Whether they are obvious with the injured person in a cast or a sling, or cause chronic pain that might not be observable by the general public, thumb injuries are very common.
They are also capable of causing pain and suffering on a daily basis.
While sustaining injury to any of your fingers is often a big deal, our thumbs are a special case. Humans and other primates have the distinctive feature of opposable thumbs – meaning we can bend them around to contact other fingers. This allows us to grasp things and manoeuvre them in refined ways. They allow us to do the manufacturing and labour that sets us apart from other species.
Given that we use our thumbs for almost everything – they are both a common area for injury, and a difficult area to rest and recover from when we do find ourselves incapacitated.
If you have suffered an injury to your thumb – whether at work, in public, or in a car accident – you might consider whether you could be eligible for a compensation claim.
If you have suffered damage or injury to your thumb, you may be able to claim compensation. Depending on the circumstances, this may be possible if:
If you are injured at work, you may be able to claim compensation from your employer. Employers must provide proper and adequate means for employees to carry out their work.
Professions that require manual labour and load-bearing activity are at higher risk of thumb injuries. This may include construction workers, heavy labourers, carpenters, industrial workers and athletes.
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. This includes injuries incurred over a long period of time, late onset injuries, and aggravations of pre-existing injuries.
Example: Dan is an apprentice carpenter. He has received no safety training. He also has not received any training in using power tools. His boss asks him to hold some ply steady while he cuts it with a circular saw. The boss cuts too closely to Dan’s hand and Dan loses the tip of his thumb.
It turns out that Dan had previously dislocated his thumb, making his pain and suffering during surgery and recovery greater than another person who had a completely healthy thumb beforehand. In this case, Dan would be able to claim compensation for his injuries. Even though he already had some weakness from the dislocation, making his thumb injury worse, the workshop should have provided a safe system of work.
More info: WorkCover claims
Car accidents can cause thumb injury – particularly if someone loses control of a steering wheel, or their thumb becomes lodged during an accident. If you are injured in an accident that is totally or partially the fault of another driver (including if you are a passenger of that driver), you can claim against their Compulsory Third Party Insurer.
More info: Motor vehicle injury compensation 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.
More info: Public place injuries
General damages can 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 an extreme thumb injury such as the requirement for amputation with a poor outcome after surgery is rated 15 to 28 with a corresponding compensation range of $12,950 to $41,200 whereas a thumb injury where substantial function of the hand remains is rated not more than 5 with a corresponding compensation range of $1,000 to $5,000.
An injury severe enough to cause - or require - partial or full amputation of your thumb is traumatic. The amount of treatment required during and after the procedure is significant, as are the support and therapy (both physiological and psychological) required afterwards.
If a thumb is traumatically amputated, it may be possible to reattach it. In the case of amputation, however, recovery time usually involves up to a month, with the gradual introduction of range-of-motion and desensitisation exercises. Given the severity of the injury, patients usually expect significant pain, especially in those first weeks. Recovery can take months. Sometimes sensitivity and range-of-motion related pain can continue well beyond this, depending on the circumstances.
Whether a prosthesis is required (and what type of prosthesis) will depend on the proportion of the thumb that has been removed, and the individual’s functional requirements. Therapy to learn to use the prosthesis is usually required. Often a patient suffering this type of trauma may also require counselling.
Thumb tip injury
Fingertip injuries are very common in any emergency department.
Generally procedures will aim at repairing the thumb with a view to minimising loss of sensation and nail growth. Sometimes a surgeon will attempt to reattach the thumb tip, however this does not enjoy a high success rate.
Whether it is injury to the thumb tip or amputation of all or part of the thumb, it is a tricky area because of the high level of nerve endings found in fingertips.
When you receive medical attention, the doctors’ priorities will be that your fingertip is covered with skin and if possible, with nail growth, is functional and pain free. They will try to preserve as much of the original thumb length and size as possible while achieving those goals.
To diagnose and treat a thumb injury 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.
Hospital and surgical costs
Thumb injuries may require surgery to repair tendon or ligament tears. Surgery may also be required to repair particularly bad breaks or fractures. 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 thumb injury may involve physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, home and vehicle modifications and ergonomic aids. Your reasonable costs of rehabilitation can be claimed back as compensation.
Loss of income and future earning capacity
If you suffer a thumb injury you may need time off work for several weeks or months immediately after the incident. You can claim compensation for lost income. If your thumb injury 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 manual labour may be difficult or impossible for someone who has suffered a thumb injury 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.
Loss of Superannuation
Compensation can be claimed for superannuation that would have been paid on lost income.
Care & Assistance
Thumb injuries may prevent you from being able to perform tasks such as personal care, cleaning, laundry, mowing your lawns, caring for the garden or other 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.
The range of possible thumb injuries can include:
Any or all of the above can also cause acute pain, as well as chronic pain and issues such as arthritis.
Thumbs can be injured for a multitude of reasons:
If you have had injury to your other fingers, you should also check out further information we provide about these specific injuries here [hyperlink].
In general terms, the settlement amount for a thumb injury is gauged by comparing what your life was like be the injury and what it is like now, because of the injury. Someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact. The amount of compensation payable for a thumb injury will vary greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:
For most personal injury claims, a legal action must be commenced within 3 years of the date of the injury. 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 specify other time limits which are much sooner. If you miss these time limits you may lose your rights to claim unless you can convince the court that you had good reason for delaying and why you should be allowed to claim. The time limits specified by some pre-court procedures are set out below.
If you are under 18 years of age
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 be they turn 18.
Depending on the nature of your injury and the circumstances which caused it, compensation may or may not be available.
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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