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Lawyers for Nursing Home Patients Injured in Wheelchair Accidents
Wheelchair safety in a nursing home often means different things where the nursing staff is obligated to properly care for residents to avoid injury.
Staff negligence is often a contributing factor when residents are injured while transferring from a wheelchair to a bed, toilet, or shower.
Wheelchair injuries might encompass a wide array of accidents that are all legally actionable. Nursing staff must exercise the proper standard of care to every resident or be held legally responsible in a lawsuit if they do not.
A Wheelchair Accident Injury Attorney Can Help
The personal injury attorneys at Nursing Home Law Center LLC can help your family member get the legal results they deserve if they were injured in a wheelchair accident. Our years of experience and skills are proven effective in resolving negligent care compensation lawsuits.
Our injury lawyers 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.
Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident Injury FAQs
The nursing home staff members must accurately diagnose the resident's condition and develop an effective, safe environment Care Plan to minimize injury accidents. The staff must always identify any probable cause that might make the victim fall from their wheelchair, including:
- Imbalance issues
- Physical weakness
- Confusion and uncertainty associated with medication, Alzheimer's disease, memory loss, or dementia
- Declining health
Nursing homes can help their residents improve declining physical weakness, cognition issues, or environmental factors by encouraging physical and occupational therapies. The physical therapist (PT) must assess the resident's gait, posterior, and inability to transfer between a wheelchair/bed and another surface.
The therapy program could help correct imbalance and strength issues that are often the core of falling from wheelchairs and seated/standing positions. Using a wheelchair alarm could alert the nursing staff when the resident requires immediate assistance.
According to the National Council on Aging, nursing home residents should remain in the wheelchair for no longer than three to four hours without transferring to different positions. Additionally, the nursing staff should ensure that the resident repositions their body at least once every ninety minutes to two hours to avoid developing bedsores caused by immobility.
Utilizing stabilizing cushions, footplates, and anti-tipping devices and teaching the resident to use the brakes could reduce many of the common problems associated with wheelchair falls.
Any unexpected fall from a wheelchair could be catastrophic with lifelong consequences to the victim's mental, physical, and emotional health. Common injuries associated with falling from wheelchairs include:
- Broken bones, fractures, bruising, open wounds
- Shear (tearing) injuries that without treatment could degrade to a pressure sore (pressure ulcer, decubitus ulcer, pressure wound, bedsore)
- Delayed rehabilitation where an injury to the legs, hips, and back affect the resident's mobility
- Diminished confidence/dignity when the resident loses their confidence to move about freely and begin depending on others for help, hurting their pride and dignity after becoming less independent
The nursing staff could tailor the resident's wheelchair to maximize their comfort and ease their mobility challenges. The wheelchair could be adjusted to the resident's clinical needs, leg length, and height to maximize their functionality.
A properly adjusted wheelchair could dramatically reduce the potential risk of sliding or falling. Devices to consider installing include:
- Negative angle leg rests
- Back angle reclines
- Adjustable footplates
- Lateral supports
- Adjustable seat angle reclines
- Adjustable seat depths
- Riser supports
- Anterior leg rest supports
Statistics About Wheelchair Accidents
According to the CDC (Centers For Disease Control And Prevention), nearly two million Americans require mobility assistance every year. Over one hundred thousand patients who use wheelchairs make trips to the hospital for emergency care to treat fractures or traumatic brain injuries.
Nursing residents experience an average of over two fall accidents each year, where many accidents happen when getting into and out of their wheelchair.
The nursing home staff must ensure residents using mobility assistive devices are safe. Nursing home employees must be careful not to harm any physically disabled resident when pushing them in a wheelchair. Staff must make sure that the resident is secure and adequately position before being moved.
The home must ensure that all wheelchairs are properly maintained to avoid malfunctioning resulting in severe bodily harm.
Why Wheelchair Accidents Occur
The prevalence of mechanized chairs has led to an increase in wheelchair accidents. Some residents still use the older, manually operated chairs. However, many elderly residents are not strong enough to use the non-mechanized device and desire the freedom to move about with a mechanized chair.
