A mobility device is used to make it easier to walk or move around for people with mobility impairments. A mobility aid can range from a cane to an electric scooter. Mobility devices can be used temporarily to recover from an injury or be a necessary aid for daily life. A mobility aid may be required after an injury accident or because of a complication caused by medical malpractice.
Many people take their mobility for granted until it is taken away. After babies learn to crawl and walk, most of us never think about mobility until we notice we trip and fall more often in later life. After a knee, foot, or ankle injury, getting around can be much more challenging. Without mobility, individuals become much more reliant on others or have to use some device to improve mobility.
A mobility aid is a type of device that helps someone walk or get around after a mobility impairment. Some of the most common mobility treatment options include crutches, canes, or wheelchairs. However, there are many more mobility devices that can help individuals with a mobility problem.
Mobility Impairments and Devices
A mobility impairment can be caused by a number of illnesses, conditions, diseases, or temporary injuries. Mobility impairments can be mechanical in nature, such as a bad knee that cannot handle pressure or is painful to move. Mobility impairments can also be caused by brain injuries, including paralysis, difficulty with equilibrium, or nerve damage. A mobility device can also help isolate a body part to aid in recovery or healing, like using a wheelchair after foot surgery.
Mobility impairment can involve any complication in moving the body parts or extremities. This includes:
- Impaired range of motion
- Impaired control of limbs
- Impaired strength
- Impaired speed or endurance
- Impaired coordination
- Impaired dexterity
Mobility devices and assistive technologies are a way to provide people with mobility impairments options to get around, interact with the outside world, and perform everyday functions.
Types of Mobility Devices
Mobility devices and assistive technology for people with mobility impairments can include temporary use of a device or permanent reliance on the mobility aid. Some of the more common types of mobility devices include:
- Forearm crutches
- Knee scooters
- Artificial limbs/Prosthetics
A cane is one of the simplest walking aids. Canes have been around for hundreds of years and were also used as a decorative accessory. A cane generally consists of a handle that extends from the user's hand to the ground, which can improve stability. Cane designs are relatively simple but modern canes benefit from rubber caps or ferrules to provide traction. Canes can be a mobility device for people that have fatigue or muscle weakness but can otherwise move about.
Crutches are another walking aid that are commonly used for temporary injuries, like a broken foot or after a knee injury. Crutches reduce lower-limb loading by directing the weight of the body through the arms and to the crutches, reducing the impact on the lower limbs. Depending on the type of injury or impairment, an individual could use one or two crutches to get around.
Forearm crutches are a more modern adaptation with bands around the forearms and handles. The band around the forearm and handles give the user more control and help carry the weight of the individual compared to a cane alone. Forearm crutches can also help generate movement by substituting for the impaired movement of the legs or pelvis.
A walker is a metal frame that can stand alone and provide support for the user. The individual can then lift or roll the walker to move around, while keeping contact with the walker to provide support. A walker generally has 3 or 4 contact points with the ground that are capped with rubber ferrules, wheels, or sometimes tennis balls. Some wheeled walkers, also called rollators, have brakes attached to the handles for more stability and control.
Knee Walker or Knee Scooter
A knee walker or knee scooter is a wheeled device with handles for steering and a saddle for the user to place their knee. Knee scooters are generally used after a surgery or injury and can isolate the affected knee, foot, or leg during recovery. A knee walker can be an alternative to crutches, allowing for movement while reducing the weight on the resting knee.
A seated walking scooter is a 2-wheel scooter where the user can sit on the seat and use their lower limbs to propel the device. This is another option for taking weight off the lower extremities. These are generally easier to maneuver than a wheelchair and provide more support than a cane.
As the name suggests, a wheelchair is essentially a chair with wheels. Wheelchairs are some of the most common medical devices that can be used for people who have mobility issues, including difficulty walking caused by injury, illness, or disability.
Wheelchairs can be used as a temporary mobility device. This generally includes people who are recovering from an injury, illness, or surgery. A wheelchair can help the individual get around while waiting for wounds to heal or while participating in physical therapy or occupational therapy to regain strength.
Some injuries, illnesses, and disabilities require the permanent use of a wheelchair. This includes amputees and individuals with paralysis. When someone has to rely on the use of a wheelchair, they may also have to make home modifications for access and mobility with a wheelchair. This may include installing a ramp, widening of doorways or hallways, and adapting a bathroom for wheelchair use.
A mobility scooter is an electrically powered wheelchair. Motorized scooters are controlled by handlebars and powered by an onboard battery. Mobility scooters have a number of options, depending on the needs of the user. This includes smaller scooters that are easier to use indoors and larger scooters that can reach a higher speed and larger battery capacity. Mobility scooters can be beneficial for people with limited stamina or those who are unable to use their arms to propel a standard wheelchair.
A stairlift can be used to get a person with limited mobility up and down stairs. Stairs can be difficult to navigate for people with mobility impairments and a stairlift can allow users to stay in their own homes with otherwise inaccessible upper levels. Stairlifts generally attach to the wall and have a motor that pulls the chair up along a track, with armrests that raise and lower for access.
