Do Inpatient Falls Constitute Medical Malpractice?


Even though inpatient falls can occur due to the nature of the patient’s injury, at times, they can indicate medical malpractice. Where the fall occurred due to a medical professional’s breach in the duty of care that is owed to a patient, the fall and resulting injury may give rise to a medical malpractice claim.

As experts in the medical malpractice field, the lawyers at Raynes & Lawn can you help you understand more about this area and help you determine if you have a case.

Here are a few things you may want to know.

Understanding the Legal Requirements

While it will depend greatly on the circumstances and the location of the facility where this event occurred, legal claims due to an inpatient fall often are based on a showing of malpractice or ordinary negligence.

For medical malpractice cases, usually, an industry expert is used to provide his or her opinion about the circumstances surrounding the fall. This can be a bit complicated and could be overwhelming for someone who suffered an injury due to a fall or a loved one taking care of that person.

To determine whether inpatient falls constitute medical malpractice, there needs to be a showing of the following elements must be explored:

The Duty of Care

A doctor owes a duty of care to the patient. A duty of care means they must act reasonably based on the circumstances and act how most other doctors would in similar situations.

Other medical professionals, such as nurses and insurance providers, also owe a duty of care to a patient to some degree. This will depend on the circumstances but is worth noting since additional parties can, at times, be the cause of the breach of the duty of care owed to a patient.

Breach of Duty

When there is a breach of duty of care towards a patient, this is typically measured by how other doctors would have handled a similar circumstance. If most would have taken different actions than the doctor or medical professional that took another, which resulted in harm to the patient, then there may be a breach.

Often this is proved in legal cases through expert testimony. Expert witnesses are familiar with the field and can speak about the standard of care. They can also speak as to how the medical community typically handles similar circumstances.

The use of expert testimony, can help prove a breach of duty. For example, expert testimony may help show that the level of care that was owed to the patient was not met due to how most other medical professionals should have acted in that situation. If such a breach resulted in an inpatient fall, then expert testimony can help prove medical malpractice and also help to recover damages caused by the breach of duty.

When a Fall Could Be the Result of Malpractice

When a breach of the duty of care owed by a doctor or other medical professional causes the fall to occur while the inpatient is under treatment for a condition, then the fall may be a result of malpractice if it results in damages and the other elements are shown.

There will need to be proof that some improper action was taken during the medical treatment that then resulted in the fall.

Some examples also include:

  • Failure to notice a patient’s apparent loss in balance, which in turn resulted in an inpatient fall
  • An improper diagnosis which contributed to the conditions causing the fall
  • Prescribing medications inappropriately or without adequately managing the patient for indications indicating a decrease in the patient’s ability to maintain balance properly

When a Fall Could Be the Result of Ordinary Negligence

A legal claim can be based on ordinary negligence and not medical malpractice, this is like falls that occur in other organizations and businesses. For example, if there were unsafe conditions such as slippery floors or spilled materials that would make it difficult for someone to walk, regardless of them having a health condition that requires inpatient care, then this may be a situation of ordinary negligence.

If a fall is not the result of medical malpractice or the patient’s health condition, then it is essential to know that a fall resulting from ordinary negligence is a potential option for legal recourse. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you decide whether either is a possible forum for you to pursue a claim due to harm caused by an inpatient fall.

Ordinary negligence can also result in an inpatient fall. Recognizing the difference between it and malpractice can assist in understanding your legal rights.

Malpractice Versus Negligence

The main difference between medical malpractice and negligence is recognizing that one is not based on the patient’s condition and medical treatment. For malpractice, a duty of care between the doctor and patient was breached. For ordinary negligence, the facility was maintained in a manner that could have led anyone to fall, regardless of his or her health condition or whether they are a patient.

Both can potentially be grounds for legal action to recover compensatory damages for the harm caused.

What Compensation Could I Receive?

The type of compensation that you may receive will depend on the state and the grounds for bringing the case. There are some states which place a cap on the damages awarded if the case is one due to medical malpractice. However, with ordinary negligence, many states do not have a cap on the compensation that may be awarded in a legal award of damages.

Legal Help For Falls in a Hospital

If you are unfamiliar with this area of law, legal help may be the right choice. This is especially so if you are unsure what type of claim you have and whether the inpatient fall constitutes medical malpractice or was the result of ordinary negligence. Since these result in different kinds of claims, depending on the state, and require certain unique elements of proof to establish a claim, then a consultation may help you understand your options.

After speaking with attorneys experienced in this area, you may find it valuable to use them to handle this case. A lawyer with knowledge of medical malpractice can advocate for a better outcome for you.

Need Help With An Inpatient Fall Case? Contact Us Today

If you need assistance to address an inpatient fall or are unsure whether you have a claim or if it amounts to medical malpractice, then you should contact an experienced attorney soon.

To speak with one of our attorneys here at Raynes & Lawn call us today at 800-535-1797 or fill out our contact form.

We will respond with how we can potentially assist and answer questions on how we have helped other clients with similar cases in the past receive the compensation that they deserved.


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