Bed Sores And Inattention Injuries
The human body is intended to remain in motion. However, as a result of injury or age, mobility can become more difficult and even impossible. When this occurs, individuals must trust that their caregivers completely. Without proper care, a patient can develop serious “inattention” injuries. The common example of these injuries are bed sores and blood clots. Below is an overview of common circumstances in which these injuries are likely to form as well as liability that inattentive caregivers may have for these injuries.
What Are Common Inattention Injuries?
Bed sores are perhaps best understood by their other name: pressure ulcers. When pressure is exerted against the skin, sores form on or under the skin. These sores can also result from friction or shearing-like pressure. When an individual is unable to move, certain points of the patient’s body are exposed to prolonged pressure welcoming the formation of these bed sores. Additional factors that increase the likelihood of bed sores include malnutrition, diseases (such as diabetes), and old age.
Blood clots, like bed sores, develop from inactivity. Limbs are particularly vulnerable to blood clots, with legs being the most notable. As the name implies, these injuries occur when a clot forms and clogs a vein. Without treatment, the clot can fully prevent blood from following causing extreme injury and even death.
How Can Caregivers Prevent Inattention Injuries?
As their name suggests, inattention injuries form as a result of a lack of proper attention to immobile patients. Nurses, doctors, and other caregivers must be vigilant to prevent the formation of inattention injuries. This is especially important because preventing bed sores and blood clots is relatively simple, but treating developed injuries is much more difficult. To prevent these injuries, the caregiver must ensure the patient is adequately moved at regular intervals. Additionally, hospitals and assisted living facilities often use compression stockings and devices to help prevent blood clots from forming. These devices generally operate at set time intervals to relieve pressure in an immobile patient’s legs and ensure that blood flow is proper. Even with these devices, it is essential that caregivers exercise proper, regular inspection to ensure no sites are being exposed to extreme pressure. When a caregiver fails to meet this standard of care, inattention injuries can form and result in very serious injuries—even including death.
When Can A Caregiver Be Held Liable For Inattention Injuries?
Caregivers are held to a standard of care expected by their profession. As the court noted in Mellies v. National Heritage, Inc., the standard of care for a nurse, licensed caregiver, and doctor are all different, though the proper steps to prevent inattention injuries may be the same across these professions. In Mellies, the patient developed a large bed sore on her hip due to a lack of inspecting the patient. The failure to adequately check the patient every two hours was found to be a breach of the standard of care.
In addition to showing that the caregiver breached the acceptable standard of care, the plaintiff must show that breach caused the injury to develop. This can be a more difficult task than it seems, as the plaintiff will likely have to show that proper examination or practice would have prevented the bed sore, blood clot, or other injury from developing. This will almost certainly require the testimony of a doctor to establish how the injuries developed and how they could be avoided. In addition, the defense will likely produce its own expert to argue against that testimony. The ultimate decision of whether the breach lead to the injury will have to be made by the jury.
Proving breach in an inattention injury case may require proving an omission. This “proving a negative” can be extremely difficult. One type of evidence that is often used is the absence of a business record or notation within a business record. The medical profession has an adage that “treatment not record is treatment not given.” This adage is based on the idea that medical professionals must diligently record all treatment to communicate to others on the medical treatment team. Thus, when a patient’s chart or medical records does not show notations of checking a patient, rotating the patient, or cleaning a patient, this can be used as evidence that such treatment was never taken.
When an individual is immobilized due to injury, age, or infirmary, he or she becomes highly dependent on caregivers. These nurses, doctors, and others must ensure that the patient is regularly tended to. Failure to do so can result in very serious and even life-threatening injuries. When a caregiver fails to properly tend to the individual, that individual is entitled to compensation for his or her injuries. It is important to contact experienced legal counsel if you or a family member have suffered from inattention injuries, as pursuing and proving these cases can be particularly challenging.