An artificial limb is a type of prosthesis. Prosthetics use an artificial device to act as a replacement for a missing body part. The prosthetic is intended to restore some of the function of that body part after an accident, disease, or congenital disorder. Some common artificial limb prosthetics include:
- Hand prosthesis
- Foot prosthesis
- Leg prosthesis
- Arm prosthesis
A leg prosthesis can enable the user to regain mobility after the loss of a leg. A transtibial prosthesis is a below-the-knee artificial limb. Individuals with a transtibial prosthesis can generally recover normal movement with practice and therapy. A transfemoral prosthesis is used after an above-the-knee amputation.
The cost of a prosthesis can range based on the type of prosthesis, function of the prosthesis, and how often a prosthesis needs to be replaced. A prosthetic leg can cost from $5,000 to $50,000. However, new technology prosthetics may cost $100,000 or more.
Disability Caused By Injury Accidents
Many injury accidents can cause temporary or permanent mobility impairment. Injuries may be caused by the negligence or reckless actions of another person, including:
- Car accident
- Burn injury
- Dog bite attack
- Slip and fall
- Workplace accident
- Construction site accident
- Horseback riding accident
- Defective products
Car Accidents and Mobility Impairment
Vehicle and transportation accidents are some of the most common causes of injury in the United States. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), more than 38,000 people were killed on the US roads in 2014. There are many more non-fatal accidents that leave the injury victim wheelchair-bound or needing crutches to recover for their injuries.
Car accidents that require mobility devices generally fall into three categories, involving lower limb injury, brain injury, or spinal cord injury. A lower limb injury could include anything from a sprained ankle to an above-the-knee amputation. Lower limb injuries can be temporary, such as a broken leg, which may require a mobility device until the injury heals. Other lower limb injuries may be permanent, including leg injuries that leave the injury victim in pain or unable to put their full weight on the injured leg.
Spinal cord injuries or head injuries may make mobility difficult or impossible through damage to the brain that impairs mobility or nerve damage that impairs the brain's ability to communicate with the legs to walk or stand. Head injuries can be difficult after a car accident and the extent of the damage may take some time to understand. Head injuries and spinal cord injuries may be permanent, requiring long-term reliance on mobility devices to get around.
Workplace Accidents and Mobility Impairment
Injuries in the workplace may also cause mobility impairment. Some worksites are more dangerous than others, including construction sites, industrial jobs, and manufacturing. The so-called “fatal four” causes of many workplace fatalities include:
Even when these types of construction accidents are not fatal, they may cause serious nerve, brain, or lower limb damage. However, unlike a personal injury accident, workplace accidents may have to go through the workers' compensation process instead of a personal injury claim to recover medical expenses.
Workers' compensation provides a trade-off between benefits and the right to sue. In most cases, if an employee is injured on the job, workers' comp provides medical and wage-replacement benefits without having to show the employer was responsible for the injury. In exchange, the employee is generally limited in their right to file a lawsuit against the employer.
The employer is generally required to cover any medical treatment related to the workplace injury, which may include a mobility device. In some cases, the injury victim may still have a possible personal injury claim if another party may be liable for the injury, such as when the injury was caused by a defective product or 3rd party contractor. This may allow for recovery of additional damages, including pain and suffering after an accident.
Disability Caused By Malpractice
Disability and mobility impairment may also be caused by medical malpractice. A medical error that causes a leg, spine, or head injury may be caused directly by improper surgical treatment, infection, or wrong patient/wrong limb accidents. Medical errors may also cause an injury by failure to diagnose, delayed diagnosis, or failure to properly treat a condition.
Brain injury caused by medical malpractice may leave the patient with limited brain function or brain damage which impairs their ability to get around, requiring a mobility device. Some medical malpractice events that could lead to brain injury may include:
- Anesthesia brain injury
- Intubation brain injury
- Brain hemorrhage
- Infection shock (including hospital-acquired infections)
Birth Injury and Mobility
Oxygen deprivation can cause hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). Oxygen deprivation often involves failure to properly monitor or treat a pregnant mother and baby. HIE can lead to a number of brain injuries, health conditions, and complications affecting a baby's motor function.
Cerebral palsy covers a number of conditions that affect an individual's body movements and muscle coordination. Common medical mistakes that lead to cerebral palsy can include improper treatment when a mother is experiencing a challenging or prolonged labor. A baby born with cerebral palsy may need to use mobility devices for the rest of their lives.
Costs of Mobility Aids
Many patients worry about the cost of mobility aids. Motorized wheelchairs, installing ramps or elevators, and modifying the home to accommodate a wheelchair can be expensive. It is not always clear if insurance or Medicare will cover the cost of the mobility device until after the patient has to purchase the device. If the accident was caused by the negligence of another, including a negligent doctor or negligent driver, then the person who caused the accident should have to pay for medical care. A personal injury lawsuit can help the injury victim recover compensation, including medical care, mobility devices, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Mobility Injury Attorneys
If your loved one suffered negligent medical care or was injured in an accident, talk to an experienced trial attorney about your options. Do not hesitate to contact Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation.