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Hospital Liability for Fall Injuries

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who reports that his wife fell in the hospital following surgery. He says the back surgery has to be redone since the fall caused the surgical wounds to burst open. He wants to know if the hospital could be held liable for his wife’s fall injury?

Patient falls are a common type of accident that leads to lawsuits against hospitals and nursing homes.

Many patient falls happen when a patient climbs out of bed, frequently to go to the washroom.

Many patient falls also occur while a patient is using hospital equipment such as a wheelchair.

Falls from examining tables and gurneys are also common, particularly in emergency rooms and radiology departments.

In many cases involving falls by patients while using hospital bathroom and toilet facilities, the patient is usually left unattended by the hospital staff.

We’ve also handled cases where a fall occurs while a hospital employee assists a patient.

In the caller’s case, a nursing assistant was helping the wife get out of bed when the wife fell. The nursing aide was trying to put slip-resistant socks on the patient when the nurse aide lost her balance and tumbled to the floor with the patient.

The patient’s condition at the time of the fall often is a critical factor in determining liability.

Falls most often involve the elderly, sedated patients, postoperative patients, semiconscious patients, and patients with a known fall history.

Suppose the patient’s condition is such that it is foreseeable that they are exposed to the risk of injury from a fall. In that case, the hospital, in the exercise of due care, is required to provide supervision of the patient. Liability may flow from a failure to do so or from negligent efforts to carry out that obligation.

The duty of care to protect a patient may be fulfilled by using protective devices designed to prevent the patient from falling and being injured.

A guardrail on a hospital bed is the most common fall prevention device.

If the patient is likely to climb over a guardrail to get out of bed (for example, going to the bathroom), due care may require a patient restraint. Or an alarm that warns the nursing staff that the patient is attempting to get out of bed.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”