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Chicago Nursing Home Bedsore Lawyer

Pressure Sore InjuriesBedsores, also called pressure sores, decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers, are a graphic sign of neglect at nursing facilities, hospitals, and other long-term care facilities. The Chicago bed sore attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have successfully resolved bedsore cases in all care settings in Cook County and other jurisdictions in Illinois.

Our experience litigating and resolving Chicago bedsore lawsuits has given us a unique perspective to evaluate your specific situation. If your family member developed bedsore during an admission to a medical facility we invite you to speak to an experienced attorney regarding your rights for pursuing legal action. As with all of our nursing home abuse and medical malpractice cases, we offer a free initial consultation.

The Origins of Pressure Sores in Physically Disabled Patients

Bedsores can develop on a bony part of the body that experiences unrelieved pressure over a significant period of time. When blood flow is restricted in that area, the tissue dies, and a wound develops. The areas of the body that bedsores are most commonly found include the legs, hips, ankles, heels, buttocks, and back.

Recognizing the causes of bedsores, nursing facilities need to implement preventative techniques including, regular off-loading of patients to help relieve pressure, integration of pressure-relieving mattresses and keeping patients clean and dry to prevent bedsores from developing.

Poor hygiene, poor nutrition, and dehydration can also lead to skin deterioration and bedsores. It’s essential that patients with limited mobility are well attended to so they can avoid the development of bedsores.

Legal Responsibility of Nursing Homes to Prevent Pressure Sores

Home staff have a legal obligation to prevent bedsores. Federal law requires nursing facilities to implement protocols for home residents in order for them to prevent bedsores unless they are clinically unavoidable. 42 CFR § 483.25(c)(1) and (2) (1998). Home patients in Illinois nursing facilities are further assured of proper care (and bedsore prevention) under the Illinois Nursing Home Care Act.

Clinical guidelines give specific recommendations on treatment and care once patients display pressure wounds while living in long-term care facilities, including but not limited to the following:

  • Assessment
  • Tissue management
  • Disease control
  • Ulcer care

Assessment is critical to the determination of a plan of care, and should initially look to determine the size, location, and severity of the wounds. However, once pressure injuries have been identified, the clinician should also do a holistic assessment of the patient by taking note of his or her entire medical history, diet, other pain throughout the body.

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Medical Complications Related to Bedsores

Areas of PressureOnce a pressure sore develops and progresses to the point where there is an open wound, home patients are at risk for a variety of medical complications that can result in pain, disability or even death.

  • Sepsis (septicemia) is a life-threatening illness caused by a bacterial infection in the bloodstream that frequently enters the body through open wounds or pressure ulcers. Doctors characterize sepsis as a severe infection that is spread throughout the body. The condition can trigger an inflammation response that might damage most body systems or shut them down completely
  • Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bones caused by bacteria. The most common types of osteomyelitis causing bacteria in adults include S. Aureus, Enterobacter, and Streptococcus. In cases of severe bedsores (also referred to as decubitus ulcers, pressure ulcers, pressure wounds or bedsores) the bacteria enters the body through the open wound and attacks the bone. Once the bone becomes infected, enzymes are released that restrict the body's ability to heal. If left untreated, osteomyelitis can spread into the body's bone marrow and surrounding joints, leading to further medical complications or even death.
  • Gangrene is a life-threatening complication that kills the tissue around the wound and restricts blood flow. Bacteria can begin to grow immediately in the affected area if the tissue is void of oxygen and nutrients. As the affected tissue deteriorates it tends to develop foul odors and a green or black discoloration. In some cases, there is no effective antibiotic to stop the progression of the condition which may result in surgical debridement or the amputation of the limb.
  • Necrotizing Fasciitis commonly referred to as the ‘flesh-eating virus.' The infectious condition does not actually “eat” the flesh but causes the surrounding tissue to die. A failure to treat necrotizing fasciitis often results in death
  • Amputation of limbs may be necessary when a pressure sore progresses to a later stage wound. Amputation of the feet and legs may be necessary when a pressure sore has become infected and the tissue has died.
  • Death. Patients can die from bedsores and their related complications. When a pressure sore results in the death of a patient, the family may be entitled to pursue a wrongful death lawsuit against the skilled nursing facility, hospital or medical facility where the wound developed.

It is important that bedsores are treated as soon as they are detected to prevent them from worsening. If allowed to progress from the early stages, bedsores can be much more difficult to heal as they go deeper into the patient’s tissue. Of course, the best-case scenario is not to let bedsores form in the first place.

Pressure Sore Injury FAQ

Why do Bed Sores Develop?

