 100 and accords a monetary value range to that rating.
For example, amputation of the thumb is rated 15 to 28 with a corresponding compensation range of $25,150 to $57,280 whereas a single finger amputation is rated 5 to 20 with a corresponding compensation range of $6,950 to $36,250.
To treat a crushed or amputated finger you may need to consult your general practitioner, consult a specialist, obtain x-rays or MRIs, take pain medications and wear medical supports or apparatus. The expenses you incur to obtain medical treatment including costs of consultations, diagnostic scans, travel costs, medication and medical equipment may be claimed as compensation. You can also claim for medical costs you will incur in the future as a result of your injury.
Finger amputations may require surgery to repair tendons or remove crushed and irreparable areas. Surgical and hospital costs paid by you can be claimed as compensation as long as the surgery was necessary to treat your condition.
Rehabilitating after a finger amputation may involve physiotherapy, psychological care, home and vehicle modifications and aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
If you lose a finger you may need time off work for several months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for this lost income.
If your finger amputation prevents you from working to the same extent as you did prior to the injury you may also be able to claim loss of future income earning capacity.
Occupations that require delicate and precise work with the hands such as typists, writers, surgeons and artists may be difficult for a finger amputee and their capacity to earn income in the future may be reduced. This is usually estimated as a lump sum figure based on the age of the person, their usual occupation and other skills.
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
A finger amputation may prevent you from being able to perform personal care tasks or some domestic chores. If you formerly performed these duties but are now unable to due to an injury you can claim compensation for care and assistance provided to you by friends, relatives or paid contractors.
In Queensland there is a minimum threshold for this type of compensation.
In general terms, the amount of compensation is gauged by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now as a result of the injury. Someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life and future earnings potential will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact.
The amount of compensation payable for a finger amputation injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
For most personal injury claims, a three year limit applies. However, the deadline may be much less to ensure all submissions are made on time.
If you miss this deadline, your claim will be statute barred and you will lose all rights to claim compensation.
However, depending on where your injury occurred and who you are suing, specific pre-court procedures may apply. Pre-court procedures have their own time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your right to claim unless you can provide good reasons as to why you delayed and why you should be allowed to proceed with your claim.
For minors, the obligation to serve the other party with a Notice of Claim begins when the child turns 18, however a parent or guardian may do this on behalf of the minor before they turn 18.
In the case of medical negligence claims, a parent or legal guardian of a minor must serve a Notice of Claim within 6 years of the day when the parent or guardian knew or ought to have known of the injury.
Amputations of part of the hand can remain hypersensitive and intolerant to cold and pressure for a long time. Loss of one finger can also impair the strength and response of the other fingers on the same hand. Finger amputations are also associated with high levels of depression and post traumatic stress disorder. Ongoing psychological support may be required.
A finger amputation does not automatically qualify as a disability for the purpose of qualifying for the Disability Support Pension and other government benefits. You must meet a number of criteria to qualify including: your condition needs to be fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised, have an impairment rating of 20 points of more and be unable to work more than 15 hours a week over the next two years. Most people are able to return to work after a finger amputation but there may be loss of earnings if you are unable to do the same work as before. A compensation claim will seek compensation for these future loss of earnings.
You may be entitled to compensation if you've broken your finger due to the negligence of another party such as an employer if the injury happened at work or another driver if it happened in a road accident. These claims are run as compensation cases against the insurer of the at-fault party.
Hand injuries make up around 13.5% of serious workers compensation claims in Australia and result in over 8,000 hospital admissions per year. Open wounds are the most common occupational hand injury and are typically due to sharp tools such as saws, knives or powered machinery that wasn't properly guarded or locked. The most serious common hand injury is finger amputation.
Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available. You should always seek expert legal help to see if you are able to make a claim.
Smith's Lawyers are Queensland injury compensation experts and run all claims on a truly risk-free basis, 'No Win. No Fee. No Catch.®'. Unlike the vast majority our competitors, this means no upfront costs or risks.
It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.
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