Bedsore Injuries: A Closer Look

On Behalf of | Nov 25, 2020 | Injuries, Nursing Home Abuse And Neglect

Typically, pressure ulcers are a serious problem at understaffed nursing homes. And as many as 90 percent of the long-term care centers in Kentucky are dangerously understaffed. 

Understaffed facilities often operate with skeleton crews, especially during nights, weekends, and other low census periods. As a result, it could be several hours before a staff member looks in on an ill resident. Additionally, because of understaffing, many facilities hire under-qualified workers. For example, a nursing home might hire a patient care tech to staff a position that a Licensed Vocational Nurse should fill. As discussed below, residents with pressure ulcers are often seriously injured in these situations.

A Lexington personal injury attorney might be able to obtain both compensatory damages, for things like medical bills, and punitive damages in these cases. Punitive damages force negligent nursing home owners to put people before profits.

Pressure Ulcers and Understaffing

Bedsores often develop on bony parts of the body, like the ankles and knees, especially when these body parts are against beds for extended periods of time. As long as the patient turns over in bed at least once every two hours, bedsores hardly ever develop. 

Well-staffed facilities with experienced and qualified workers have no problem meeting this standard. But understaffed facilities are a different matter.

Many residents are too weak, too medicated, or a combination of both to turn themselves over in bed. So, these nursing home residents depend entirely on staff to turn them over. As a result, the duty of care is high. And, as the old saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Turning a resident over in bed is normally not a one-person operation. Typically, at least two or three staff members should be in the room. Someone should hold the bed steady, someone should turn the patient, and a third person should be on standby. At an understaffed nursing home, residents are lucky if even one person visits their room overnight.

To make up for staffing shortages, some facility managers order reduced rounds. So, instead of visiting rooms every two hours, they visit every three or four hours. Such a schedule is clearly below the standard of care. That is clear evidence of negligence.

Furthermore, as mentioned, many understaffed facilities send under-qualified people on rounds. Patient care technicians are helpful professionals. But they might not recognize early bedsore development, especially in the dark, and report the situation to their supervisors.

If caught early and the pressure is relieved, bedsores usually disappear on their own. But if they fester at all, they quickly become life-threatening. 

Establishing Liability

Under Kentucky law, the long-term care facility owner is clearly responsible for resident injuries in all these understaffing situations.

The respondeat superior rule states that employers are responsible for the negligence of their workers if:

  • Employee: Anyone under the employer’s control is an employee for negligence purposes. That category includes regular employees, independent contractors, and even most unpaid volunteers.
  • Scope of Employment: Somewhat similarly, any activity which benefits the employer in any way is within the scope of employment. That category certainly includes patient rounds.

Workers who fail to turn residents over in bed are clearly negligent. On a related note, if a lax schedule led to the injury, the nursing home is directly responsible.

If a nursing home worker is unable to identify the early stage bedsore, the worker is not negligent as such. However, the facility is still responsible for the injury, in most cases, under a theory like negligent hiring ro negligent supervision.

Generally, negligent hiring is taking on an underqualified or clearly incompetent employee. Patient care techs can do things like move equipment and assist medical professionals, but they are not qualified to assume a medical professional’s duties. Negligent supervision is generally looking the other way when employees make mistakes. 

Your Claim for Damages

If liability is relatively clear, attorneys often resolve these matters with demand letters. Frequently, however, there is at least some question as to liability. So, to protect the victim’s legal rights and put pressure on the insurance company, many attorneys file legal documents in court.

Insurance companies usually respond with procedural motions which seek to throw the claim out of court. However, if an attorney has diligently collected evidence prior to the filing, these motions almost always fail. Even if they succeed, the victim/plaintiff can often restart the case and get another bite at the apple.

Most Fayette County judges refer contested cases to mediation. During mediation, a neutral third party, who is usually an unaffiliated Lexington personal injury attorney, works with both sides and encourages them to settle their differences. If both sides negotiate in good faith, mediation usually succeeds, at least in part.

Unattended pressure ulcers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Home and hospital visits are available.