Thumb Injury Compensation Claims

Optimal hand function is, according to doctors, essential for good quality of life. Your thumbs play a critical role in your hands working properly. Surgeons estimate that the thumb is involved in around 50% of hand movements.

Injury to this part of your hand can, therefore, have a huge impact on you. This can lead to an understandable desire to investigate the possibility of a thumb injury claim. Hopefully, the following information will help you to determine whether you want to claim compensation that could help you while you recover from your thumb injury.

Talk with an experienced workers compensation lawyer to learn more.

Thumb Function

The thumb is so important because of its range of motion and position on the hand. It can rotate, flex, and touch the tips of each of the fingers, allowing for the gripping of objects. In particular, the thumb and index finger combination is the foundation for many of the hand's grasping abilities, including:

  • Power grips - basically involve the whole hand, where the fingers and thumb flex around an object
  • Precision grips - generally involve the thumb and index finger holding and manipulating small objects

Thumb Structure

The thumb is comprised of two bones, or phalanges, and a metacarpal or hand bone, all of which sit on a joint that is shaped like a saddle. The bones and joints are stabilised by muscles, ligaments and tendons.

The joints in the thumb are:

  • The interphalangeal (IP) joint - between the two thumb bones
  • The metacarpophalangeal (MP) joint - between the hand bone and the lower thumb bone - this joint allows you to bend the thumb
  • The carpometacarpal (CMC) joint - the saddle-shaped joint that gives the thumb its freedom of movement

The CMC joint in particular is susceptible to developing arthritis, and also commonly suffers fractures.

Muscles and ligaments that connect to these bones and joints include:

  • Radial and ulnar collateral ligaments, involved in pinching movements
  • The ulnar collateral ligament into the MP joint is vital to stabilising the thumb during pinching and is frequently injured
  • Abductor and adductor muscles that help to move the thumb towards and away from the hand

While this structure allows the thumbs to perform their important functions, the huge workload of the joints, muscles and tendons, due to the sheer number of times the thumb needs to move every day, means that the thumb is susceptible to a variety of trauma-based and overuse injuries.

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Thumb Injury Compensation Claim Types

Looking at the common causes of thumb injuries outlined above, it's probably not surprising that thumb injury claims arise from injuries that occur at work, in a car accident or due to a slip and fall.

Thumb Injury at Work

25% of serious claims for compensation in 2021 were from workplace injuries related to the arms or other parts of the upper limbs. This has made injury claims for this part of the body the most common type of claim in that year. With respect specifically to hand, thumb and finger injury claims, there were 15,955 in that year.

Traumatic Injury Claims
Workers compensation claims for traumatic thumb injury arise when an injury is caused in an accident ocurring during the course of one's work, or while travelling either to or from a workplace.

A thumb injury of this type can be extremely serious - an example can be found in a 2020 case managed by WorkSafe Queensland, where a worker sustained a partial amputation of the thumb.

In addition to car accidents and falls, which are explored below, hand and wrist injuries, including thumb injuries, have been found by SafeWork Australia to result from the body part:

  • Being caught, crushed, jammed or pinched in or between doors or other objects
  • Coming into contact with powered hand tools or machinery
  • Being struck by a thrown, projected or falling object
  • Making contact with a non-powered hand tool

A foreign body or object entering through the skin was also a significant cause of hand injury. Less common causes included exposure to mechanical forces, exposure to electricity, contact with heat or hot substances, contact with venomous animals or plants, and exposure to harmful substances.

An accident in the workplace is more likely to be associated with a more serious thumb injury, similar to those often caused by motor vehicle accidents, discussed below.

Overuse or Repetitive Strain Injuries
Overuse injuries usually result from repetitive movements or overuse of parts of the body, resulting in pain in the muscles, nerves and tendons. Thumb injury claims for repetitive strain injury (RSI) injuries usually arise when workers are required:

  • To complete tasks of a repetitive nature, especially for prolonged periods
  • To complete tasks that involve a repetitive motion, especially if the worker is required to do them while in an awkward position, or too quickly.

