Belsky Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC A Personal Injury & Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

When a patient falls, is it medical malpractice?

WAS THERE A KNOWN FALL RISK? WHAT CAUSED OR PRECEDED THE FALL? 

Patients who are elderly or recovering from surgery or illness are prone to falls. Their frail health or weakened condition increases not only the likelihood of falling but the severity of injuries.

Depending on the circumstances, a fall in a hospital or nursing home may be grounds for a medical malpractice or negligence lawsuit. If a loved one is badly injured in a falling accident -- or has unexplained bruises or fractures -- consult an attorney who can explore legal action.

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FALLS ARE AMONG THE MOST COMMON INJURIES IN HOSPITALS

A landmark study by the National Institute of Health (NIH) first showed how prevalent hospital falls are. They counted more than 300,000 falls in a two-year span at the 1,200 hospitals observed. About one-fourth of those hospital falls resulted in injury, including 2 percent -- 6,000 patients - who suffered fractures.

A serious fall can complicate recovery from the underlying medical condition, and typically extends the patient's stay by 6 to 12 additional days. Older patients may never fully recover from a fracture or head injury incurred in the hospital. Similarly, because their health is already compromised, nursing home patients who suffer a bad fall are susceptible to incomplete healing, infections and premature death.

WHY DID THE PATIENT FALL?

Most of us suffer no lasting harm when we slip or trip. We catch ourselves. Or we heal soon enough. Hospital patients and nursing home residents are vulnerable. The facility has an extra duty of care to monitor patients and prevent falls. An investigation into hospital malpractice or nursing home negligence would examine how and why the person fell:

  • Was the patient assessed for fall risk upon admission?
    • If yes, what was the care plan? If no, why not?
  • Was the patient groggy, disoriented or weak from surgery?
  • Did the person fall for lack of assistance in the bathroom or shower?
  • Did someone forget the bed rails or gurney or wheelchair restraints?
  • Did a staff member drop the patient?
  • Was there a spill or tripping hazard on the floor?

A pattern of falls can be an indication of understaffing or mismanagement. Sometimes patients try to get out of bed on their own because no one answered the call button. 

Negligence requires knowledge of a safety hazard or fall risk. Medical malpractice requires proof that staff deviated from the accepted standard of care. A personal injury attorney with experience in medical negligence litigation can gauge whether you have a good legal case.

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