Lawyers Prosecuting Nursing Home Bed Sore Injury & Fatality Cases

stage-four-pressure-sorePressure ulcers, otherwise known as bedsores, are one of the most common injuries suffered by residents of nursing homes. Bedsores are a largely preventable injury that can grow into a full-fledged infection without the proper medical care. In a worst-case scenario, the resident can die from sepsis resulting from the infection. Bedsores are perhaps the most prevalent injury that forms the basis of a lawsuit against a nursing home. Oftentimes, the fact patterns involved in a successful bedsores lawsuit are on the more egregious side, with evidence of neglect of the resident.

If your loved one has suffered from bedsores and has sustained an injury as a result, you should obtain legal representation in order to hold the nursing home accountable. Legal counsel can help you prove that the bedsore resulted from the inattention of either the nursing care or the medical care at the facility where your loved one resides. The network of affiliated attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center have handled numerous cases involving severe bedsores.

What is a Bedsore?

Bedsores are called pressure ulcers because they occur when there is prolonged pressure on the skin for a period of time. When continuous pressure is exerted, the skin breaks down. Once the skin is compromised, the underlying tissue is at risk as well. Nursing home residents will usually get bedsores on areas of their body that continuously presses against a surface, such as their buttocks, back and heel. Residents who do not have the ability to move independently have a higher risk of developing bedsores.

Bedsores are often preventable issues that can be avoided through the proper care on the part of nursing home staff. Certainly, the most severe cases often involve some instance along the way where the nursing home did not provide the resident with an adequate level of care.

Side Effects of Bedsores

The most common side effect of a bedsore is that a resident develops an infection if the pressure ulcers continues to get worse. In some cases, this will progress to sepsis which can cause the resident’s death.

What Does a Nursing Home Need to Do?

Nursing homes need to assess the risk that a resident may develop a bedsore. As stated above, those who do not have the ability to independently move have an elevated chance of pressure ulcers. The nursing home will need to have a care plan in place to address this risk. At a minimum, the nursing home staff needs to change the resident’s position at frequent intervals. For example, the plan can state that a CNA will move the resident every two hours. In addition, appropriate care can include:

  • Monitoring of skin condition
  • Repositioning of the resident
  • Keeping skin dry
  • Providing appropriate mattresses
  • Infection control measures

When a resident develops a bedsore, it needs to be staged. This is another term for assigning a rating depending on how severe the bedsore is. Here are the four stages of bedsores:

  • Stage 1 – Itchy skin that feels warm and is slightly red.
  • Stage 2 – The discoloration is more severe and the sore begins to open.
  • Stage 3 – The sore opens and becomes more of an open crater due to damage to the underlying tissue.
  • Stage 4 – The hole becomes more gaping and bone may be seen due to severe damage to skin and tissue. This is the stage where the bedsore can become infected.
diagram-pressure-sore-progression

If a bedsore has developed, it must be treated and cared for by nursing home staff. The resident’s physician must be consulted. The physician will provide a care plan that staff must follow. They should be documented the care that they provide. Oftentimes, this care plan involves continuously cleaning the wound and changing the bandages. Debridlement and antibiotics can also help treat these bedsores. If the proper care is given, bedsores can be healed in a matter of weeks. Once a pressure ulcer reaches Stages 3 and 4, they become difficult and expensive to treat.

Statistics on Bedsores

Pressure ulcers rates vary widely depending on the nursing home. Some nursing homes have rates of bedsores as low as two percent of patients, while the worse-performing nursing homes can have rates nearing 25 percent. According to survey statistics, national rates of bedsores are usually around 11 percent. Unfortunately, bedsores are a common occurrence at many nursing homes. Stage 2 pressure are the most common, accounting for nearly half the instances of bedsores. Statistics show that older nursing home residents are more likely to develop pressure ulcers due to a combination of weakened skin and lesser ability to move.

Bedsore Lawsuits

There are approximately 17,000 lawsuits filed in the U.S. each year for pressure ulcers, although this number includes both hospitals and nursing homes. Many of these cases end up settling before trial. While a bedsore is not an indicator of negligence in itself, it does not reflect highly on the level of care provided at the nursing home.

