Bedsores are injuries caused by excess pressure on the skin, often stemming from long periods of sitting or lying in the same position. In hospitals and nursing homes, these skin injuries are relatively easy to avoid with proper monitoring and intervention.
Unfortunately, neglect is a common problem in hospital and nursing home settings. If a patient is left in the same position for too long, they may develop bed sores on the body parts in constant contact with the bed or wheelchair.
When left untreated, pressure ulcers can lead to further complications, such as infections and death.
If you or a loved one developed bed sores due to poor nursing home care, the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC could help you seek justice.
Our experienced lawyers help victims recover financial compensation for their injuries and hold negligent parties accountable for their actions.
What Are Bed Sores?
Bed sores, also known as pressure ulcers, are injuries to the skin and underlying tissue caused by excess pressure on the skin. If a person sits or lies in one position for too long, the body’s weight against the surface creates pressure and cuts off blood circulation. Then, a wound forms, and the tissue dies.
Pressure ulcers usually develop on the skin covering bony body parts, such as the hips, ankles, tailbone, and heels. People most susceptible to these injuries have limited mobility, such as bedridden patients and wheelchair users.
Four Stages of Bedsores
Pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers develop in four stages:
- Stage I: In the first stage, the sores only affect the uppermost layer of the skin. The patient may feel slight pain, burning, and itching. The affected area may feel firmer, softer, warmer, or cooler than the surrounding skin. When spotted early, Stage I sores usually go away on their own.
- Stage II: As the sore penetrates deeper into the skin, a Stage II bed sore forms and will leave an open wound or pus-filled blister. The affected skin is swollen, warm, and red and may leak clear fluid or pus. The patient may complain of significant pain in the area. Since there is an open wound, there is a risk of infection at this stage.
- Stage III: Stage III bed sores have gone through the second layer of the skin and penetrated the fat tissue. The wound looks like a crater and may emit a foul odor. It may also show signs of infection, such as pus, odor, heat, and fluid drainage. If the skin has died, the tissue surrounding the sore will be black. These sores require immediate medical care to prevent infection.
- Stage IV: A Stage IV pressure ulcer is a serious injury with a high risk of infection. The sore has reached the muscles, ligaments, or bones at this stage. The skin has blackened and shows signs of infection, and the tendons, muscles, and bones may be visible, depending on the depth of the wound. Untreated Stage IV bedsores are potentially fatal.
Common Sites of Pressure Sores
Pressure ulcers usually develop on the skin over the following body parts:
- Shoulder blades
- Spinal cord
- Back of arms and legs (for wheelchair users)
- Back or sides of the head
- Lower back
- Heels, ankles, behind the knees
Causes of Bedsores
Bed sores are caused by prolonged pressure on the skin, causing limited blood flow. As the skin is deprived of oxygen and nutrients, the skin and underlying tissue on the pressure point start to die.
Aside from pressure, the following factors contribute to the development of bed sores:
- Friction: Rubbing skin against clothing or bedding creates friction, making the skin more susceptible to injury.
- Moisture: Excess moisture on the skin due to sweat or incontinence increases the risk of skin breakdown.
- Shear: Shearing occurs when two surfaces, such as the skin and bedding, move in opposite directions. It makes the skin more fragile and more vulnerable to damage.
What Happens When a Patient Develops Bed Sores?
Bed sores can cause significant and sometimes debilitating pain to patients, especially to frail nursing home residents. Furthermore, pressure ulcers can lead to severe injuries, such as:
- Cellulitis: The infection of the skin and connective tissue is called cellulitis. It is caused by bacteria, namely staphylococcus and streptococcus. When left untreated, bacteria can enter a pressure sore and cause cellulitis, leading to pain, redness, and swelling.
- Bone and Joint Infections: An untreated bed sore can allow bacteria to enter the wound and penetrate joints and bones, causing infections, e.g., septic arthritis and osteomyelitis.
- Cancer: In rare cases, long-term, non-healing sores can develop into a specific type of squamous cell carcinoma.
