What Rights Do Bedsore Victims Have?

You’d be surprised how many times we hear the following from clients…”the nursing home said our dad’s skin condition was broken down and poor health led to bedsores”, or some similar version of this. These comments  inappropriately lead people to believe they or there loved ones do not have legal rights when it comes to bedsores or pressure sores (decubitus ulcers). Of course they are not the fault of the bedsore victim. Especially when they are in the care of professionals of a hospital, medical or nursing facility. Patients, elders, unhealthy or not do have legal rights–which also includes the right to sue for bedsores. Read more about the Rights of Bedsore Victims below:

bedsore treatment, bed sore malpractice

  1. The defendants insurance company may ask you for a recorded statement describing the appearance of bedsores and your treatment. Remember you have no obligation to give them such a statement, nor is it wise to do so.

  2. The defendant’s insurance company will ask you for authorizations to obtain your medical records. Let your attorney release your records after he or she has reviewed them. It’s best not to offer information by yourself. 

  3. Some insurance companies will offer you money to settle the case before you contact an attorney. In this situation the insurance company knows they will have to pay out money and they hope to settle the claim before you hire an attorney who can negotiate and demand a higher amount. Always consult an attorney if an insurance company is offering you money. By doing so you will in all likelihood increase your net recovery even after taking out the lawyers fee.

  4. Once a bedsore case is settled and the defendant is released, regardless of whether you make a full recovery or not, the money you received cannot be taken away, it is your money…tax free.

  5. If you need surgery, it is important to go forward with that before you settle your pressure sore or bedsore lawsuit.

  6. If you are persuaded by a hospital or nursing home and settle a case on your own, only to find out 6 months later you have more serious conditions than first thought, you have forfeited your rights to recover additional money. That is why it is so important to contact an experienced bedsore attorney before you sign anything.

  7. You are able to sue for and recover a monetary award from new injuries and infections and the aggravation of old ones caused by bedsores or pressure ulcers.

Additional Bedsore information & Guides:

THE DOCTOR WEIGHS IN BEDSORE ARTICLE by Attorney Brian A. Raphan

HOW MUCH IS A BEDSORE LAWSUIT WORTH: CASE EVALUATOR

DOWNLOAD: BEDSORE LEGAL & MEDICAL GUIDE

Grades of pressure sores
If a person is bedridden for long enough, the areas of skin constantly in contact with the mattress
or chair will start to discolor. This shows that the skin is in danger of ulcerating.
Pressure sores are graded to four levels, including:
• Grade I – skin discoloration, usually red, blue, purple or black
• Grade II – some skin loss or damage involving the top-most skin layers
• Grade III – necrosis (death) or damage to the skin patch, limited to the skin layers
• Grade IV – necrosis (death) or damage to the skin patch and underlying structures, such as tendon, joint or bone.

Complications of pressure sores
Untreated pressure sores can lead to a wide variety of secondary conditions, including: • Sepsis (bacteria entering the bloodstream)
• Cellulitis (inflammation of body tissue, causing swelling and redness)
• Bone and joint infections
• Abscess (a collection of pus).

For more helpful information  or a free consultation you may contact me by email here: Contact

Regards, Brian A. Raphan

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Bed and/or Chair Rest + Neglect = Bedsores

Article by Brian A. Raphan. Published 3/17/15 in ‘THE DOCTOR WEIGHS IN’

When a patient develops pressure ulcers, it is often a sign of neglect and can even be the result of hospital malpractice, nurse malpractice or nursing home negligence.

Any time a patient is confined to a bed or chair for a period of time and not provided proper and adequate care, the risk of pressure ulcers increases.

The National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) defines a pressure ulcer as a “localized injury to the skin and/or underlying tissue, usually over a bony prominence, as a result of pressure, or pressure in combination with shear.” Illustrations of the stages of pressure ulcers are shown below:

stages of bedsores

Sadly, pressure ulcers are the underlying cause of mortality and morbidity for several thousand patients across the country each year. Researchers analyzing the national Medicare Patient Safety Monitoring System (MPSMS) database found that the nationwide incidence rate for hospital-acquired pressure ulcers was 4.5 percent. The five states with the highest incidence rates are New York (5.2%), Missouri (5.3%), New Jersey (5.3%), Massachusetts (5.5%) and Pennsylvania (5.9%).

The federal government, in its first year of a federal initiative to improve patient safety, recently imposed penalties aimed at reducing preventable harm. Five states saw a significant percentage of hospitals being penalized: New York, where 26% of hospitals were penalized by having their Medicare reimbursements cut by 1%; Missouri, 25%; New Jersey, 37%; Massachusetts, 22%; and Pennsylvania, 25%.

