Posted September 30, 2016 | Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect
As a Philadelphia nursing home abuse lawyer, I have seen many cases in which a vulnerable nursing home resident developed severe and sometimes fatal bedsores as a result of neglectful treatment. Unfortunately, bedsores are a common problem in nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Pennsylvania, and people often call me to ask whether a bedsore is grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. It is an excellent question, and this article provides general answers. However, there is no substitute for a personalized legal consultation, and it’s important that you speak with an attorney for guidance specific to your family’s unique legal situation.
First and foremost, I want to emphasize that bedsores are are often avoidable. This is never easy for people to hear, but if your parent or grandparent has developed or is in the process of developing a bedsore, it may be due to neglect or abuse at his or her nursing home.
Bedsores develop when a person is in frequent contact with a surface, such as a mattress or tight fitting footwear, for weeks or months at a time. Over time, this sustained contact causes oxygen starvation in the affected area – often the hips, knees, ankles, or wrists. In turn, this causes the tissue to become swollen, painful, and pustulent. This process explains why bedsores are also referred to as “pressure ulcers” or “pressure sores” (though you may also hear the term “decubitus ulcer”).
Understanding that information is important for the family members of bedsore victims, because bedsore liability is closely intertwined with the conditions that allow pressure ulcers to form.
Liability for an injury or wrongful death exists only when the death or injury occurred because of another person’s wrongful acts, such as reckless disregard for a risk, or careless negligence when performing a task (like administering to a resident’s care needs). If pressure ulcers develop due to inadequate care – or even intentional neglect – it may be possible for victims to hold nursing homes liable for injuries caused by negligence.
In any personal injury lawsuit, ranging from medical malpractice to premises liability, it is vital to establish the negligence of the other party, which in this case would be the nursing home, in order to be compensated for an injury. That is true even if the injury itself is obvious and extreme.
In short, the sheer existence of an injury is not “enough” of a basis to recover compensation. The victim, who is called the plaintiff, must use evidence to prove that the injury occurred because of the defendant’s negligent acts. People and businesses cannot be held liable for injuries which their actions, or lack thereof, did not cause.
That being said, the standard of proof in a personal injury case, though rigorous, is not quite as demanding as the standard of proof that applies in criminal cases.
When a person is charged with a crime, the prosecutor needs to establish that the defendant committed the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means the jury must feel nearly certain that there is no evidence which could even potentially disprove the charges. In a civil case, such as a personal injury case, the standard of proof requires the plaintiff to establish facts by a “preponderance of the evidence,” which essentially means it is more likely that the plaintiff’s side of the story is correct than the defendant’s side of the story.
People often have incorrect ideas about what evidence does and doesn’t include. While many people assume that evidence needs to be physical, only some pieces of evidence are actually tangible objects, such as photographs of injuries or video footage capturing abuse on tape. Evidence can also take the form of medical records or witness testimony supplied by a resident, family member or staff member at the nursing home.
An attorney who has experience handling nursing home abuse cases will know what types of evidence to look for, and how to formulate the strongest, most compelling argument based on the facts and pieces of evidence that are available. Being represented by a skilled Philadelphia nursing home neglect attorney increases your chance of successfully presenting your case in court, or negotiating a settlement that accurately and fairly provides for the victim’s medical expenses.
If you’re worried that your mother or father developed a bedsore or other injury due to nursing home abuse, such as a pelvic fracture from a nursing home slip and fall accident, consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, before the injury worsens. For a free legal consultation, call the Wieand Law Firm, LLC at (877) 654-3887 immediately.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes. It is not legal advice and should not be used as legal advice. The Wieand Law Firm, LLC is based in Philadelphia, PA, and is proud to serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.*