Adequate breaks help to reduce the risk of thumb injury due to RSI by allowing the body to recover. Smaller, more frequent breaks, rather than just a single long break, are recommended. Work should be planned with realistic deadlines and timeframes that incorporate suitable rest periods.

If a worker must perform a particular task that involves repetitive movements, alternating it with another task or activity involving different movements, or parts of the body, can also reduce the risk.

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Thumb Injury Due to a Motor Vehicle Accident

In 2018-19, 4000 people were hospitalised with an injury to the wrist or hand resulting from road traffic accidents.

Due to the forces involved in a motor vehicle collision, a thumb injury incurred by this mechanism can be very serious, for example:

  • Tears within the ligaments or tendons in the thumb
  • Complete rupture of a ligament or tendon, sometimes involving part of the bone being pulled away (an avulsion fracture)
  • A fracture in one of the thumb bones
  • Dislocation of the thumb
  • Lacerations (cuts), bruising or other soft tissue injuries

Talk with an experienced car accident lawyer for more information.

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Thumb Injury Caused by Slip and Fall

The Australian Institute of Health and Wellness (AIHW) reports that falls are the leading cause of injury in Australia.

In the workplace, thousands of injuries per year are caused by slips, trips and falls. In 2013, SafeWork Australia reported that thumb or finger injuries accounted for 3% of serious fall-related claims.

A thumb injury (or any finger injury) commonly occurs during a slip and fall due to the hand being used to break the fall, which can lead to:

  • A fractured bone
  • A torn ligament or sprained thumb
  • Falling onto an outstretched hand is the most common cause of this type of thumb injury
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What Evidence is Required to Make a Thumb Injury Worker's Compensation Claim?

Because there are several different types of thumb injury, and due to the degree to which they can vary in seriousness, each thumb injury claim will require different evidence. The type of evidence required will also depend on the injured person's circumstances and the facts and issues in the case. A specialist personal injury solicitor can provide specific advice in your case.

As a general guide anyone wanting to claim compensation for this type of injury is likely to need evidence proving:

  • How the injury happened and how it presents, e.g., the symptoms exhibited by the person, impairment to thumb and hand function, level of pain
  • Treatment already provided and what will be needed in the future
  • Any long term impacts of the injury, and the prognosis, including whether there is likely to be permanent impairment
  • Medical costs, including fees for doctors and specialists, hospitalisation costs, medicines
  • Likely future costs of medical treatment (including surgical intervention), ongoing care and rehabilitation services
  • The injured person's usual income and projected future earning capacity
  • The amount of pain and suffering endured as a result of the thumb injury
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How Long Do Thumb Injury Settlements Usually Take?

Queensland workers' compensation statistics show that the average time to finalise a Common Law or court claim is just under one year.

The length of time it takes to resolve your claim will depend on whether or not you can reach a settlement with the person or organisation you are claiming against. If you can, it will mean you get your compensation payment sooner than if your case has to go to a trial or hearing in court. Whether or not a settlement can be reached often depends on the strength of the evidence in the case and having a skillful negotiator on your side.

It's important that you seek advice earlier as you may be able to lodge an application for compensation with WorkCover Queensland or a self-insurer. If you have your claim accepted, you can start getting weekly payments for lost wages, and payments for medical expenses. Seeing worker's compensation lawyers early can mean you start receiving payments while you consider all your claim options.

Is There a Time Limit For Making a Thumb Injury Compensation Claim?

Yes, there are strict time limits to make either a WorkCover or Common Law claim.

A claim must be made to WorkCover or a self-insurer within 6 months from when the injury occurred, or when your thumb injury is first linked to your workplace duties by a doctor.

Generally, personal injury claims in the courts must be made within 3 years of the injury occurring. Before lodging a court claim there are certain steps you may need to take under the law to notify the responsible person that you intend to make a claim.

