Thousands of patients are injured in hospital falls every year in the United States. It’s estimated that up to a million people suffer fall accidents in a hospital setting annually. Clients too often come to us with the question: What happens if I fall in the hospital? The good news is that you can take legal action after hospital negligence causes serious injuries.
DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC is a personal injury law firm serving the people of Charleston and surrounding areas of West Virginia. If you or someone you love was injured in a hospital fall accident, we have the experience to guide you through the legal process of filing a claim. This can help you rightfully recover the financial compensation needed for medical bills and other expenses associated with your fall injury.
What Causes Falls in Hospitals?
Certain factors specific to hospitals make health care facilities the site of thousands of fall accidents every year. These factors can be categorized as environmental factors and patient factors.
In research conducted on the frequency of hospital falls, hospital negligence was consistently identified as a factor in a majority of fall cases. Much of this negligence results from overworking and understaffing that causes patients to be neglected, ignored when calling for help, or improperly evaluated for fall risk. Poor communication among staff members or between administration and staff also leads to an environment in which falls can happen more easily.
Some of the top environmental factors that cause hospital falls include:
- Slippery floors and overly-smooth, frequently polished walking surfaces
- Hallways crowded with stretchers, medical carts, and people
- Patients left unattended in bed
- Staff who are unresponsive or slow to respond to patient calls
- A failure to instruct patients about the call light and how to use it to summon help
- Non-functioning or non-existent bed exit alarms for high-risk patients
- Patients who are inaccurately assessed for fall risk
- Bathroom placement that requires an at-risk patient to walk a significant distance
- Communication errors among staff that prevent the relay of important information about a patient’s fall risk
- Scheduling medications with fall risk side effects for times when a patient is required to walk
- Cleaning supplies left in walking areas
- Poor lighting
- Faulty elevators or escalators
- Footwear for patients that is inappropriate for hospital floor surfaces
- A failure to educate patients about the side effects of medication
- A lack of bedrails or handrails in stairwells, hallways, near toilets, and other places where they are needed
A patient in a hospital is often already at high risk for a fall accident, for several reasons. In addition to the environmental factors that cause falls to happen more frequently, patients themselves are more likely to fall if they are:
- Taking medications that may cause drowsiness, lethargy, confusion, or loss of balance
- Experiencing a health condition that limits mobility or causes weakness
- Elderly or experiencing compromised health
- Using a walker, wheelchair, or another assistive device
- Dependent upon the help of an orderly or aide who may not be present
- Attached to a rolling IV pole that can make walking more difficult
- Recently awakened from anesthesia or medically-induced sleep
- In an unfamiliar location
- Barefoot or wearing slippers with little to no traction
What Injuries Are Most Common in Hospital Fall Accidents?
Unfortunately, the injuries associated with hospital falls are often severe and sometimes fatal. Because many of the patients who fall in hospitals are older adults, vulnerable adults, and people already suffering a serious health condition or injury, the consequences of a fall can be much more dangerous.
Injuries commonly suffered in hospital falls include:
- Broken bones, particularly fractured ribs and lung injuries, hip fractures, and broken ankles and wrists
- Internal organ damage
- Traumatic head and brain injuries
- Spinal cord injuries and paralysis
- Lacerations, bruises, and abrasions
- Torn stitches and reopening of healing wounds
- Worsening of an existing condition
Hospital Fall Injury Statistics
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has identified hospital falls as a “Never Event”—a serious and entirely preventable incident that should never occur. A hospital, more than any other organization, should understand the risks patients face and take actionable steps to prevent fall accidents from happening.
Recent hospital fall injury statistics show us the scope of the issue in our nation’s medical care facilities.
- Between 700,000 and 1,000,000 people are estimated to fall in U.S. hospitals every year.
- Roughly one in three people who fall in a hospital will be seriously injured.
- Over 10,000 people die from hospital falls every year in the U.S.
- Most people who suffer falls in the hospital are required to remain an additional six days to one week under medical care.
If You Fall in the Hospital, Get the Help of an Experienced Attorney
At DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we defend the rights of those injured through hospital negligence. What happens after you fall in the hospital should be your decision, not the decision of a doctor or nurse eager to protect their employer from liability. Bring your case to our law firm, and we can help you determine your legal rights based on the specifics of your accident.
Our personal injury law firm specializes in fall accidents and other types of premises liability cases. If you schedule a free case evaluation to gain legal advice from one of our top fall attorneys, you are under no obligation to continue your case with our law office. Schedule an appointment today to learn more about your rights and legal options if you suffered a fall in a hospital.