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Slip and Fall Accidents - Hospitals and Nursing Homes

Robert Karns

slip & fall accidents that occur in a hospital or nursing home are extremely unique and often times fall under medical malpractice law. Although a slip & fall accident in a medical facility is a far cry from a doctor or nurse making a mistake causing an injury, the facts leading up to slip and fall accidents in a medical facility fall under the medical standards of care.

What this means is that in order to establish liability against a hospital or nursing home concerning a slip & fall the victim must show a violation of the standard of care that caused the injury. This is different than proving negligence against a store owner when a slip and fall occurs. There are medical standards of care that must be reviewed that govern how hospitals and nursing homes must treat the risk of a fall.

These injuries are nearly epidemic as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 50% to 85% of more than 1.5 million Americans ages 65 and older who live in nursing homes fall each year. This number is multiplied by the number of elderly in hospitals that fall each year.

The standard of care advises that all patients admitted to hospitals and nursing homes be assessed for their risk of falling. This classification allows the medical provider to concentrate their efforts on patients that have a high risk of falling to identify who may have a slip & fall accident. There are tools that are used to assess this risk as follows:

  • Morse Fall Scale - This is a scale that is filled out by the medical provider and indicates the patients history of falling, their diagnosis, any ambulatory needs, ability to walk and mental status. All of these areas scored and the higher e score indicates the higher the risk of falling.
  • The Hendrich II Fall Risk Model - This is another chart that assesses fall risk and gets into confusion and disorientation, symptomatic depression, dizziness and vertigo, medication and other relevant areas that also assess the risk of a fall.

Other standards of care would apply also including the following:

  • Whether or not the patient should have been allowed to shower on his or her own.
  • Whether the patient should have been left in a chair without restraints.
  • Whether side bed guards should have been used.
  • Whether the patient should have been restrained from walking around.
  • Whether the medication was closely monitored.

These cases are far different from a shopper having a slip & fall accident in a store. Because the victims of a slip and fall accident in a medical facility are there for medical treatment and the standard of care being given to them must be examined to establish liability.

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