While wheelchairs are usually thought of a medical device that is meant to help those who are injured or have physical challenges, they can also be a source of injury when not properly used. In 2003, there were over 100,000 emergency room visits for wheelchair injuries, double from only a decade earlier. The surprising and disturbing fact is that many of these injuries happened in a medical setting such as a hospital or nursing home, where such accidents are completely preventable.
When it comes to wheelchair accidents in Chicago nursing homes, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC is committed to protecting the legal rights of injured patients. Unlike other types of accidents involving nursing home patients, most incidents involving a patient's wheelchair are commonly due to negligent staff. Our experience with cases involving wheelchair accidents allows us to evaluate your case quickly and advise of the best way to proceed.
Types Of Wheelchair Injuries And Accidents Our Office Sees in Chicago Nursing Homes
In a study done at the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Ohio, the researchers looked at the injuries sustained from wheelchairs that were treated at emergency rooms from 1991 to 2003. The study revealed that injuries had doubled from 50,000 in 1991 to over 100,000 in 2003, with the largest increases in adults and the elderly. Some interesting findings from the study include:
- Between 65-80% of the injuries across all age groups were attributed to falls from the wheelchair or tipping over of the wheelchair.
- The most common injuries reported were fractures, lacerations and contusions.
- 68.9% of all wheelchair injuries occurred in elderly persons above 65 years of age
- 94% of wheelchair injuries to those 65-years of age or older happened in a medical institution or at home.
The main concern is that so many of the injuries, especially in the elderly, happened in medically supervised institutions such as hospitals and nursing homes. Through neglect, negligence or lack of training, thousands of people each year are needlessly injured in wheelchair accidents.
Causes Of Wheelchair Injuries in Nursing Homes and Medical Institutions
When a person sustains a wheelchair injury while a patient in a hospital or nursing home, in most cases it is due to some form of negligence on the part of the medical facility. Medical institutions have a responsibility to insure the safety of their patients, especially those confined to a wheelchair that are in need of assistance. This means providing the proper safety precautions to prevent injuries from wheelchairs. Some common causes of preventable wheelchair injuries in a medical setting are:
- Transfers. Transferring a patient to and from the wheelchair is a very common cause for falls and injuries in medical facilities. Patients need assistance to move from the bed to the wheelchair and from the wheelchair to the toilet or bath area, another chair or back into bed.
- Wheel locks. Injuries can happen when a medical staff member does not ensure the wheel lock or brake is on before transferring a patient or when transporting in a vehicle.
- Pressure sores. Patients who are not given proper padding or who are left too long in wheelchairs by medical staff may sustain pressure sores.
- Crushed limbs. Medical staff need to prevent fingers and other limbs from getting caught in a wheelchair’s moving parts.
- Medical transportation. Anytime a wheelchair patient is taken to a medical appointment or recreational event, staff at the medical facility and/or medical transportation company must ensure that patients are loaded properly on the van and properly secured during transport. An abrupt stop or turn can easily send a wheelchair patient onto the floor and seriously injure him or her.
How Medical Facilities can Improve Safety for Physically Disabled Patients
Most wheelchair injuries that happen in a medical setting such as a hospital or nursing home are easily prevented and should be considered another event that should never happen. Patients have even sustained fatal wheelchair injuries due to the negligence of medical staff. Medical administrations can reduce the chance of wheelchair accidents by:
- Training for Staff. Ensure that all medical staff understands the correct safety procedures for caring for those confined to wheelchairs, including preventing pressure sores, proper transfer techniques and need for supervision.
- Maintenance of Wheelchairs. Make sure that all wheelchairs are properly maintained and that all features such as wheel locks are working properly.
- Safe Environment. Medical facilities need to ensure that all physical dangers to those in wheelchairs such as open stairwells and cluttered hallways are avoided. Further, exterior areas such as ramps and smoking areas should have railings to avoiding wheelchair patients from falling off an elevated area.