Bedsores develop when pressure is put on the skin for long periods of time. They cut off blood flow in the underlying area and cause other problems. There are many risk factors that may contribute to bedsores including reduced mobility, diseases, and other conditions. Here is a set of common causes.
  • Pressure. Prolonged force on the body will lessen blood flow. Blood flow is critical in order to bring oxygen, nutrients, and other things to tissues and vital organs. If they do not get these, the damage will occur, and they might even die. Nursing home patients that are physically disabled are at risk when they are confined to a hospital bed or wheelchair. Their feet, arms, and other body parts sustain pressure throughout the whole day. This can trigger bedsores when that force breaks the skin and then the underlying area including muscles, tissues, and organs.
  • Shearing. Shearing is when two things move in opposite directions. That force creates stress on the body. This can lead to bedsores because the skin cannot endure that trauma for a long time. If a person is in bed or on a chair all day, they might slip down and that can cause shearing. Yet, it may come about in different ways altogether. It is important to check for this issue as it can cause serious damage including bedsores.
  • Friction. Friction occurs when things rub up against people. This can be from a medical device, linens, clothes, or something else. It breaks down the skin and bedsore emerges. Certain factors make friction even more seriously including moisture. It is important to make sure that people with limited mobility are secured in their position to reduce friction or shearing risks.

How Common are Decubitus Ulcers in the Elderly Population?

Each year, millions of Americans discover that they have decubitus ulcers (also called bedsores). Between ten and twenty percent of all nursing home residents suffer from some sort of bedsore. That equates to hundreds of thousands of people and billions in medical care and costs. This means that many, many people will file a legal claim to seek compensation for their injuries.
  • Over 2 million Americans have bedsores.
  • It is estimated that 100,000 nursing home residents have bedsores.
  • Bedsores cost more than $100,000 to treat.
  • More than 50,000 people die each year because of bedsores.
  • Every year, thousands of people file lawsuits to recover compensation for bedsore injuries.

What Should Medical Facilities do to Prevent Pressure Sores?

According to state and federal law, nursing homes and other facilities must take a variety of steps in order to stop patients from getting bedsores. These rules mostly outline how bed sores are to be spotted and treated. However, there is a whole list of duties that relate to the prevention of bed sores too. Normally, hospitals and long-term care facilities are the ones governed but others might have certain responsibilities as well. Here is exactly what they must do.
  • If patients do not yet have bedsores, then the facility must provide a) a holistic assessment and b) prevention plan that c) manages tissues and other body parts for the prevention of pressure ulcers unless it is completely unavoidable due to their health. This will require constant attention and communication between the facility doctor and patient. Ensuring that patients receive proper nutrition also helps with bedsore prevention.
  • If patients do have bed sores, then the facility must a) avoid positioning the patient to put weight on the sore, b) create a repositioning schedule to avoid making the sores worse or creating new sores, and c) use pressure-reducing techniques like water, foam, or alternating air.

What are the Stages of Bed Sores?

Bedsores are 'graded' or 'staged' so staff in a nursing home or hospital can track a wound and implement proper medical care. The bedsore staging system is standardized using objective information to provide a standardized level of care.

Stage 1 – Initially, a pressure sore appears as a persistent area of red skin that may itch or hurt and feel warm and spongy or firm to the touch. In blacks, Hispanics and other people with darker skin, the mark may appear to have a blue or purple cast or look flaky or ashen. Stage I wounds are superficial and go away shortly after the pressure is relieved.

Stage 2 – At this point, some skin loss has already occurred — either in the epidermis, the outermost layer of skin, in the dermis, the skin’s deeper layer, or in both. The wound is now an open sore that looks like a blister or an abrasion, and the surrounding tissues may show red or purple discoloration. If treated promptly, stage II sores usually heal fairly quickly.

Stage 3 – By the time a pressure ulcer reaches this stage, it has extended through all the skin layers down to the muscle, damaging or destroying the affected tissue and creating a deep, crater-like wound.

Stage 4 – In the most serious and advanced stage, a large-scale loss of skin occurs, along with damage to muscle, bone, and even supporting structures such as tendons and joints. Stage 4 wounds are extremely difficult to heal and can lead to lethal infections commonly identified as sepsis. Particularly in patients with physical disabilities stage, 4 pressure sores may develop on:

  • Tailbone, hips, or buttocks
  • Shoulder blades and spine
  • Heels
  • Back of the head or ears
Occasionally, a bed sore may be categorized as ‘unstageable’. Unstageable pressure sores are usually referred to as an extremely advanced wound where there is the involvement of skin, muscle and bone and the amount of dead tissue simply makes evaluation of the wound impossible.

How do You win a Bed Sore Case Against a Medical Facility?

