When it comes to finger injuries in California, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that finger injuries aren’t typically fatal. While finger and hand injuries can be serious, painful and result in a permanent disability, they don’t usually result in the death of an individual. The bad news is that because we use our hands so much in our lives, even a minor finger injury can pose a major problem.
Think of the last time you burned a finger. For the next few days, you probably adjusted how you held certain objects and still got tasks done at work or around the house. Now imagine having to do that for the rest of your life. You’d adjust, as human beings are quite adaptable. But you probably can’t work as well as you used to.
This is particularly important on the job, where hand and finger injuries are quite common. In fact, they’re the second most common occupational injury, second to only back injuries. They’re also very expensive injuries to treat with the average workplace hand, wrist or finger injury claim costing more than $22,000.
But not all finger injuries occur at work. Many occur at home, on the road or on vacation. Regardless of where or how you injure your finger, it may permanently change how you live your life. In some cases, you could be entitled to a certain amount of compensation to help you deal with the new way in which you use your fingers and hands.
Common finger injuries
There are many ways in which fingers can get injured. Some of the most common types of finger injuries include:
- Partial amputation
- Full amputation
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Degloving (also known as an avulsion)
- Fractured or broken bones
- Jersey finger (a type of injury to the tendon)
- Ruptured ligament
- Mallet finger (a type of injury to the tendon)
- Skier’s thumb (a type of injury to the ligament)
- Crushed finger
- Strains and sprains
- Severed tendons, muscles and/or nerves
- Lost fingertips
Common causes of finger injuries
There are as many ways to injury your fingers as there are types of finger injuries. But many hospitals, urgent care clinics and doctor’s office in California often see patients with finger injuries caused by:
- Playing sports
- Mechanical entanglement, such as rings getting caught on something and degloving a finger
- Power tools, especially table saws
- Hammer or mallets missing their target and hitting a finger instead
- Dropping heavy objects onto hands and fingers
- Getting pinched between one or more heavy objects
- Repetitive actions involving the hands or fingers
- Lacerations from high-speed contact with abrasive surfaces, such as a road or sidewalk
If someone else is responsible for injuring your finger, you may have a legal cause of action against this individual. If you brought suit, it would be to obtain an amount of compensation sufficient enough to pay for the cost of your medical treatment and maybe even pain and suffering and lost income. However, many finger injuries cannot be compensated with a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim as there is no other negligent party responsible for the injury.
Even if there is a negligent party to sue and you win your case, they may not have any money or insurance that could pay out any legal awards or settlements.
For instance, unless the defendant is an at-fault driver with a car insurance policy or a landlord with a premise liability policy, the defendant likely won’t have any money to pay any damages awarded in your favor.
One thing to keep in mind is that many common finger injuries are preventable. There are ways to avoid the injury altogether or reduce its severity.
For example, wearing appropriate hand protection can make a huge difference, such as work gloves. And while it might sound counterintuitive, keeping your bladed tools and instruments fully sharpened can prevent using excessive force to cut something, which can sometimes lead to a severed finger or hand.
Loss of finger at work
The workplace is a common location for finger injuries. These can often occur in manufacturing and construction settings. As a result, common causes for losing a finger at work involve accidents with cutting tools and fingers getting crushed in machines.
Losing a finger can be among the more debilitating and disabling occupational injuries. This is due to the importance the hand plays in daily life and work.
Jury Verdict Research reports that the nationwide average jury award for a finger and hand injury is almost $630,000, with a median verdict amounting to about $73,000. The discrepancy between the median and mean values indicate that there are some very large verdict awards given to plaintiffs with hand and finger injuries. This shows how seriously juries view injuries to the finger.
Partial finger amputation compensation
Partial finger amputations are often the result of an accident involving a cutting tool or fingers getting partially crushed. This might happen when a heavy object like a cinder block falls on the tip of your finger. Or maybe you’re trying to remove grass clippings from the cutting area of your electric lawn mower when it inadvertently activates. Either way, it might seem like a partial finger loss is a minor injury. But this is often not the case.
Depending on how the injury occurred, even a partial amputation of your finger can lead to the permanent, partial loss of use of a finger and severe pain in that finger for the foreseeable future. So it’s not surprising for significant monetary awards for individuals who have partial finger amputations.
One plaintiff received a verdict of $156,000 when a machine in a classroom severed the tip of his finger. This award took into account the fact that the severed portion of the finger could be reattached.
Another plaintiff received almost $2 million for a fingertip amputation that occurred while doing railroad work.
How much compensation do you get for a finger injury?
It depends on the facts surrounding your injury. For example, were you partially at fault for your injury? If so, your level of negligence could reduce your damage award in California.
California applies the pure comparative negligence theory. This means a plaintiff can receive compensation for an injury, even if they’re 99% at fault for causing it. So imagine a jury awarding a plaintiff $100,000 for a severed index finger. But if the jury also finds that the plaintiff was 95% at fault for causing the severed finger, then the plaintiff can still recover $5,000.
Besides level of fault, other factors can play a role in total compensation for a finger injury:
- Lasting effects of the finger injury. If there’s pain and suffering for a few months, a plaintiff would get less compensation than if there’s pain and suffering that lasts for decades. Also, the more painful the injury, the more compensation is possible.
- Type of finger that was injured. Most people understand that having an injured middle finger can hinder someone’s professional and personal life more than a pinky. Or a thumb injury could be more debilitating than a ring finger injury.
- If the injured finger is on the dominant hand. Generally speaking, losing the use of a finger in the dominant hand is a more significant injury than the non-dominant hand.
- If the person with an injured finger is married. California allows spouses to bring loss of consortium claims. Your spouse would start a loss of consortium claim, not you, but it still adds to the total compensation that’s possible from your finger injury.
- The injured person’s occupation. The more the injury affects an individual’s ability to work, the more damages they can potentially recover.
- How the injured finger affects the individual’s daily living. If the injured person has to give up a lifelong hobby or time with kids because of the finger injury, they may receive more in compensation than if nothing notable changes in his or her daily life.
- The number of fingers fully or partially amputated. As you might expect, more fingers that get injured will result in a greater damage award or settlement.
- Extent of medical care to treat the finger. The more medical treatments required to fix the finger injury, the more the legal claim will be worth.
These last two factors can play a major role in the total amount of compensation available. In one case, a plaintiff received an $8 million verdict when a detective conveyer belt led to the plaintiff undergoing 12 surgeries and losing three fingers.
Time limits for finger injury compensation claims?
If the injured party wants to file a workers’ compensation claim, they will normally have 30 days to inform the employer of the injury. However, if someone suffered a finger injury due to a slip, trip or fall or perhaps a road traffic accident, then they will have far longer to seek personal injury compensation.
California has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury compensation legal claims. So if you injured your finger on January 5, you have exactly two years from that day to sue the person or entity responsible.
There are situations where courts will extend this two year statute of limitations. But there’s never a guarantee that the court will grant the request. And if they do, they will often only do so for a compelling or sympathetic reason.
For instance, the plaintiff was under the age of 18 at the time of the injury or the defendant left the state of California before the plaintiff could sue them.