Bed sores, also called pressure sores, decubitus ulcers, or pressure ulcers, are a graphic sign of systematic poor care at nursing homes, hospitals and other long-term care institutions. The development of pressure sores is becoming an epidemic among patients in Chicago nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities. In fact, studies suggest that patients in medical facilities today are more likely to develop pressure sores than they were just ten years ago!
Over the years, the Chicago bed sore attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC have settled or brought to trial hundreds of bed sore cases. Our experience litigating and resolving Chicago bedsore lawsuits has given us a unique perspective to evaluate your specific situation. If your family member developed a bed sore during an admission to a nursing home or hospital, we invite to you to speak to an attorney regarding your legal rights.
The Origins of Pressure Sores
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, tissue dies, and a wound develops. Bedsores are most commonly found on the legs, heels, buttocks, and back.
Recognizing the causes of bed sores, nursing homes 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 bed sores 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
Nursing homes have a legal obligation to prevent bed sores. Federal Law requires nursing facilities implement protocols for patients in order for them to prevent pressure sores unless they are clinically unavoidable . 42 CFR § 483.25(c)(1) and (2) (1998). Clinical guidelines give specific recommendations on treatment and care once patients display sores while living in long-term facilities (nursing homes), including but not limited to the following:
- Tissue management
- 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 sores. However, once sores 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.
Chicago Bed Sore Lawyer | Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Nursing Homes are suppose to be there for residents as it is their job to monitor them, take care of them and assist with any kind of service required to keep the residents safe. After all, that is why these people are inside the nursing home. They are no longer able to take care of every aspect of their life, and their family just isn't around to assist them, which is why the nursing home is such a necessary service. However, there are nursing homes that do not properly take care of their guests, often leaving them to sit in their rooms when they need help. For individuals who are not able to get out of their bed in order to use the bathroom or who need a change of sheets from sitting in the bed for extended periods of time, it is easy for the nursing home to simply leave them sitting and lying in their waste. However, this leads to bed sores (also referred to as: decubitus ulcers, pressure ulcers or pressure sores) and other problems that display these signs of abuse. When such bed sores are detected, it is important to bring the nursing home to justice and make them accountable for their actions. Bed sore in nursing home is nothing new, but it needs to be monitored, as these bed sores can lead to more complicated health issues, including death.
Medical Complications Related to Pressure Sores
Once a pressure sore develops and progresses to the point where there is an open wound, 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 sores. 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 pressure sores (also referred to as decubitus ulcers, pressure ulcers, pressure wounds or bed sores) 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 due from pressure sores 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 nursing home or medical facility where the wound developed.
It is important that pressure sores are treated as soon as they are detected to prevent them from worsening. If allowed to progress from the early stages, pressure sores 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 pressure sores form in the first place.
Pressure Sore Injury FAQ
Why do Bed Sores Develop?
Bed sores 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 factors that may contribute to bed sores 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, damage will occur, and they might even die. People that do not move around a lot suffer constant pressure. Their feet, arms, and other body parts sustain pressure throughout the whole day. This can trigger bed sores 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 bed sores 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 all together. It is important to check for this issue as it can cause serious damage including bed sores.
- 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 a bed sore emerge. 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 Nursing Home Population?
Each year, millions of Americans discover that they have decubitus ulcers (also called bed sores). They are quite common among nursing home residents too. Between ten and twenty percent of all nursing home residents suffer from some sort of bed sore. That equates to hundreds of thousands of people and billions in medical care and costs. This means that many, many people will file a lawsuit to seek compensation for their injuries.
- Over 2 million Americans have bed sores.
- It is estimated that 100,000 nursing home residents have bed sores.
- Bed sores cost more than $100,000 to treat.
- More than 50,000 people die each year because of bed sores.
- Every year, thousands of people file lawsuits to recover compensation for bed sore 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 bed sores. These rules mostly outline how bed sores are to be spotted and treated. However, there are a whole list of duties that relate to the prevention of bed sores too. Normally, hospitals and nursing homes 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 bed sores, 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.
- 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?
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 or buttocks
- Shoulder blades and spine
- 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 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 Lawsuit Against a Chicago Nursing Home?
In order to win a Chicago bed sore lawsuit against a nursing home, 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 a negligence lawsuit. Negligence cases argue that the defendant acted unreasonably and damaged the plaintiff. You must show that the other party (often, it is a nursing home or hospital) breached a duty owed to you and that breach created harm. With bed sore cases, here are some acts that might qualify as negligence and allow you to sue a medical facility for their negligence.
- The nursing home did not conduct an initial assessment for bed sores.
- The facility did not devise a plan to detect, prevent, and treat sores.
- 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 nursing home 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 lawsuit, an elderly man was transferred to a hospital after staying in a nursing home. He lived in that facility for about one month. He had bed sores in Stage II when he arrived at the hospital. While there, his bed sores progressed. They began to seep down into his bones. He died not long thereafter of sepsis. His estate sued the hospital and nursing home. 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 nursing home 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 nursing home. It obtained a sizeable 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 nursing home. Her doctors noted a risk for bed sores after her transfer. In fact, some sores had already developed. Yet, the nursing home staff took no action. As a result, the woman sustained infections, dehydration, and other injuries prior to passing away. The estate sued the nursing home 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 nursing home 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 with 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: bed sores, 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 can evaluate your pressure sore case and advise you of your legal rights, with an emphasis on timely and effective resolution of your case.