Inpatient Falls: Risk, Injury and Hospital Liability

Hospitals are required to care for patients and ensure that they do not suffer further injury while being treated. One of the most common causes of patient injury is a fall from bed or  chair, or on a slippery floor. With the use of required medications and sedatives, patients in a hospital or other clinical setting are at higher risk of serious injury from falls.

According to a study by the National Council on Aging, 30% of patient falls in a hospital or acute care setting result in serious injury. It is critically important that patients are properly monitored and protected from this danger.

Fall Prevention

All hospitals and clinical settings are required to adhere to certain fall prevention protocols to ensure patient safety and health. Unfortunately, hospitals often fail in this regard, and patients may be left unattended in hallways while medicated and/ or injured, and this poses a great risk to their wellbeing.

Common failures of fall prevention include:

  • Patients left unattended during transfer
  • Poor communication across hospital units
  • Polypharmacy (Multiple medications and side effects)
  • Environmental factors such as poor lighting, side rails and clutter free walkways
  • Patients left unattended in treatment rooms such as x-ray rooms.

Many hospitals have implemented the use of new products to help minimize the likelihood of patient falls. Some of these products include beds and chairs that are more difficult to get out of, electronic monitoring devices in socks and patient restraints.

Many of these solutions create more problems, and ultimately the only way to protect patients is to have hospital staff made aware of the serious risk of patient falls and the importance of patient monitoring. Patients at risk for falling can be placed close to nurses stations.  Other measures also exist to increase monitoring and safety.

If a hospital fails to keep a fall risk patient properly monitored and safe, the hospital may be held liable for any injury resulting from a patient fall. 

Legal Remedies for Injured Patients

Hospital falls that lead to serious patient injury can often be attributed to a hospitals failure to provide safety during patient treatment. If hospital or medical staff negligence results in a patient fall and injury, the hospital can be held liable for the damage caused the patient.

Hospital negligence leading to patient fall and injury is sometimes a form of medical malpractice for which injured patients and their families can seek compensation. In order to bring a medical malpractice or negligence claim against a hospital, a medical malpractice lawyer should be consulted to get legal advice regarding the strength of the case and the best options for building a case and bringing a civil lawsuit.

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