What are Specific Loss Benefits for Hand Injuries?
October 2, 2021
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, hand injuries account for approximately 23 percent of all reported work-related injuries, ranking second only to back and neck injuries. Hand injuries are expensive and tragic, particularly when they result in the amputation of fingers or the entire hand, or specific loss of use of the same.
Workers’ Compensation provides specific loss benefits to workers who have suffered amputations or permanent loss of the use of fingers, limbs, or other parts of the body. An experienced lawyer can help you file all the necessary paperwork to obtain these benefits. In addition, a skilled lawyer can investigate the cause of the accident to determine whether third parties, like machine manufacturers, may be liable to pay financial damages in addition to benefits provided by Workers’ Compensation.
How Common are Hand Amputation Injuries?
Work-related amputation injuries are very common and among the most debilitating type of physical trauma suffered by employees on the job. Amputations occur most often when workers are operating, lubricating, or clearing jams around machinery that lacks adequate safety guards. Examples of machinery include but are not limited to the following:
- Power presses
- Conveyor belts
- Food slicers
- Meat grinders
- Printing presses
- Band saws
- Drill presses
- Milling machines
Employers are legally required to maintain a safe workplace. Likewise, manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of these types of machines are responsible for supplying and installing adequate safety guards to prevent work injuries.
Do Standards Exist to Prevent Amputation Injuries?
OSHA has several standards in place requiring employers to protect workers from amputation injuries. Under Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), there are standards for the following:
- Covering machinery and machine guarding
- Agricultural equipment
- Hand tools and power tools
- Maritime operations
Despite these standards, thousands of workers suffer amputations and permanent loss of use of fingers and hands each year. When injuries result in amputation, recovery can be difficult because the surgery itself damages nerves. Long-term symptoms of nerve damage after amputation may include pain, cold sensitivity, and phantom sensations that make it feel as if the absent part is still present.
Workers’ Compensation is designed to pay for medical treatment as well as a loss of wages and/or specific loss. If there are injuries separate and apart from the amputation specific loss benefits claims could be payable in addition to regular compensation..
What Types of Injuries are Covered by Specific Loss Benefits?
In the state of Pennsylvania, Workers’ Compensation provides specific loss benefits for certain types of permanent injuries, including hearing loss, scarring, disfigurement, amputation, and permanent loss of use in hands, arms, and other body parts. Specific loss benefit payments are provided in addition to compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
In Pennsylvania, specific loss benefit claims differ from other types of Workers’ Compensation in the following ways:
- The loss of use must be permanent.
- Specific loss benefits are payable even when workers can return their jobs.
- Offsets, which may reduce payments if the worker receives Social Security Disability, do not apply to specific loss benefits.
The amount of specific loss payment is affected by what is called a “healing period.” Workers who suffer amputation or functional loss are entitled to compensation up to the maximum number of weeks and healing periods defined by the law. For example, if a worker loses half of a finger in an accident, the amount of specific loss benefit will be one-half the number of compensation weeks for losing a finger plus the full healing period if the employee is unable to work.
What are the Healing and Specific Loss Benefits Payable in Pennsylvania?
Healing and specific loss in Pennsylvania for hand and finger injuries are as follows:
- Hand: 335 weeks for specific loss, 20 weeks for healing.
- Thumb: 100 weeks for specific loss, 10 weeks for healing.
- Index finger: 50 weeks for specific loss, six weeks for healing.
- Middle finger: 40 weeks for specific loss, six weeks for healing.
- Ring finger: 30 weeks for specific loss, six weeks for healing.
- Little finger: 28 weeks for specific loss, six weeks for healing.
The healing period is calculated from the date of the initial injury. While employees who return to work before the expiration of the healing may lose healing period benefits, they are still eligible to receive specific loss benefits.
When Should Injured Workers Apply for Social Security Disability?
Workers should apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) payments if they have suffered a severe impairment that will prevent them from performing most jobs, which is expected to last for at least a year. SSD payments can be received in addition to Workers’ Compensation benefits. The guidelines for receiving SSD are based on several factors, including age, work background, and physical or emotional disability.
How Does Galfand Berger LLP Help Workers Who Have Hand Injuries?
Galfand Berger LLP helps workers who have suffered permanent hand injuries by providing comprehensive legal advice regarding their rights to benefits under the law. Our lawyers are dedicated to ensuring injured employees receive every type of compensation benefit to which they are legally entitled. We also go an important step further by investigating our clients’ accidents to determine if they may have grounds for a third-party claim against a manufacturer of defective equipment.
The failure to install safety guards is often the cause of accidents resulting in amputation. This failure may amount to negligence on the party of a third party, making them liable to pay damages in addition to the Workers’ Compensation benefits received by the injured employee.
Two of the many cases in which we helped workers recover full damages for their loss hand injuries include:
- $2.5 million settlement for injury resulting in hand amputation. The worker was clearing a jam on a paper shredder when a coworker placed the machine in reverse. This caused devastating injuries, resulting in amputation of his left hand. Our lawyers determined that the machine did not have the proper guard attachment in place when the accident occurred. The machine’s manufacturer and used equipment seller were found liable for damages.
- $2.25 million verdict for severe hand injury. The worker’s hand was nearly amputated when he attempted to clear out a clogged mixer that he thought was off. His thumb and several fingers were crushed and severely lacerated by a rotating blade. Our lawyers were able to show that the equipment manufacturer was liable for the accident by failing to provide an interlock discharge door equipped with a jog switch, which would have prevented the client’s injury.
Many times, injured employees are unsure about the extent of benefits available and exactly what they need to do to obtain payments. This puts injured workers at risk of recovering less than they deserve at precisely the time when they need to reestablish their financial security and dignity. We are dedicated to making sure injured workers attain justice.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Help Employees Who Have Hand Injuries Apply for Benefits
Specific loss benefits are strictly limited by law, and the rules can seem complicated. Our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have helped countless injured workers understand their rights to specific loss benefits. If you have suffered a severe hand injury due to a work accident, contact us online or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) to schedule a free consultation. Based in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.