Boston Victims Illustrate Cost of Care in Amputation Injury

The mission of the accused Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was likely to cause great loss of human life. While the death toll of the explosions was relatively low, killing two young women and a child, the human impact was great. In addition to the three deaths, the New York Times reports 260 people suffering injury in the blast. Many of those had to endure or are still undergoing multiple operations. As of this writing, reports indicate there are still more than 30 injured victims hospitalized in trauma centers. Reports vary as to the number of victims who lost limbs in the blast, with news outlets reporting that between 13 and 16 people suffered amputation. [caption id="attachment_1874" align="alignleft" width="300"]oklahoma accident attorney Image Credit: U.S. Navy[/caption] The lifetime cost of care for a person suffering the loss of a limb can vary greatly depending on the age of the victim and the type of injury sustained. Amputation victims of the Boston Marathon bombing range in age from 7 to 71. ABC News reports that the cost of a prosthetic leg can range from $5,000 to $50,000, and that wear and tear requires each prosthetic to be replaced after 3 to 5 years. As an example, if the 7 year old victim required an average-priced prosthetic of $27,500, and he or she had to replace that limb every 5 years, if the victim lives to the nation's average life expectancy of 78 years, then the cost of prosthetics alone would reach nearly $400,000. That figure does not include the cost of hospitalization, surgery, medical expenses, or rehabilitation therapies. With the average daily cost of hospitalization at nearly $4,000, the cost of care intensifies further. ABC News reports, "At that cost a patient being treated in the hospital for 10 days, the length of time for 34 patients still hospitalized after the bombing, this could mean at least $39,490 in medical bills." According to the Amputee Coalition, there are nearly 2 million Americans living with limb loss, and an approximate 185,000 amputations occur each year. The Coalition lists the leading causes of amputation as follows:

  • Vascular disease, including diabetes and peripheral arterial disease (54%)
  • Trauma (45%)
  • Cancer (2%)
Personal injury attorneys are particularly concerned with the number of amputations resulting from trauma, including workplace accidents and automobile accidents. In representing those who have lost limbs in car crashes and industrial accidents, they have come to learn just how costly amputation can be--not only financially, but also physically and emotionally. Most people who suffer limb loss in non-combat situations will do so not as a result of violence, as did the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, but as a result of an accidental injury. Upper limb amputations (hands and arms) comprise nearly 70 percent of trauma-related limb loss. The National Rehabilitation Association indicates that machinery is the most common culprit in workplace amputations, and as many as 94 percent of industrial amputations involve the fingers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists an average of 171 fatal workplace amputations and 11,000 nonfatal workplace amputations annually.  According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), "Amputations are some of the most serious and debilitating workplace injuries." OSHA asserts that most of these industrial accidents are preventable: Amputations occur most often when workers operate unguarded or inadequately safeguarded mechanical power presses, power press brakes, powered and non-powered conveyors, printing presses, roll-forming and roll-bending machines, food slicers, meat grinders, meat-cutting band saws, drill presses, and milling machines as well as shears, grinders, and slitters. Though the amputation of a complete arm or leg may require the most expensive prosthesis, even the loss of one or more fingers or toes can be a significant physical and emotional burden. The situation is made even more difficult by expensive medical care accompanied by lost productivity. For those who have suffered a traumatic amputation as a result of an industrial accident, motor vehicle accident, medical malpractice, or other preventable accident, compensation may be available from the negligent parties culpable in the accident.