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Wheelchair Accidents: Legal Rights & Compensation for Injuries

While wheelchairs are usually considered medical devices meant to help elderly people, those with disabilities, or those who have physical challenges, they can also be a source of injury when not properly used.

In 2018, there were over 100,000 emergency room visits for wheelchair injuries, doubling from a decade earlier. The surprising and disturbing fact is that many of these injuries happen in medical settings, such as hospitals or nursing homes, where wheelchair-related accidents are completely preventable.

Regarding wheelchair accidents in Chicago nursing homes, the personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC is committed to protecting the legal rights of injured patients.

Unlike other accidents involving nursing home patients, most incidents involving a patient's wheelchair are commonly due to negligent staff. Contact our nursing home abuse lawyers at (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.

Accident involving a wheelchair

Types of Wheelchair Injuries And Accidents Our Office Sees in Caregiving Homes

In a study done at the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Ohio, the researchers looked at the injuries sustained from wheelchairs treated at emergency rooms from 1991 to 2003.

The study revealed that wheelchair-related 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 falls risk study include:

  • Between 65-80% of wheelchair-related injuries across all age groups were attributed to falls from the wheelchair or tipping over the wheelchair.
  • The most common injuries reported were fractures, lacerations, and contusions.
  • 68.9% of all wheelchair injuries occurred in elderly persons above 65 and those with dementia or a disability.
  • 94% of wheelchair injuries to those 65 years or older happened at a medical institution or home.

The main concern is that many injuries, especially in the elderly, occur in medically supervised institutions such as hospitals and nursing facilities.

Through neglect, negligence, or lack of training, thousands are needlessly injured in wheelchair-related accidents each year.

Causes of Wheelchair Injuries in Nursing Homes and Medical Institutions

When a person sustains a wheelchair injury while in a hospital or caregiving home, in most cases, it is due to some form of negligence.

Medical institutions must ensure patient safety, especially for those with a disability or confined to a wheelchair.

Providing proper safety precautions to prevent injuries from wheelchairs is crucial.

Some common causes of preventable wheelchair injuries in a medical setting are:

  • Transfers: Transferring a patient to and from the wheelchair is a common cause of falls and injuries in medical facilities. Patients need assistance to move from the bed to the wheelchair and from the wheelchair to the bathroom or another chair.
  • 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 left too long in wheelchairs by medical staff may sustain pressure sores.
  • Medical transportation: Anytime a wheelchair patient is taken to a medical appointment, or recreational event, medical facility, and medical transportation company staff must ensure that patients are loaded on the van and properly secured during transport. An abrupt stop or turn can easily send a wheelchair resident onto the floor and seriously injure them.

How Medical Facilities Can Improve Safety for the Physically Disabled

Most wheelchair injuries in a medical setting, such as a hospital or nursing center, are easily prevented and should be considered another event that should never happen.

Injured residents have even sustained fatal wheelchair injuries due to the negligence of medical staff. Medical administrations can reduce the chance of wheelchair-related accidents by:

  • Training the Staff: Ensure that all medical staff understands the correct safety procedures for those wheelchair users, including preventing pressure sores, proper transfer techniques, and the need for supervision.
  • Maintenance of Wheelchairs: Ensure that all wheelchairs are properly maintained and that all features, such as wheel locks, are working properly.
  • Safe Environment: Medical centers must ensure that all physical dangers to wheelchair users, such as open stairwells and cluttered hallways, are avoided. Further, exterior areas such as ramps and smoking areas should have railings to prevent wheelchair users from falling off an elevated area.

Sample of Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident Lawsuits & Settlements

$500,000 Settlement; Illinois Wheelchair-Related Injuries

This wrongful case involved an injured man in his middle seventies who died in an Illinois nursing home. Leading up to that point, some breakdowns in care contributed to his death and required the lawsuit.

The man was bound to a wheelchair because of his limited mobility and multiple medical conditions.

It meant that he was at high risk for pressure wounds. Bed sores form after extended periods of pressure or friction. The nursing home staff and his doctors were aware of this potential issue.

Bedsores and Wheelchair-Related Accidents

Nevertheless, the facility staff took little action to prevent the emergence of bedsores. As it turned out, many pressure wounds 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 contributed to his bed sores and subsequent passing.

She sought compensation for this tragedy, the man’s agony before death, and the expenses due to the ordeal. In a privately negotiated settlement, the defendant nursing facility compensated the plaintiff with $500,000.

$625,000 Verdict; Chicago Nursing Home Wheelchair Accident

This matter made it 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. They said that the fall could not be stopped. They also replied that the plaintiffs exaggerated the woman’s harm and could not draw a causal line between the accident and her death.

At trial, the plaintiffs made a cause of action under the Illinois 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 Wheelchair Accident

This wheelchair incident occurred at a Cook County nursing home. The plaintiff was a woman in her early eighties. She had lived at the facility for an undetermined time before this incident.

The nursing staff did not put a footrest 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 medical device plate. Subsequently, she suffered an infection along the wound site.

The events cost her over $100,000 in medical bills, 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 Wheelchair User Accident

Here, an elderly male resident broke his kneecap when 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.

At 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. He sued the nursing home to recoup some of this money to compensate for the pain, disfigurement, and long-term suffering.

He complained that the staff negligently lifted him from the wheelchair and that he should be reimbursed 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, the defendants chose to settle, paying the plaintiff $750,000.

Are You Considering Pursuing an Illinois Wheelchair Accident Lawsuit for Your Loved One?

Wheelchair accidents and injuries 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 have 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.

We have experience handling these accidents at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC and have prosecuted Chicago medical lawsuits involving nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

We would be honored to discuss your case at a free consultation. Contact us at (888) 424-5757.

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.

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Jonathan did a great job helping my family navigate through a lengthy lawsuit involving my grandmother's death in a nursing home. Through every step of the case, Jonathan kept my family informed of the progression of the case. Although our case eventually settled at a mediation, I really was impressed at how well prepared Jonathan was to take the case to trial. Lisa