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Finger Injury Compensation - Why This Type of Work Claim Is So Common

22nd February 2012
By Harry Marldon in Personal Injury
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Fingers are often broken, crushed, or amputated by machinery in the workplace. Losing the use of your fingers often leaves people unemployable so making compensation vital to replace earning loss.

Broken fingers are estimated to account for around 10% of all fracture injuries recorded each year. The vast majority of finger fractures are caused by blunt trauma, for example when a person falls and breaks their landing with an out-stretched arm, or when fingers get trapped in a door. Any force that wrenches, bends or twists the finger may also cause a break. Finger fractures vary in their severity, depending on the extent of the damage done to bones, tendons, ligaments, nerves and blood vessels. An injured person's manual dexterity will be impaired at least temporarily following a broken finger injury, and they may be unable to perform basic daily tasks without assistance. Loss of sensation and mobility in the finger can also force a person to take time off work, and their ability to perform their role may be impaired for weeks or months afterwards.

Fingers consist of three bones called phalanges, bound together by tendons and ligaments, and surrounded by nerves and blood vessels. A fracture injury will normally be intensely painful, with the finger swelling up and appearing visibly bent. Doctors will use traction to work the bones back into position, and will then apply strapping or a splint to hold the bones in place while they heal. A patient may require ongoing physiotherapy to regain full mobility in the finger, but otherwise their recovery should be complete within a few weeks or months. Other finger breaks can be more complicated to treat, such as a multiple or compound fracture, where the bone may have splintered into various pieces. In cases such as these, surgery will be required to reassemble the pieces of bone and secure them in place, often using metal plates and pins. The recovery time from this kind of finger fracture may be lengthy, and full mobility may never be regained.

Broken finger injuries at work normally occur in busy, hectic environments, and those where heavy loads are lifted and carried routinely. Employers must introduce a safe system of work that minimises the risk of workers getting injured. All manual handling tasks should be risk assessed, and workers must receive training in safe lifting techniques. Fingers often get trapped and crushed by heavy loads which are not properly balanced, or are awkward to lift. Workers may also trap fingers in machinery and pieces of equipment, accidents which are often due to poor maintenance, or the failure of management to provide workers with the appropriate safety equipment. The actions of a co-worker may also cause an injury, for which management is ultimately liable under the principle of 'vicarious' liability. Finally, it is possible for stress fractures to develop in the fingers due to overuse and repetitive strain.

Both employers and commercial establishments have a legal duty to provide safe premises for their visitors; whether employees or members of the public. This includes ensuring that slip and trip hazards which may cause broken fingers are eliminated as far as possible, and are dealt with promptly when they arise. At schools, amusement parks, leisure centres, riding schools and swimming pools, the owners or occupiers must provide a sufficient number of trained staff to monitor and supervise activities, especially when children are involved. Broken finger injury compensation awards depend on which particular finger is broken, the extent of the injury, and its residual effects. Awards of up to 23,500 will reflect a significant ongoing disability in the finger and hand. More regular awards will be between 1,900 and 3,000, where a broken finger has healed fully within a few months. For an index (middle) finger this range would increase, rising to a maximum of 6,500.

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