Was Your Loved One’s Hospital Fall Preventable?

Was Your Loved One’s Hospital Fall Preventable?

It is natural to think that a sick or injured loved one in a hospital is safe.

But did you know that a Medicare patient has a one-in-four chance of experiencing injury, harm or death when admitted to a hospital?

Needless to say: the safety record in U.S. hospitals is not particularly good. 

Whether it is preventable falls or other medical errors with surgery, medication, or diagnosis, personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits in hospitals are on the rise.

Studies suggest that around 11,000 deaths per year result directly from falls in hospitals with 30% of inpatient falls resulting in injury and 4- 6% causing serious injury. 

With up to 440,000 people (well over 1,000 a day) dying every year from preventable mistakes in U.S. hospitals, it is safe to say that they could be doing more to protect patient safety.

So, what can you do? Read on to understand: 

  • the duties a hospital has to keep patients safe
  • common causes of  preventable falls
  • what do if you suspect the hospital could have prevented your loved one’s fall 

What Should a Hospital Be Doing to Keep Your Loved One Safe?

When people are admitted to the hospital, they are at their most vulnerable, so patient safety should be the primary concern for hospitals, home care, and healthcare facilities alike.

Hospitals have a duty to take all necessary steps to protect patients from medical errors, accidents, injuries, infections (including bedsores), as well as diseases.

In general, patient safety focused on preventing harm and should:

  • Prevent events that put safety at risk
  • Take steps to make it less likely that accidents and mistakes happen
  • Put in place workable remedies if a patient is put at risk

Furthermore, all hospitals should be taking precautions such as:

  • Assessing patients to check their fall risk (thereby identifying high-risk patients)
  • Making clear who the high-risk patients are (e.g. having them wear special armbands)
  • Implementing and enforcing fall risk precautions
  • Providing “safety companions” to continuously observe highest-risk patients
  • Updating these precautions if the patient’s condition changes
  • Managing each patient’s fall risk factors, e.g. walking problems, immobility, medication side effects, confusion and assistance with toileting needs
  • Preparing a written treatment plan for how they will protect each patient from falling
  • Performing safety rounds more frequently

Prevention is always best, of course. Many medical facilities around the U.S. have achieved great results in reducing fall rates by actively following safety improvement programs.

Should a Fall Ever Happen in a Hospital?

In judging any potential claim about personal injury or medical malpractice, the key legal question is: Was the fall preventable?

In most cases, the answer is yes.

In fact, the healthcare system has a term called “never events”, as in, events that should never happen to a patient under the care of a hospital due to their being clearly identifiable, preventable, and often gravely serious.

These errors generally indicate a real issue of credibility and safety in a healthcare facility.

Along with various surgical errors, the National Quality Forum goes on to call the following as a “never event”: “Patient death or serious injury associated with a fall while being cared for in a health care setting.”

The most common causes of falls in hospitals are:

  • Lack of patient fall risk assessment
  • Lack of a plan to prevent falls and promote safety
  • Negligence from nurses
  • Shortages of properly trained staff
  • Poor communication between nursing staff
  • Improper lifting techniques and failure to use appropriate lifting devices
  • Lack of bed rails or utilization of bed rails
  • Slow responses to patient requests to use the restroom

These may well be considered preventable falls due to negligence.

What to Do If Your Loved One’s Fall Was Preventable

If your loved one has fallen or otherwise suffered as a patient, and nurses or other caregivers have not taken action, you may have a claim against the facility.

First, document all you can by taking pictures, gathering charts, and other evidence. 

Next, make detailed notes about all your interactions with  hospital employees and authorities.

Last, call the offices of Sinel & Olesen PLLC to get your free consultation from a team of highly experienced medical personal injury lawyers. We can help you determine if you have a valid case.


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