Hospital Fall Injuries
Hospitals are responsible for preventing patient falls that cause serious injuries. Hospitals have a duty to protect their patients, and failure to do so can be considered medical negligence. In the hospital setting, patients who fall are there because they are not able to take care of themselves and it is the hospital’s responsibility to protect their patients within reason.
Who Should File a Hospital Fall Lawsuit?
If you have been seriously injured as a result of a hospital fall due to negligence on the part of your health care provider, you may be able to hold them responsible for your injuries.
You may be able to receive compensation for your injuries if the following requirements are present in your case:
- The health care provider had a duty to you as a patient at the time of your injury. Hospitals are expected to have policies and practices in place that any reasonable facility would, and to provide an environment to patients, that is reasonably safe.
- The duty was breached. Once the duty has been established, it must be demonstrated that the doctor or health care professional breached that duty. They must do something less reasonable, less careful, and less skilled to you, the patient.
- The breach of duty was the direct cause of your fall and your injuries.
How Do Hospital Falls Happen?
Patients are vulnerable in hospital settings. They are sick, injured, medicated and sometimes disoriented. Therefore, falls are foreseeable. Patients rely on hospitals to protect them and hospitals have a legal duty to protect patients from foreseeable harm.
In the absence of negligence, a hospital patient should never be injured from falling while in the care of the medical staff. Negligence that causes the majority of falls can include:
- Patient is not assessed or incorrectly assessed properly as a “fall risk” during the intake procedure
- Patient may become a “fall risk” at some point during their stay without staff assessing, or recognizing, the change correctly
- Fall precautions, policies and procedures are simply not in place or not followed
The plain truth is that hospital falls can, and should, be prevented. Hospitals sometimes breach the duty to they have to their patients for various reasons. Some of the most common are:
- Nurse shortages
- Lack of proper policies and procedures
- Improper training of staff
- Improper transfer techniques
- Inefficient work environments
- Slippery floors
- Hospital negligence
- Poor lighting
- Equipment in rooms and hallways that gets in the way
- Being weak from illness or surgery
- Being in new surroundings
Many hospitals across the country are going to great lengths to implement measures to avoid patient falls within their walls. They are being more attentive to patients who they have identified as high risk. However, many hospitals have failed to take the measures necessary to ensure the safety of their patients.
Hospitals have a duty to protect their patients, and failure to do so can be considered medical negligence.
Types of Injuries Resulting From Falls
The number one cause of patient injuries in hospitals today is falling. Every year, somewhere between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people in the U.S. experience a fall in a hospital (ahrq.gov). Between 30 and 51 percent of falls result in an injury. These falls often cause serious injuries, sometimes leaving patients with traumatic brain injury that can even lead to death. When hospitals fail to protect their patients as they should, serious injury and even death in some cases can occur. Some of the most serious injuries include, but are not limited to:
- traumatic brain injuries
- brain bleeds
- injuries requiring revision of surgery
The overall risk of falling and becoming injured as a result is increasing as a large portion of our population ages. 22 percent of patients in U.S. hospitals are now 74 years or older, which puts them at an increased rate of repeat falls, fall-related injuries, and complications after a fall. Even when it may seem there is no injury or only a minor injury that occurs after a hospital fall, the victim could still have hidden, deadly consequences.
Who are the High-Risk Patients?
Almost anybody of any age is at risk of falling in a hospital for a variety of reasons. Patients of all ages can become seriously injured by falling in a hospital.
This includes not only elderly patients, but also cardiac patients, cancer patients, patients with a medical diagnosis or surgical procedure that places them more at risk, and those who are taking strong medications.
Many times, a patient who has been lying in a hospital bed for a long period of time can become dizzy and fall, just from standing too quickly. I see this occur many times when a patient has called for a nurse for help to the restroom, waited too long for the nurse to come, and attempted finally to do this on their own.
Patients with altered mobility, those who are on multiple drugs, and those who have recently come out of surgery or have lost a lot of blood are also at high risk for falling, regardless of their age.
It seems the bigger problem, however, is the inaccurate identification of high-risk patients. Patients are often identified as high risk if they are elderly, but there are numerous other factors that may cause a patient of any age to take a tumble on the hard hospital floor.
Steps Hospitals Must Take to Protect Patients
At a hospital, it is standard protocol for the nurses to evaluate each patient carefully for the risk of falling out of bed, and to react accordingly.
Hospitals Required to Have Procedures in Place
Although not all falls are preventable, most are. Hospitals are required by law to have preventable procedures in place, but some do not. Others have procedures, yet the staff is uneducated about them, or simply fails to follow them, resulting in a patient falling and becoming seriously injured or even killed.
Medical Staff Should be Educated and Trained
Precautions, policies and procedures are not followed often times because of staffing issues. For example, in the night-time hours, there are usually fewer staff members, putting patients at serious risk. In addition, nurses may know about fall procedures and policies, but they are not familiar with the procedures involved (e.g. nurses not knowing how to properly transfer a patient from table to bed, or be to table).
It can be difficult for medical staff to stay up-to-date with current procedures. However, this does not excuse the medical facility from the neglect of a patient suffering a fall while in their care.
Preventing Hospital Falls
Today, with technology changing so quickly in the medical field, it can be more difficult for medical staff to stay up-to-date with current procedures. However, this does not excuse the medical facility from the neglect of a patient suffering a fall while in their care.
In addition, all hospitals have tools and equipment (safety belts, lifts, etc.) that are supposed to be utilized while caring for patients to prevent them from falling. However, many times the equipment is not used when needed.
These steps often include nurses making rounds every half-hour instead of every hour, or avoiding giving diuretics before bedtime, if possible, that will make a patient want to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Trips to the bathroom often result in falls. Other measures might include lowering the beds or providing cushioning on the floor around the bed.
Hiring A Dallas Hospital Fall Lawyer
Defending the rights of you and your family against hospital negligence can be an uphill battle; however, Van Wey Law is here to stand by your side. With over 25 years’ experience, Kay Van Wey has been voted a Texas Super Lawyer for 12 consecutive years and represents the victims of dangerous drugs nationwide.