These time limits can be relatively straightforward to work out if your injury is caused by a single incident. However, some thumb injuries - like nerve damage or repetitive strain injuries - can develop over time. If you think you might want to seek thumb injury compensation it's best to get advice early. We offer a free legal advice consultation for any potential thumb injury claim, where we can advise you about these time limits and discuss the legal process. If you decide to proceed, we will ensure your claim doesn't miss any deadlines.

Obviously, the first step after an injury is to seek medical treatment, follow the advice of your medical professional and start your recovery. But seeing a personal injury solicitor, once your doctor says you're able, can put your mind at ease, knowing your injury claim is in good hands.

How Much Does it Cost to Lodge a Thumb Injury Compensation Claim?

There is no cost to lodge a worker's compensation claim with WorkCover or a self-insurer.

For Common Law claims, the legal fees depend on how much work is required to obtain your compensation. Some factors affecting the costs involved in making thumb injury claims include:

  • The amount of evidence and what we need to do to collect it
  • How complex the case is
  • The cost of getting expert advice and reports, such as evidence from specialists about your medical treatment
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What Are The Average Payouts For Thumb Injury Claims?

Thumb injuries can range widely in severity, depending on the type of injury sustained. Thankfully, there are many cases where the injured person will make a complete recovery. More serious cases, for example, those involving crush injuries, or where there has been a thumb severed, may need surgery and extensive rehabilitation. They may involve permanent impairment significantly affecting hand function.

To determine how much compensation you are entitled to, WorkCover or a court will look at many factors including:

  • The seriousness and physical impact of the injury
  • The likely extent and timeframe for recovery
  • Medical bills, including hospital expenses, doctor and specialist fees, and medication costs
  • Future medical expenses and rehabilitation costs - this includes ongoing treatment, transport costs for attending medical appointments, medical supplies
  • Past and future loss of income, based on your ability to work and expected earning capacity
  • The impact of the injury on your personal life, like your ability to engage in recreational and sporting pursuits
  • Legal fees and other legal costs you have had to pay to make your injury claim
  • An additional amount for pain and suffering, called 'general damages', which is set by law

Can I Represent Myself When Making a Thumb Injury Workers Compensation Claim?

It is possible to represent yourself to make a claim for worker's compensation if your thumb injury happened at work or was substantially caused by your employment. A statutory claim to WorkCover or a self-insurer can be relatively straightforward, as long as you have your evidence together and stick to the time limits.

However, many people find they appreciate having legal help to pursue their thumb injury claim and ensure they get the maximum compensation they're entitled to.

As part of the WorkCover process, you may be offered a lump sum payment. Depending on the severity of your thumb injury, you may be able to accept this lump sum payment and also be eligible to make a claim for compensation in the courts.

Representing yourself in other claims

Alternatively, if you have injuries sustained somewhere other than work, for example, if a car accident caused the injury, you may wish to seek compensation through a Common Law or court claim.

For this type of personal injury claim, you will usually need to show that your thumb injury was caused by someone else's negligence.

Making a Common Law claim in Court can be stressful and confronting for a lot of people, especially if you're also trying to recover from an injury. Personal injury law can be complex and the legal process bewildering if you're not accustomed to it.

While claiming compensation is not likely to ever be easy or stress-free, our personal injury lawyers can provide expert legal advice, prepare your case, and answer any questions you have along the way. In the hands of experienced compensation lawyers, your thumb injury claim can be managed while you focus your energy on your recovery.

Lodge A "No Win No Fee" Claim

If you suffer injuries whilst at work, and you are looking for further information in terms of making a claim. Here at Smith's Lawyers, we offer a free consultation for injured people looking to seek compensation. As mentioned before, we also have a "No Win. No Fee. No Catch." policy, which means you will never be out of pocket.

Get in touch with us today to give yourself the best opportunity to understand your rights.

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