By U. Kelley Riedel, Attorney at Law
It may surprise you to know that in the year 2007 alone, there were over 1.7 million people who suffered some form of limb loss in the United States, and it is estimated that over 185,000 amputations are performed in our country each year. The National Limb Loss Information Center reports that one in every 200 Americans has suffered a limb loss. The most common causes of limb loss are trauma, such as automobile accidents or injury caused by operating dangerous machinery, as well as peripheral vascular disease and diabetes.
Unfortunately, amputations due to diabetes-related vascular complications are on the rise, accounting for almost 82% of all amputations in our country. While this can be attributed to poor medical care of a diabetic patient, in some cases the natural progression of diabetes in a person can unavoidably lead to one or more amputation surgeries, particularly in the lower limbs.
The good news regarding amputations is that there has been a notable decrease in trauma-related injuries, which have declined by over 50% in the past 20 years. This reduction in trauma-related amputations can likely be linked to increased efforts to make the workplace safer, as well as more stringent safety requirements for potentially dangerous machinery which can be used at home, such as circular saws, lawnmowers and other home maintenance equipment. Also, medicine is progressing so that surgeons are able to reattach limbs which suffered trauma, giving the patient almost completely normal functioning of his or her injured limb.
More good news: In 2007, the State of California enacted a law which provided greater access to prosthetic and orthotic devices for amputees and less out-of-pocket expenses to amputees who purchase these devices with the financial assistance of their insurance program. And there are currently more efforts being made in California to give amputees even more access to affordable prosthetic and orthotic devices, particularly those whose insurance company does not cover these types of devices.
There are many resources for amputees which provide information and valuable resources for recovering patients, including the American Coalition of Amputees. Once an amputee is well on the road to physical recovery, perhaps the most difficult aspect he or she must deal with is the emotional distress of having lost a limb. This can be particularly strong in the case where the limb loss was caused by the negligent or careless act of another person.
For more information about the loss of a limb and/or amputation, you can log onto www.amputee-coalition.org.
U. Kelley Riedel is an attorney practicing in Southern California, and is a partner with the law firm of Berman & Riedel, LLP. The firm Berman & Riedel, LLP, is a plaintiffs’ personal injury firm that handles loss of limb and amputation cases, as well as other cases involving catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death caused by the negligent and/or wrongful acts of others.