Articles Posted in Fall Malpractice

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Healthcare facilities have long understood that patients whose conditions include mobility problems are at an increased risk of falling and injuring themselves. In recognition of this fact, such facilities – including nursing homes – often institute internal policies and procedures governing the process of identifying those patients who are at high risk for falls as well as mechanisms for preventing those patients from falling.

The risk of falling for those patients with mobility impairments is exponentially higher when going to and from the restroom, when showering, and when changing clothes. During these times, a nurse or other healthcare provider should remain in close enough proximity to the patient to catch them if he or she appears unsteady or is about to fall. In the field of nursing, the term used to describe this close proximity is a “contact guard” and requires that the nurse maintain “contact” with a patient’s body so as to both support and assist them while ambulating. In the event that a patient should begin to fall, a nursing aid who is maintaining proper contact with a patient should thus be in a position to “catch” the patient and guide them to a walker, chair or to the floor in a manner that would avoid a traumatic fall/injury.

Unfortunately, physicians, nurses, and other staff at these facilities often violate their own policies and procedures by failing to provide contact guard assistance to patients at increased risk of falling. When a patient who is already at a heightened risk for falling does in fact fall, it can cause catastrophic injuries and aggravate the already-compromised condition of the patient. Falls also can cause significant setbacks in many patients’ road to recovery. Of course, in elderly patients, a fall can result in a shortened road to ultimate demise.

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The family of an 86-year-old Massachusetts woman has settled their medical malpractice case arising from the death of the woman after she fell from an operating table following hip surgery. The case settled for $800,000. The woman died seven days after she suffered a severe head injury during the negligent fall, as she was being prepared for transfer to her hospital bed. The fall caused severe internal bleeding and fractured her skull. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health investigated the case and concluded that the fall led to the woman’s death. It found deficiencies in procedure which led to the fall. A copy of the article can be found here.

My name is Andrew Slutkin. As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have successfully handled a significant number of medical malpractice / negligence cases involving falls that cause severe injury or even death. All of the cases involve people who are in a vulnerable position – such as being elderly or sick – and cannot take care of themselves. It’s always important to carefully examine the medical records to see what happened. But because these are the types of injuries where the injury is known to the health care providers at the time it happens, the medical records frequently make it seem like the heath care providers did everything correctly yet the fall somehow occurred. That is why witness and family accounts frequently help to determine what really happened. It also is important to check the health care provider’s policies and procedures to determine if rules and regulations were followed. To see some of the cases I have handled, click here.

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