When you are suffering as the result of a serious illness or injury, oftentimes the best way to ensure you receive the medical care and treatment you need is by going to the hospital. By being admitted to a hospital, you expect to benefit from receiving round the clock, quality medical care by a team of trained professionals. Unfortunately, patients may suffer falls and serious injuries while in the hospital. Hospital falls and falls in nursing homes have become increasingly common.
There are some instances in which a fall at a hospital causing a serious injury may be considered medical negligence and other times that a fall may be the grounds for a claim of personal injury against a hospital or other health care provider. This can be a legal determination and can affect how your case should proceed.
At Baker & Gilchrist, our hospital malpractice lawyers understand how falls can result in serious, even life-threatening harm to patients, especially those who are already undergoing treatment. If you or a loved one has experienced a serious fall as a hospital patient, it is important to understand that you may have legal rights in terms of getting compensation for your injuries.
Hospital Falls Are More Common Than You Might Think
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, as many as one million hospital falls occur each year in the United States, making patient falls the second most likely adverse event to occur in hospitals.
Patients over the age of 65 are at particular risk of suffering hospital falls, and the injuries sustained are often more severe. According to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one out of every five falls results in serious or life-threatening, injuries.
The CDC states that fall injuries vary in severity and may include the following:
- Muscle strains, sprains, and tears;
- Broken bones, particularly wrist, ankle, arm, and hip fractures;
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries.
A fall can have serious or even fatal injuries. The CDC reports on falls in nursing homes indicate that patient falls can lead to a general overall decline in health, and that approximately 20 percent of all wrongful deaths or fall deaths occur among nursing home residents.
Categories of Patient Falls at Nursing Homes or Hospitals
According to a Hospital and Health Networks (HHN) report on hospital falls, certain patients, such as those taking several types of medications and patients who are over the age of 65, have a greater risk of falling than other patients. The report states that there are generally four types of patient falls, which occur in hospitals and medical care settings:
- Accidental Falls: These falls occur among low risk patients and are due to circumstances such as tripping over tubing or medical equipment, falling out of bed, or falling due to an environmental hazard, such as a wet floor.
- Anticipated Physiological Falls: These are the most common types of patient falls, and are attributed to underlying patient risk factors, such as patients who have problems walking or those with an abnormal gait, patients suffering from dementia, and patients taking medications with the potential to cause drowsiness or imbalance.
- Unanticipated Physiological Falls: These hospital falls occur among patients who are otherwise low-risk, but suffer an adverse event, such as fainting or being stricken with a stroke, heart attack, or seizure.
- Behavioral Falls: These falls occur when a patient gets unruly or acts out for one reason or another, or falls on purpose.
While the above focuses on patient factors involved in hospital falls, environmental factors in a hospital or nursing home setting may make it more likely for a patient to experience a fall. Factors such as having beds positioned too high or nurses failing to respond to calls from patients can result in an increase in serious falls and fall injuries.
When is a Patient Fall Considered Medical Malpractice?
The first question to answer is whether the fall is the result of medical negligence or would be considered a basic negligence claim. The specific facts will be important in answering this question. One of issue is whether the fall occurred in the course of medical care. Under Indiana Code Section 34-18-10-22, the basic question at issue in a medical malpractice case is whether the health care provider acted or failed to act within the appropriate standard of care. Examples of patient falls in hospitals that may be considered medical malpractice include the following:
- Failure to recognize and supervise a patient at high risk of falling:
- Failure to diagnose a condition such as a stroke or seizure which could result in a fall;
- Failure to clean up a spill on the floor or remove a tripping hazard in a reasonable period of time, creating a foreseeable fall hazard:
- Failure to use bed or chair alarms.
In these circumstances, the medical provider may have violated the appropriate standard of care by failing to address conditions that could lead to a serious fall, or by failing to take precautions to prevent that fall from occurring.
What To Do If You Have Suffered An Injury In An Indiana Hospital?
If you suffered an injury due to a hospital fall or as the result of a fall in a nursing home in Indiana, it is important to speak with a knowledgeable attorney regarding your case. While some hospital falls may not constitute medical malpractice, you may be eligible for compensation due to the hospital or medical provider’s negligence. Wet floors that should have been cleaned up and cluttered hallways that should have been cleared may constitute negligent conditions that could have caused or contributed to a patient fall.
As the result of a hospital fall, you may have suffered serious that require ongoing medical care and treatment, as well as physical rehabilitation. You may be unable to work, and your future job earnings may be affected. Our experienced Indiana attorneys can review the circumstances surrounding your fall injury and help you determine the best course of action in your particular case.
Contact An Indiana Attorney Focusing On Helping Injured Hospital Patients
If you or a loved one has suffered a hospital fall resulting in serious injuries, contact the law office of Baker & Gilchrist today. Our experienced Indiana medical malpractice attorneys provide comprehensive, highly effective legal representation to assist you in getting compensation for your injuries. With over 60 years combined litigation experience, we can advise you on a legal course of action to get the best results in your particular case. Serving the Indianapolis, Avon and the surrounding areas, call or contact us online today for a free consultation.