Who Is Responsible for Hospital Falls?
When hospital patients fall and suffer injuries, their recovery from their original injuries or illnesses can be derailed, requiring them to stay in the hospital or inpatient facility much longer. Not only is this physically and mentally stressful for the injured patients, it affects their loved ones and can impact the victims’ financial security.
Property owners – including hospitals, rehabilitation centers and other medical facilities – are required to maintain safe premises for the people they serve. When an authorized client or visitor suffers an injury because of a hazard or condition in a facility or on a piece of private or public property because of a hazard that the owner should have known about and addressed, the owner of the property may be liable for the victim’s resulting damages. This is known as premises liability.
Hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities and other medical providers serve individuals who are at a greater risk of slipping and falling and becoming injured because of their conditions. In these facilities, property owners must be especially careful to prevent falls by keeping facilities well lit, providing secure handrails on stairs and along walls, and ensuring that floors are free of clutter and other trip or slip hazards, for example.
What Causes Patients to Fall in Hospitals?
Many different issues can cause patients to slip, fall, and suffer injuries in inpatient facilities. These include:
Poorly lit rooms and hallways. When a patient cannot see his or her surroundings because of low lighting, it can be easy to miss a slip-and-fall hazard, an incline or decline, or a step and suffer a fall.
Slippery floors. When a floor is wet, it becomes easier for individuals walking along it to slip and fall. Freshly waxed floors can also pose this hazard.
Unsecured carpets and wires. Unsecured wires can pose tripping hazards. When carpets or mats are not secured to the floor, patients can trip on changes in elevation or bunched-up carpet corners. Patients with walkers and those in wheelchairs are especially at risk with unsecured carpets because their wheels can become caught in the carpeting.
Accumulated snow, ice, and leaves in outdoor spaces. Property owners are responsible for all areas of their properties, indoors and outdoors.
Broken steps and handrails. These can be the rails on patients’ beds, door handles, and those that line the hallways.
Poor supervision of patients at high risk of falling. These could be individuals with poor balance or vision or individuals whose medications make it difficult for them to maintain their balance.
- Clutter in hallways, common areas or resident rooms
- Improper use of chemical or physical restraints
- Muscle weakness
- Balance disorders
- Visual impairment.
When a resident has a high risk of falling, regulations require nursing home staff must develop and implement a care plan to minimize that risk, for example:
- Use no-skid waxes on floors and surfaces coated with grit to create non-slip surfaces in slippery areas such as toilet and shower areas.
- Use waterproof footgear to decrease slip and fall hazards.
- Replace or stretch carpets that bulge or have become bunched to prevent tripping hazards.
- Aisles and passageways should be sufficiently wide for easy movement and should be kept clear at all times.
- Nursing station countertops and medication carts should be free of sharp, square corners.
- Adequate lighting is a must, especially during night hours.
Are Inpatient Falls Considered Medical Malpractice?
When a fall in a hospital occurs because of one of the property hazards listed above, such as poor lighting or a loose handrail, the victim has not suffered from medical malpractice. He or she suffered from the property owner’s negligence to create a safe environment and may seek compensation through a premises liability claim.
When a fall occurs because the patient was not made aware of his or her medication’s possible side effects, not supervised properly after surgery, misdiagnosed regarding a condition that affects balance or vision, or not assessed as a fall risk and managed accordingly, he or she is a victim of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor or other healthcare provider does not take the necessary care to ensure the patient’s health and safety.
Proving Liability in a Hospital Fall Case
Whether you have a premises liability claim or a medical malpractice claim, you need to prove that another party’s negligence directly caused your injury. Answer these three basic questions to determine whether your healthcare provider or the owner of the facility was negligent:
- Did they know, or should they reasonably have known, about your risk of injury?
- Could your injury have been foreseen?
- Could they have taken reasonable action to prevent your injury?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you may have grounds for a claim. You will need to provide evidence that proves the answers to these questions, such as documentation from your examination after the fall, photographs of the injury and accident site, testimonies from witnesses, and in the case of medical malpractice, input from another doctor discussing where your original doctor made an error.
Seeking Compensation for Your Damages After Falling in a Hospital
Individuals who suffer injuries because of other parties’ negligence are entitled to collect monetary compensation for the following damages:
- Their medical bills, which include emergency medical care, long-term medical expenses, and expenses related to rehabilitation following the injury or necessary surgery.
- Mental pain and emotional suffering.
- Lost wages, including current lost income due to leaving work to recover and future lost income due to a reduced capacity to work.
- Any additional expenses related to the injury, which can include medical aids and reduced quality of life due to chronic pain or disfigurement.
In addition to evidence that proves the liable party’s negligence, you will also have to provide evidence that shows the monetary value of your losses in order to recover compensation. This can be easier than proving that negligence occurred because the evidence you provide for many of these damages is straightforward documentation like medical bills and pay stubs.
Demonstrating the dollar value of your pain and suffering damages, which include your reduced quality of life and your mental anguish, can be a bit more complicated. Dollar figures for these are often reached by applying a multiplier to the victim’s tangible damages figure.
Work With an Experienced New York Slip-and-Fall Lawyer
If you or a loved one suffered an injury after falling in a nursing home, hospital, inpatient facility, or any other medical facility in New York, you could be entitled to recover monetary compensation for your damages through a premises liability claim or a medical malpractice claim.
To learn more and start working on your claim, contact our team of experienced slip-and-fall lawyers at David Resnick & Associates, P.C. today to set up your free case review. We serve residents of all five boroughs and will not charge you for our legal services unless and until you receive compensation.