Hospital falls can result in sprains, bruises, cuts, fractures, or head trauma. If you suffer a fall in a hospital, your case may be considered either a malpractice or premise liability claim. The appropriate type of legal action to pursue depends on the circumstances that caused the incident.
Falls Related to Medical Malpractice
A fall in a hospital could constitute medical malpractice if a patient fell because of complications associated with his medical condition. Examples of this type of malpractice case might include:
- Falls related to medication. If dizziness or loss of coordination are side effects of the medication a patient received, the hospital has a duty to take precautions to prevent falls. This might include using restraints, electronic monitoring devices, or beds that are difficult to get out of without assistance.
- Falls related to a failure to diagnose a specific medical condition. Doctors who fail to recognize the signs of a stroke or other medical condition resulting in unsteadiness, confusion, and/or limited mobility can be held liable for malpractice if the patient falls.
- Falls related to negligence. Hospitals have protocols for identifying patients as a fall risk when they are dehydrated or complaining of symptoms such as dizziness and lightheadedness. Neglecting to assist a patient or take other precautions to prevent a fall in this case could leave the facility liable for resulting injuries.
- Falls when patients are left unattended. Hospitals that leave patients unattended during transfer or while waiting in treatment rooms can be held liable for failing to provide proper supervision and monitoring, even if the patient wasn't initially considered a fall risk.
To prove a malpractice case, you must establish four key elements:
- The existence of a doctor/patient relationship with a provider at the hospital
- The correct standard of care for your condition, according to recognized medical experts
- How the hospital deviated from appropriate treatment for your condition
- The damages you suffered as the result of the failure to follow the appropriate standard of car—this can include the need for additional medical procedures or being required to take time off work to recover from your injuries
Falls Related to Ordinary Negligence
If you slip and fall in a hospital for a reason that isn't related to your medical condition, you would likely seek damages under ordinary negligence law. Examples of this type of case include:
- You tripped over medical equipment while visiting a patient at the hospital.
- You tripped on torn carpeting in the visitor's area.
- You slipped on a wet or recently waxed floor.
- You slipped due to poor lighting in a stairwell.
- You didn't see a pothole in the parking lot and tripped as you were returning to your car.
When a fall is related to ordinary negligence, the burden of proof is easier to meet. Instead of establishing the four elements of a malpractice case, you only need to determine what was reasonable under the circumstances with regard to proper hospital maintenance. For example, if you fell on a freshly mopped floor, you would only need to establish that the facility created the hazard by neglecting to place warning signs in the area.
One factor that distinguishes medical malpractice claims from ordinary negligence cases is comparative carelessness. In a malpractice claim, the doctor and other members of the healthcare team have the responsibility to prevent you from falling. In an ordinary negligence case, your compensation can be reduced if you were careless in preventing injury to yourself. For example, if you didn't see a hazard because you were texting on your phone, you'd likely be found to be partially at fault for the incident, and your settlement would be reduced accordingly.
Retaining Legal Representation
When you slip and fall at a hospital, retaining legal representation is essential. An experienced attorney can advise you on the correct type of action to pursue and how to best document your injuries. Your attorney can also negotiate a settlement on your behalf, leaving you free to focus on recovering from your injuries and getting back to your daily routine.
The legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents protect their right to compensation after slip and fall accidents. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.