Lawyers for Nursing Home Patients Injured in Wheelchair Accidents
Wheelchair safety in a nursing home can mean many different things. Each one adds up to an obligation on the part of the nursing home to take the proper care to make sure that the resident avoids injury. When a resident is injured either in their wheelchair, or transferring in or out of it, there is a possibility that it may have been caused by the negligence of the nursing home. Wheelchair injuries can encompass a wide variety of accidents, but they are all legally actionable. Nursing homes must exercise the proper level of care and they can be held legally responsible in a lawsuit if they do not.
The Nursing Home Law Center can help you and your family get the legal results that you deserve if your loved one has been injured in this type of an accident. We have the experience and the skill necessary to go after a nursing home and take on their high-priced attorneys. We will work tirelessly on your behalf as your case makes its way through the legal process and will exhaust every avenue to help you get justice.Statistics About Wheelchair Accidents at Nursing Homes
As of 2003, nearly two million Americans required the use of a wheelchair. Wheelchair injuries resulted in over 100,000 trips to the emergency room, meaning that these injuries are fairly prevalent. Nursing home residents experience an average of over two falls each year. Many of these falls occur when they are getting into and out of their wheelchair.
When a resident uses a wheelchair, the nursing home has many different obligations that require them to use care. When pushing a resident in a wheelchair, staff must be careful to both not harm the resident in the wheelchair or anyone else who can be hurt by the chair. Staff must make sure that the resident is secure in the chair when they are being moved. The nursing home must also properly maintain the wheelchair to prevent accidents. Maintenance issues can cause the wheelchair to malfunction and can cause a mishap.Why Do Wheelchair Accidents Occur at Nursing Homes?
The prevalence of mechanized wheelchairs as opposed to manual ones had led to an increase in wheelchair accidents. While some residents still have the older non-mechanized wheelchairs, many nursing home residents are not strong enough to use these and end up with mechanized wheelchairs to give them better freedom to move. This means that residents are maneuvering around the nursing home in electric chairs and can cause injury to themselves or to others. A wheelchair could strike another resident and cause them to fall or fracture a bone. Alternatively, a mechanical difficulty with the wheelchair can cause the resident to lose control of the chair, injuring either themselves or someone else.
Another type of wheelchair injury involves a resident who falls while getting into or out of their wheelchair. Many residents are infirm and cannot get themselves into or out of their chair. However, poor supervision or care for the residents may mean that residents are still attempting to get out of their chair on their own. For example, a resident may need to use the bathroom and has requested assistance that they are not receiving. They will then try to stand up and can fall and injure themselves. This type of injury is both a fall and a wheelchair accident. Another example of this type of injury is when a nursing home is supposed to use footrests on a wheelchair but does not, causing a resident to fall and get injured.
Even if the resident is receiving help, nursing home staff may not be using the proper precautions in transferring the resident. For example, the resident’s care plan may require that two CNAs transfer the resident in and out of the chair. In some injuries, the staff is not following the care plan, sometimes by having only one CNA attempt to execute the transfer. Alternatively, staff could be using a mechanized device such as a Hoyer lift to get the resident out of the wheelchair and could have used the device incorrectly, causing an accident.How Can Wheelchair Accidents at Nursing Homes Be Prevented?
When a resident has an accident in their wheelchair, the nursing home has obligations to reassess their care plan and take remedial measures to prevent a recurrence of the accident. Residents who have fallen once are prime risks to fall another time. However, the facility needs to take care to avoid the use of unnecessary restraints if at all possible. If there is a maintenance issue, the nursing home has an obligation to promptly address it so the resident is not placed at risk by a defective wheelchair.
There are several precautions that a nursing home should be taking as best practices when a resident is a risk of a wheelchair accident:
- A seat alarm that alerts staff when the resident is trying to get up
- Increased therapy to help the resident get stronger to improve standing and sitting
- Extra assistance from staff when the resident needs to get up and sit down
- Meticulously making sure to follow all care and transfer plans
With regard to the actual operation of the wheelchair, the nursing home should:
- Routinely check the wheelchair for mechanical issues
- Remove impediments that can make it more dangerous for a resident to operate their wheelchairs
- Review the setup of the chair to make sure that it presents no danger for the resident
Residents can also be injured while sitting in their wheelchairs. There could be a malfunction of the device itself that causes the resident an injury such as a burn. Alternatively, the resident could be injured by sitting in their wheelchair for too long, which can lead to pressure ulcers.Lawsuits Against a Nursing Home for Wheelchair Accidents
Lawsuit filed in Illinois (2018) – The resident’s wheelchair was experiencing a problem in that its wheel could not lock. Instead of taking the time to properly repair the wheelchair, the nursing allegedly tried to fix the wheelchair with plain tape. The resident tried to stand up and the wheelchair moved, causing the resident to fall and break his femur and dislocate his hip.
Settlement for an undisclosed amount in Kentucky (2017) – The Kentucky nursing home resident was missing for an extended period of time. He was found dead at the bottom of a stairwell. When maneuvering his chair, he accidentally went through an emergency door and to a stairwell, where his wheelchair tumbled down a flight of stairs. The resident was not found until hours later. The emergency door was unlocked, allowing the resident to go through it on his chair.
Settlement for $312,000 in Michigan (2003) – The resident was being transported in a van in his wheelchair. The driver failed to properly secure the wheelchair in the van. The driver was travelling at an excessive rate of speed and the resident was thrown from his wheelchair suffering a fractured hip.
Settlement for $175,000 in Michigan (2005) – The resident was being transported in a wheelchair when the wheels made contact with the wheels of another resident’s wheelchair. This caused the resident to fall forward out of her chair where she hit her head and died. A nursing home must not only ensure the resident’s safety when they are being moved, but they must also take care to ensure that other residents operate their wheelchairs safely. For more information on Michigan nursing homes, look here.
Award for $1.675 million in California (2011) – The resident was an alcoholic and had a tendency to fall asleep in his wheelchair. The resident fell asleep and fell forward and hit his head on the ground and died. The lawsuit claimed that the nursing home should have taken the precaution to have a restraint on the resident’s wheelchair to keep him from falling out of the chair. The California nursing home claimed that it would not have been proper to use a restraint in this case.
Jury Verdict for $6,000,000 in Texas (2005) – The resident was placed in a wheelchair. However, the lawsuit alleged that she was not put in the wheelchair properly and was not secured in place. Although there was a belt to restrain her, the resident’s head got caught in that belt, causing her to die a painful and excruciating death. The jury recognized the pain that the woman suffered and two thirds of this verdict was for pain and suffering. More Texas nursing home information can be found here.Has Your Loved One Been Injured in a Wheelchair Accident at a Nursing Home? Get Legal Help Now?
Wheelchair accidents often happen as a result of negligence on the part of a nursing home. These facilities cannot escape responsibility for their actions or lack of actions when it comes to an accident that has harmed your loved one. The attorneys at the Nursing Home Law Center will use the law to the fullest extent to make sure of that. Call us today at (800) 726-9565 to schedule a free no-risk case consultation where we can discuss the facts of your case with you. During that initial call, we can let you know if we believe that you have a possible claim for compensation and what you will need to do to receive a financial recovery.Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect Resources