- Sepsis: An infected bed sore can lead to sepsis, a life-threatening inflammatory response to infection. Sepsis can injure tissues and organs, causing permanent damage or death.
How Does Nursing Home Neglect Lead to Pressure Ulcers?
In nursing homes and hospitals, a pressure wound is almost always caused by neglect. There is no justifiable reason for a patient to develop bed sores if provided with proper care. Unfortunately, negligence usually comes into play, in the following forms:
- Inadequate Repositioning: Bedridden or patients who use wheelchairs require frequent repositioning to reduce stress on the skin. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, patients must change positions every two hours. Bed sores in nursing homes usually stem from a lack of repositioning due to willful or intentional neglect.
- Poor Hygiene Care: Excess moisture can contribute to the development of bed sores, especially for patients with urinary or bowel incontinence. Nursing home staff must clean patients and change diapers regularly to avoid moisture from accumulating.
- Insufficient Hydration and Nutrition: Not getting enough water and nutrients can make the skin dry, weak, and more prone to pressure sores. Hence, nursing home patients suffering from severe neglect are more prone to injuries due to dehydration and malnutrition.
- Lack of Bed Sore Risk Screening: Patients with illnesses that affect blood flow, such as diabetes, may be at a higher risk of serious bedsores. Nursing homes and hospital staff must screen patients for risk factors to apply appropriate mitigation measures.
- Delayed Diagnosis: Failure to diagnose and treat bedsores on time is considered medical malpractice. Failing to prevent these injuries is a significant indicator of neglect, but a lack of a timely diagnosis indicates severe negligence.
- Poor Wound Care: If a pressure sore already developed on a patient’s skin, nursing staff must properly care for the wound to avoid infection and further skin loss.
- Lack of Mobility Support: Patients with Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and other similar conditions may be unable to move as freely as they want. A nursing care facility must provide mobility assistance to these patients to reduce their risk of bed sores and other injuries.
Root Causes of Nursing Home Neglect and Medical Malpractice
Medical negligence usually stems from the following factors:
- Understaffing: Many nursing facilities have insufficient staff to care for every nursing home resident. When staff is stretched too thin, at-risk patients may not be able to receive assistance for relieving the constant pressure on their bodies.
- Inadequate Training: Hospital and nursing home staff should know when and how to reposition patients to prevent bedsores. Unfortunately, not all staff in elderly care facilities are trained in bedsore prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
- Lack of Equipment: Proper care and medical technology are crucial for bedsore prevention. If a nursing facility does not have the equipment to reposition patients or prevent continuous pressure on the skin, residents are at a higher risk of sores.
Can You File a Bed Sore Lawsuit?
Nursing homes are legally required to protect residents from harm and preventable conditions, including pressure wounds. This responsibility includes:
- Establishing bedsore prevention measures and protocols
- Training staff to recognize, diagnose, monitor, and treat bedsores properly
- Providing equipment to help prevent, diagnose, and treat pressure sores
Any hospital patient or nursing home resident that suffers a bed sore due to poor care may be entitled to financial compensation for medical malpractice. If you or a loved one suffered bedsores due to abuse or neglect, you could file a bed sore case against the at-fault individual or facility.
To file a bedsore lawsuit against the at-fault hospital or nursing home, you must prove the following are true:
- The defendant owed a duty of care to you. Hospitals and nursing homes owe a duty of care to all residents to protect them from unnecessary harm.
- The defendant breached this duty of care. The formation of a bed sore is a clear sign of neglect, a breach of a facility’s legal obligation.
- You suffered a significant injury. You must show that you suffered a substantial injury (in this case, a pressure ulcer) using physical evidence, such as photos and medical records.
- The defendant’s actions directly led to your injuries. Additionally, you must prove that the defendant’s negligence directly caused your pressure ulcer and other losses, such as medical bills, disability, pain and suffering, etc.
Proving Liability and Damages
Your medical malpractice lawyer will help you collect substantial evidence to prove your damages, including:
- Medical records
- Nursing home records
- Photos of injuries
- Witness accounts detailing hospital or nursing home neglect
- Surveillance footage showing a lack of proper care
- Medical expert testimony
Sometimes, bedsore settlements depend on the availability and strength of evidence.