Sample Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident Lawsuits & Settlements
$500,000 Settlement; Illinois Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident
This wrongful case began after a man in his middle seventies passed away in an Illinois nursing home. Leading up to that point, there were some breakdowns in care that contributed to his death and required the lawsuit. The man was bound to a wheelchair because of his limited mobility and multiple medical conditions. This meant that he was at a high risk for bed sores. Bed sores form after extended periods of pressure or friction. The nursing home staff and his doctors were aware of this potential issue. Nevertheless, the facility staff took little action to prevent the emergence of bed sores. As it turned out, many bed sores popped up along his spine, foot, and buttocks. They eventually became infected and took his life. His wife brought this cause of action against the nursing home. She alleged its negligent care and supervision was responsible for his bed sores and subsequent passing. She sought compensation for this tragedy, the man’s pain prior to death, and the expenses that came about because of the entire ordeal. In a private negotiated settlement, the defendant nursing facility compensated the plaintiff with a sum of $500,000.
$625,000 Verdict; Chicago Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident
This matter made it all the way to court because the two sides could not agree on the basic premise of the accident. Here is what was established: a female nursing home resident (seventy-seven years old) tumbled out of her wheelchair and banged her head on the floor. Subsequently, she developed swelling and bruising in the area. Her family suggested that this injury changed the resident’s personality and then caused or at least contributed to her death just a few months later. The defendant denied almost all of these points. It said that the fall could not be stopped. It also replied that the plaintiffs exaggerated the woman’s harms and could not draw a causal line from the accident and her death. At trial, the plaintiffs made a cause of action under lllinois’ Nursing Home Care Act. After a complete trial, the jury awarded the plaintiffs $625,000 for pain, suffering, distress, and disfigurement.
$400,000 Settlement; Chicago Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident
This wheelchair accident occurred at a Cook County nursing home. The plaintiff was a woman in her early eighties. She had been living at the facility for an undetermined time prior to this incident. Nursing home staff did not put a foot rest on the wheelchair that she was sitting in. Consequently, when they pushed her around the facility, one of her feet got stuck between the chair and the floor. She broke her leg. Doctors had to operate on her femur and put in a plate. Subsequently, she suffered an infection along the wound site. The events cost her over $100,000 in medical bills alone not including the pain, suffering, and disfigurement the ordeal created. She sued the nursing home to make up for these losses. She cited these events as proof of the facility’s negligence. In a private agreement, the woman settled the matter for $400,000.
$750,000 Settlement; Illinois Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident
Here, an elderly male resident broke his kneecap when nursing home staff tried to lift him out of his wheelchair and put him in bed. They did not utilize a lift, belt, or other supportive devices. Also, reports differ as to whether or not the employees followed the facility’s own procedures. The consequences were severe for the man. He had to keep the leg immobilized for almost two months. In that time, much of the skin around his ankle broke down. He had to shell out almost sixty thousand dollars for medical bills, prescriptions, and related costs. To recoup some of this money, and to make up for the pain, disfigurement, and long-term suffering, he sued the nursing home. He complained that it negligently lifted him from the wheelchair and should reimburse for his economic and non-economic damages. The defendant offered a reply that it complied with all reasonable demands. However, faced with the man’s sizeable injuries, it did not like its prospects in court. Finally, it chose to settle. The plaintiff obtained $750,000.Are You Considering Pursuing an Illinois Wheelchair Accident Lawsuit for Yourself or Loved One?
Wheelchair accidents and injuries that happen in a medical setting are often caused by negligence, which can mean that the facility is liable for compensating the person for the injury. If you or a family member has sustained a wheelchair injury that was caused or should have been prevented by medical staff, you may be eligible to receive a financial award for the injury.
At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC, we have experience handling these type of accidents and have prosecuted Chicago medical lawsuits involving nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals. We would be honored to discuss your case with you at a free consultation. There is no obligation to use our services, however, if we represent your case, there is never any fee to you unless we obtain a financial award in your case.