Improper maneuvering around the nursing facility in electric chairs could lead to self-injury in harm to others. A chair could strike another resident and cause them to fall or fracture a bone.
Alternatively, a mechanical difficulty with the assistive device can cause the resident to lose control of the chair, injuring either themselves or someone else. Another type of serious wheelchair accident involves a resident who falls while getting into or out of their assistive mobility device.
Many residents are infirm and cannot get themselves into or out of their chairs. However, a lack of nursing home care or inadequate supervision could allow residents to attempt to get out of their chairs without assistance.
For example, a resident might need to use the bathroom and not receive the assistance they requested. They might attempt to go to the bathroom alone, falling and suffering a head injury, hip fracture, cuts, bruises, or lacerations.
This type of injury is both a fall and a wheelchair accident. Another example of this type of injury is when footrests are improperly used.
Even if the resident is receiving help, nursing home staff might not be using the proper precautions in transferring the resident. For example, the resident's care plan might require that two CNAs transfer the resident in and out of the chair.
Many injuries are caused by the staff's failure to follow the care plan when executing a transfer from the bed to the wheelchair or wheelchair to the toilet/shower. Alternatively, the staff failed to properly use a Hoyer lift to transfer the resident out of the chair, causing an accident.
Preventing Wheelchair Accidents
When a resident has an accident in their chair, the facility has obligations to reassess their care plan and take remedial measures to prevent the accident's recurrence. 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 possible. If there is a maintenance issue, the nursing facility must promptly address it so the resident is not placed at risk by a defective chair.
There are several precautions and best practices that a skilled nursing home facility should take to reduce the resident's 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 members when the resident needs to get up and sit down
- Meticulously making sure to follow all care and transfer plans
- Routinely readjust the resident's position while in a wheelchair to reduce the potential development of pressure sores (bedsores)
Regarding the actual operation of the device, the home should:
- Routinely check for mechanical issues
- Remove impediments that can make it more dangerous for a resident to operate their devices
- Review the setup of the chair to make sure that it presents no danger for the resident
Residents can also be injured while sitting. 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, leading to bedsores.
Sample Lawsuits & Settlements Wheelchair Accidents
A lawsuit filed in Illinois (2018) – The nursing home staff allegedly attempted to fix a resident's wheelchair that would not lock by using plain tape. The resident attempted to stand up, causing the wheelchair to move.
The wheelchair's movement because the patient to fall and break his femur, dislocating his hip, resulting in extensive medical expenses and hospitalization.
Settlement for an undisclosed amount in Kentucky (2017) – A Kentucky nursing home resident, missing for some time, was found dead at the bottom of a stairwell. Investigators determined that when maneuvering his chair, the victim accidentally went through an emergency door into a stairwell, where his wheelchair tumbled down a flight of stairs.
The resident was not found until hours later. The emergency door was unlocked, providing the resident access to a dangerous area.
Settlement for $312,000 in Michigan (2003) – During the transport of a resident into a transportation van, the driver failed to properly secure the wheelchair. The driver was traveling at an excessive speed when the resident was thrown from his wheelchair, suffering a fractured hip.
The plaintiff's nursing home abuse lawyers take the case to trial where jurors awarded compensation for medical bills and future medical care.
Settlement for $175,000 in Michigan (2005) – The resident was being transported in a wheelchair when the wheels contacted 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 long-term care facility 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 facilities, look here.
Award for $1.675 million in California (2011) – The resident was an alcoholic with 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 plaintiff's nursing home neglect attorneys claimed that the facility should have taken the precaution to have a restraint on the resident's wheelchair to prevent fall injuries. The California facility claimed that it would not have been proper to use restraints 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 information can be found here.
Has Your Loved One Been Injured in a Wheelchair Accident at a Nursing Home? Contact an Attorney Now
Wheelchair accidents often happen because of nursing home negligence. 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 nursing home wheelchair accident attorneys at the NHLC will use the law to the fullest extent to make sure of that.
Contact our law firm today at (888) 424-5757 (toll-free phone call) to speak with a real person or through the contact form to schedule a free consultation. 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.
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