How Much is Your Bedsore Lawsuit Settlement Worth?
Bedsore lawsuit settlements differ from case to case. The value of your payment will largely depend on the extent of your damages, including:
- Medical Expenses: Your out-of-pocket expenses for hospitalization, medication, surgery, emergency transportation, therapy, and future medical care costs.
- Disability: Mobility aid expenses, rehabilitation costs, loss of quality of life compensation, and other related damages if you or your loved one become disabled.
- Pain and Suffering: The dollar amount attached to your physical and emotional injuries, including physical pain, emotional trauma, mental anguish, etc.
- Loss of Quality of Life: The dollar amount equal to the quality or enjoyment of life you’ve lost due to your injuries.
- Lost Wages: Salaries, wages, benefits, and business revenue lost while recovering from your pressure ulcer or caring for an injured loved one.
- Scarring and Disfigurement: Financial compensation for emotional anguish, surgery, and other related damages if your pressure ulcer becomes a permanent scar.
- Wrongful Death: Funeral and burial costs, pre-death medical expenses, loss of consortium, and other related damages if your loved one dies due to pressure ulcer complications.
- Punitive Damages: Additional compensation used to punish defendants for gross negligence.
Pressure ulcer compensation may also depend on the victim’s age, the severity of the sores, the level of negligence involved, and other applicable factors.
Bedsore lawsuit settlement amounts vary far and wide. Some cases recover less than $50,000, while others end in half a million dollars in verdicts. An experienced attorney can help you determine how much your claim is worth, so you know what to expect.
Who is Liable for Your Bedsore Settlement?
Depending on your case, you can file a bedsore lawsuit against the following:
- Nurses and nursing assistants
- Nursing home owners and administrators
The hospital or nursing home may be liable for your damages, regardless of who is directly at fault. The nursing facility is responsible for its employees’ actions and is therefore accountable for injuries arising from employee negligence.
However, you will likely file your case against the facility’s insurance company. Nursing homes have liability insurance policies to limit their expenses in civil matters, including bedsore lawsuits.
Unfortunately, recovering a fair bedsore lawsuit settlement is easier said than done. Insurance companies usually want to pay as little as possible for bedsore settlements to protect their bottom line, which is why they typically offer low values.
Nevertheless, your personal injury attorney can help you negotiate a fair settlement, whether it’s $10,000 or more than a million dollars.
Do You Need to Hire a Lawyer?
You can file a bedsore lawsuit on your own, but having legal assistance will help you recover a fair bed sore lawsuit settlement faster and easier. Once you contact our law firm, our lawyers will help you with the following steps:
- Investigate how and why the pressure ulcer occurred
- Identify medical errors that caused your pressure ulcer
- Determine who is liable and establish their negligence
- Calculate the potential value of your pressure ulcer compensation
- Collect substantial evidence to support your claim against the care facility
- File a claim with the appropriate insurance provider
- Negotiate a fair bedsore settlement
- File a lawsuit in civil court on your behalf, if necessary
Ask your nursing home lawyer during your initial consultation if you have more questions regarding your bedsore settlement.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Medical Malpractice Attorney Near You
Hospital patients and nursing home residents deserve the utmost care and respect. Unfortunately, abuse and neglect are widespread problems in our healthcare facilities, increasing the risk of preventable conditions, including severe bedsores.
If you or a loved one developed a pressure wound in a care facility, you deserve justice for such unnecessary suffering. The personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC have extensive experience filing and recovering significant bedsore settlements for victims.
In the process, our attorneys also hold at-fault facilities accountable for such gross negligence.
Contact our personal injury law firm at (888) 424-5757 or use the contact form for a free case evaluation. All sensitive or confidential information you share with our legal team will remain private under an attorney-client relationship.
Our nursing home abuse lawyers handle all accepted bedsore lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. This agreement ensures you don’t have to pay our legal fees unless we win your case.