While many bedsore lawsuits will settle before trial, nursing homes run the risk of being assessed punitive damages in the event that the cases proceed to trial. Especially in cases where the nursing home’s neglect is more shocking, juries can award large punitive damages. The network of affiliated attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center can detail and describe that conduct to the jury over the course of a trial.

Pressure Ulcer Lawsuits and Settlements

Jury verdict for $3.5 million in Pennsylvania (2007) – The resident had Alzheimer’s disease. After he entered the nursing home, he fell and broke his hip and required nursing care every two hours. The resident developed pressure ulcers and the family claimed that it was because of substandard care. Medical testimony showed that nursing home staff failed to properly clean the resident’s pressure ulcers leading to an infection. The plaintiff presented evidence that staff was literally sleeping on the job and, because of that, failed to properly turn the resident as required. The jury did not give credence to the nursing home’s arguments that the pressure ulcers were part of the natural progression of Alzheimer’s disease. This was one case in which attorneys could show the jury evidence of bad behavior on the part of the nursing home.

Settlement for $525,000 in New York (2006) – Within two weeks after arriving at the nursing home, the resident began to develop pressure ulcers. The bedsores were on three different parts of the resident’s body. These ultimately worsened to Stage IV pressure ulcers and the resident went into septic shock and died. One of the main contentions of the plaintiff was that the nursing home did not follow the proper protocol in directing and following a care plan for pressure ulcers.

Verdict for $592,429 In Texas (2010) – After returning to the nursing home after a hospital stay, the resident was diagnosed with a Stage I and Stage II pressure ulcer. The pressure ulcers worsened each to Stage IV ulcers. Both of the bedsores became necrotic and infected. The plaintiffs alleged that the nursing failed to factor in the resident’s risk to the care plan and did not reposition the resident as required. The resident was hospitalized and underwent a debridement before being returned to the nursing home. Even after he returned, he continued to suffer from pressure ulcers. The resident ultimately died from the pressure ulcers.

Arbitration Award for $1,260,000 in Massachusetts (2010) – A man was transferred to a nursing home to recover from a stroke. Within two weeks of arrival, the man had developed a Stage III pressure ulcer. The resident was eventually transferred to the facility with septic shock. The pressure ulcer had degenerated to the point where bone was protruding. Although the resident did not die from pressure ulcers, the lawsuit claimed that the bedsores impeded his recovery from the stroke and reversed any progress that was made in rehabilitation.

Settlement for $650,000 in Illinois (2007) – The resident developed a large necrotic sacral pressure ulcer one month after being transferred to a nursing home. The lawsuit alleged that the plan to care for and prevent pressure ulcers did not have any individualized consideration of the resident’s condition. In addition, the nursing home allegedly did not notice a growing pressure ulcer and did not properly treat it once they did discover it. The resident claimed that the pressure ulcer required surgery and a long-term stay at a rehabilitation facility.

Settlement for $990,000 in New Jersey (2013) – The resident allegedly developed 27 different pressure ulcer during their 20 months at the nursing home. The ulcers were concentrated on the resident’s feet, heels and legs. The lawsuit claimed that the facility did not adequately monitor and document the resident’s skin condition which led to the development of an inordinate amount of pressure ulcers. The family claimed that the resident was left to lie in his own urine and that his diapers were not properly changed.

Did Your Loved One Develop a Pressure Ulcer While Residing at a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now

If your family member suffered from a pressure ulcer that caused them injury or resulted in additional pain and suffering, you may have a valid legal claim for compensation. Call the network of affiliated attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center for a free confidential case assessment. We have helped families file many cases in this area so we are very familiar with both the injury and the legal process to obtain a verdict or settlement. We will help you stand up to the nursing home and their corporate management if your loved one has suffered. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 to get the process started.

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa
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After I read Jonathan’s Nursing Home Blog, I decided to hire him to look into my wife’s treatment at a local nursing home. Jonathan did a great job explaining the process and the laws that apply to nursing homes. I immediately felt at ease and was glad to have him on my side. Though the lawsuit process was at times frustrating, Jonathan reassured me, particularly at my deposition. I really felt like Jonathan cared about my wife’s best interests, and I think that came across to the lawyers for the nursing home. Eric