If you lose all or part of a finger in a work-related accident, the first thing to do is seek emergency treatment at the nearest medical facility. Once you’re stabilized, file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and lost wages. A workers’ comp attorney from Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas can assist you with the claims process and help you seek fair benefits.
Workers’ Comp for Finger Amputations
Most work-related finger amputations occur on construction sites, where power saws are used daily. Power saw accidents are the primary cause of finger amputations for adults in the U.S. each year. Workers in the manufacturing industry also lose fingers when machines malfunction. Food service workers who use sharp knives and electric slicers regularly lose fingers in on-the-job mishaps.
The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (VWC) has set out guidelines for the benefits an employee may receive for complete or partial amputation of a finger, which is considered a permanent partial disability. This doesn’t mean you’ll receive benefits for life due to a finger amputation. All your medical expenses should be paid by workers’ comp, but the number of weeks for which you’ll receive wage benefits is capped according to which finger you lose and whether the amputation is complete or partial.
Weekly Wage Loss Benefits for Complete Finger Amputations
- Fourth or little finger: 20 weeks
- Third or ring finger: 25 weeks
- Second or middle finger: 40 weeks
- First or index finger: 45 weeks
- Thumb: 75 weeks
The loss of more than one phalange of a finger or thumb is considered a complete amputation.
If you lose only the first phalange of any finger or your thumb, your partial amputation entitles you to half the number of weeks allowed for the entire loss of that finger or thumb.
If you lose all or part of more than one finger, the number of weeks of benefits to which you’re entitled may not exceed 150, which is the number allowed for the loss of an entire hand.
Returning to Work
Once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), you may return to work. If you’re still able to do your previous job, your weekly wage benefits will stop when you resume earning your previous salary. If your amputation requires you to perform a new “light-duty” job that pays less than your previous position did, you may be entitled to benefits that make up two-thirds of the difference between your old and new salaries.
What to do After a Work-Related Accident
After getting emergency medical care, you should follow the steps of the claims process promptly and correctly.
Report Your Injury
Even if your supervisor is aware of your work-related finger amputation, report it in writing and provide the date, time, place, and details of the accident. Include names of witnesses. Although the VWC allows you 30 days to report your injury, you should do so as soon as possible.
File Your Claim
After receiving your report, your employer should file a First Report of Injury (FROI) with the VWC. You may then submit a Claim for Benefits from the “Injured Workers” page of the VWC website. The VWC must respond to your claim within 20 days. If your claim is accepted, you’ll receive an Award Agreement that you and your employer must sign and re-submit to the VWC, which will then issue an Award Order to start your benefits.
By law, you have two years to file a workers’ comp claim, but you shouldn’t wait to report or file. Any delay on your part can be cited by your employer’s insurance company as evidence that you’re not seriously injured or that your injury is not work-related. The insurer is a for-profit business that exists to earn money. Its adjusters are well-trained to dispute, devalue, delay, and deny claims, so you don’t want to make any mistakes that can damage yours.
Seek Ongoing Medical Care
Regardless of where you received emergency treatment, you must seek ongoing care from a physician approved by your employer’s insurance company. Keep all medical appointments, follow your doctor’s orders, take medication as prescribed, keep a journal of your recovery, and retain receipts for all treatments.
Consult an Attorney
Because a finger-amputation claim is likely to be costly for the insurer, it will look for any way it can to fight your claim, so it’s a good idea to consult a workers’ comp lawyer from Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas who can help you complete the claims process correctly and on time. We can also represent you at an evidentiary hearing if your claim should be denied.