When you seek treatment for a medical condition at an emergency room, the last thing you expect is to sustain a new injury. Although ironic, falls in the emergency room are extremely common in New Jersey and across the United States.
An adult falls in the emergency room every 15 seconds. Every 29 seconds, an adult dies from a fall in the emergency department. It is estimated that between 700,000 and 1 million people fall in U.S. hospitals every year. From 30 percent to 35 percent of these falls result in injuries to the patient and approximately 11,000 falls prove fatal. The hardest part to swallow? About 300,000 of these falls – or one-third – could have been prevented if hospitals had appropriately managed the patient’s underlying condition.
Is a Fall in the Hospital Medical Malpractice?
The hospital’s responsibility is to provide an acceptable standard of care to the patient, including taking reasonable measures to ensure the patient is safe while in the emergency department. Although a hospital is a medical environment, some falls in the emergency room fall under the “medical malpractice” category, while others constitute negligence under general personal injury law. In order for a patient’s fall in the hospital to amount to medical malpractice, the individual must be a patient under the care of a doctor in the hospital. The establishment of a doctor-patient relationship is an essential element of any medical malpractice case.
Beyond the patient receiving medical services from a healthcare provider, their injury must have resulted from some form of negligence on the part of the doctor, nurse, medical facility, or other professional employed there. Negligence in the context of medical malpractice refers to conduct that falls below the standard that a similarly trained, experienced medical professional would have provided under similar circumstances. Generally, medical experts are critical for establishing negligence during medical malpractice litigation.
The following are a few examples of situations in which emergency room falls result from medical malpractice:
- Failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a condition that results in a fall, such as a heart attack or stroke
- Leaving a patient unattended if they need continued monitoring
- Failing to identify a high-risk fall patient through appropriate assessment (i.e. dehydrated, dizzy, suffering from arthritis, weak, lightheaded, etc.)
- Failing to provide a patient a secure bed with proper rails
- Prescribing several medications or high side effect prescriptions that cause fainting, lightheadedness, or dizziness
Contributing Factors to Patient Falls in Emergency Rooms
Doctors, nurses, and hospitals have recognized the ongoing problem of patient falls and some have attempted to implement initiatives focused on prevention of falls and patient injuries while admitted. One study, conducted in coordination with the Health Research & Educational Trust, American Hospital Association, and Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare, examined the leading contributing factors for falls in U.S. hospitals. The also monitored hospital improvements after implementing patient-safety measures geared toward falls.
The report, entitled Preventing Patient Falls: A Systematic Approach from the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Project, identified the top 10 contributing factors for hospital falls and grouped them as follows:
- Fall risk assessment issues
- Handoff communication issues
- Toileting issues
- Call light issues
- Educational and organizational culture issues
- Medication issues
Significantly, the hospitals that participated in the study saw an average 35% reduction in the rate of patient falls and a 62% reduction in the rate of patient falls resulting in injury.
The evidence clearly suggests that medical, organizational, and procedural efforts by hospitals and emergency room personnel can profoundly reduce the number of falls and injuries to patients who go to the emergency department seeking to improve, not worsen, their current condition.
Fell in a New Jersey Emergency Room?
If you or a loved one was injured because of a fall in the emergency room in New Jersey, the experienced attorneys at Fronzuto Law Group can help. Our legal team fights for justice on behalf of medical and hospital negligence victims across New Jersey, including in Paterson, Hackensack, Jersey City, Newark, New Brunswick, and Trenton. For additional information about the rights and options of emergency department fall victims in New Jersey, call 973-435-4551 or contact us online today. We provide free case evaluations and are happy to answer any questions you may have.
- 6 Contributing Factors to Patient Falls and How to Address Them, Hospitals & Health Networks
- Preventing Patient Falls: A Systematic Approach from the Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare Project
- Targeted Solutions Tool for Preventing Falls, Joint Commission Center for Transforming Healthcare