In order to win a Chicago bed sore case against a long-term care facility, you must show that the a) defendant’s wrongful conduct b) caused or worsened your bed sores and that c) they had no excuse for such acts. Normally, this will take the form of a negligence lawsuit. Negligence cases argue that the defendant acted unreasonably and damaged the plaintiff. You must show that the other party breached a duty owed to you and that breach created harm. With bedsore cases, here are some acts that might qualify as negligence and allow you to sue a medical facility for their negligence.
  • The facility did not conduct an initial assessment for bed sores.
  • The facility did not devise a plan to detect, prevent, and treat wounds.
  • The hospital did not follow its own plan of care.
  • The patient developed bed sores while at the place or the sores got worse.
  • The facility did not follow the doctor’s instructions or failed to coordinate with the proper medical personnel.
  • The facility did not properly or frequently rotate the plaintiff in order to prevent sores from emerging.
There are other examples of negligence that might cause bed sores. Yet, these are some of the most common forms that lead to lawsuits.

How Much is an Illinois Bed Sore Lawsuit Worth?

An Illinois bed sore lawsuit might be worth more than a million dollars. They average as much as several hundreds of thousands of dollars in many states. The focus when estimating them should be the injuries suffered and related trial strategy. Plaintiffs can only receive compensation for what you prove to a jury you suffered. The law lets them receive damages for that and nothing more.

What are Some Examples of Successful Bedsore Settlements and Lawsuits?

$500,000 Pressure Sore Injuries; New Jersey

In this bedsore lawsuit, an elderly person was transferred to a hospital after staying in the nursing facility. He lived in that facility for about one month. He had bedsores in Stage II when he arrived at the hospital. While there, his bedsores progressed. They began to seep down into his bones. He died not long thereafter of sepsis. His estate sued the hospital and nursing facility. It claimed various statutory and negligence in the lawsuits. Both defendants denied all of these charges; yet, they decided to settle.

$29,100,000 Bedsore Injuries; California

The plaintiff, in this case, was in her late seventies. She was battling Alzheimer's. At the facility where she was living, she fell. The facility staff did not discover this for over a week. She was soon moved to a hospital. Once there, her doctors found bed sores. Despite surgery, she died not long after from an infected bed sore. Her estate sued the facility. It obtained a substantial verdict.

$575,000 Pressure Sore Injuries; Illinois

The victim in this dispute was an elderly woman. She suffered a stroke and was moved to a facility. Her doctors noted a risk for bed sores after her transfer. In fact, some sores had already developed. Yet, the staff took no action. As a result, the woman sustained infections, dehydration, and other injuries prior to passing away. The estate sued the facility for these events and received a settlement.

$2,000,000 Bedsore Injuries; Pennsylvania

In this tragic story, bed sores were the perpetrator of a woman's death in addition to related complications like infection and malnutrition. After the lady passed away, her estate sued the negligent parties at the nursing facility where she was living prior to her death. The estate charged the facility with many allegations including a failure to implement proper precautions and a failure to hire enough employees to prevent bed sores. A jury awarded the plaintiffs a large award.

Hospitals’ Responsibility to Prevent Pressure Sores

Hospital staff must remember that many of their patients' medical conditions result in a physical disability that increases their risk of developing pressure sores. Further, providing quality medical care requires them to assess the patient as a whole—as opposed to treating the acute condition for which they may have originally been admitted for.

Recognizing the importance of hospitals to take steps to prevent the development of pressure sores in their patients, Medicare has included stage 3 and 4 pressure sores on its list of ‘Never Events‘—or complications that are so easily preventable with basic attention and care that they simply should never occur in the first place. Beginning in 2008, Medicare as well as some major health insurers, have refused to reimburse hospitals for any charges related to the care of hospital-acquired pressure sores.

When hospitals fail to provide the basic care for their patients and in turn, the patient develops pressure sores (interchangeably used with: bedsores, pressure ulcers or decubitus ulcers), during their hospital stay, the patient or his family may be entitled to pursue a medical malpractice lawsuit against the facility for the resulting pain, disability, and medical expenses.

Chicago Bed Sore Lawyers Committed to Holding Negligent Nursing Homes & Hospitals Accountable for Poor Care

The overwhelming majority of pressure sore lawsuits against medical facilities derive from the fact that the facility was simply not doing an adequate job caring for the patient. While the underlying reasons may be complex, understaffing and inadequate training of staff are recurring themes in pressure sore lawsuits.

Each lawyer from our firm has experience litigating and settling cases involving the development of pressure sores in all types of facilities, including nursing homes and hospitals both within Illinois and throughout other jurisdictions across the country. Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC can evaluate your pressure sore case and advise you of your legal rights, with an emphasis on timely and effective resolution of your case.

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