In New York State, penalized hospitals included some well-known healthcare facilities, such as Beth Israel Medical Center and New York University Langone Medical Center.

All sedentary patients are vulnerable, but the elderly and patients whose skin condition has been compromised are especially at risk. Pressure ulcers are most common on bony prominences with little protective fat or muscle (such as heels, hips, shoulders, and tail bones), and they develop when patients stay in one position for too long without shifting their weight. The constant pressure against the skin reduces blood flow to contact areas. The skin begins to break down and the tissue dies, possibly in a matter of hours. Friction and shear caused by sliding down in the bed, or being moved improperly from a stretcher to a bed can exacerbate the problem. Pressure ulcers slow a patient’s recovery, can lead to other issues and infection and prolong hospital stays. The total annual cost for treating pressure ulcers in the U.S. is estimated at $11 billion. However, pressure ulcers (also known as bedsores and decubitis ulcers) are preventable.

To prevent pressure ulcers and damage to the skin, recent NPUAP recommendations can be summarized in seven steps:

prevent bedsores

Because these seven steps are so easy to follow, when a patient develops pressure ulcers, it is often a sign of neglect and can even be the result of hospital malpractice, nurse malpractice or nursing home negligence.

Upon admission to a hospital for another health concern the issues can go unnoticed, allowing further damage to take place in a relatively short time. This also creates liability on the part of the hospital.

In many lawsuits that we handle, the hospital is dealt a bad hand by receiving a patient from a nursing home where a skin breakdown or pressure ulcer has already begun. At times, due to dementia for example, a patient may not be able to express or know how to communicate pain upon entering the hospital. However, this is no excuse for not identifying a high-risk patient and making regular daily assessments.

To be clear, pressure ulcers are not the fault of the patient. The patient is a victim. Medical negligence by a hospital, doctor, nurse, aide or medical technician is unacceptable and may be the cause of pain and suffering, or even result in death. It is simply not acceptable for patients to develop bedsores or pressure ulcers while they are in the care of medical professionals and receiving medical care and treatment at a facility.

There is no doubt that hospitals and staff, from talented skilled doctors, nurses and medical professionals to support staff and administration, do their best to help and treat patients. However, protocols exist in every facility, and perhaps, it is just a matter of every individual being a bit more aware, and caring just a little more, when dealing with the elderly and at-risk patients.

By Brian A. Raphan (Principal Attorney, Law Offices of Brian A. Raphan, P.C.

Download a Free Bedsore Legal, Medical & Treatment Guide

You may be signing away your right to sue the nursing home

By Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News

When Paul Ormond signed John Mitchell into a nursing home in Dennis, Mass., in June, he was handed a few dozen pages of admission papers. Ormond, Mitchell’s legal guardian and an old friend, signed wherever the director of admissions told him to.

He didn’t realize that one of those documents was an agreement that required Mitchell and his family to take disputes to a professional arbitrator rather than to court.

bedsore lawyer

Mitchell had been institutionalized since suffering a stroke in 1999. During a hospital stay early this summer, Mitchell, then 69, had received a tracheotomy and needed to switch to a nursing home that could accommodate him.

A few weeks after Mitchell arrived at the new nursing home, staff members dropped him while using a lift device to move him from his bed to his chair. Later that night Ormond, 63, got a call from the nursing home that Mitchell was unresponsive. Mitchell was rushed to the hospital, and doctors found that the fall had caused extensive bleeding on his brain. He died a few days later.

Mitchell’s sons hired a lawyer to look into the circumstances surrounding their father’s death. That was when Ormond learned that amid all the admissions papers he had signed was an arbitration agreement.

“I thought it was deceptive, and I was pretty angry that I’d been tricked into signing something that I didn’t know what it was,” says Ormond.

A mandatory arbitration agreement is an often overlooked document in the package of admissions papers at many nursing homes these days. It can have an outsize impact if something goes wrong. But anxious seniors or their caregivers often sign every document that’s put in front of them, perhaps only glancing at the content.

Signing an arbitration agreement means that in the event of a problem that is not amicably resolved — Mom slips on a wet floor and breaks her hip, say, or Dad wanders off the premises and gets hit by a car — you agree to bring the dispute before a professional arbitrator rather than file a lawsuit for negligence or wrongful death, for example.

Agreeing to arbitrate is generally not in families’ best interests, say consumer advocates. For one thing, it can be pricey. In addition to hiring a lawyer, the patient or family generally has to pay its share of the arbitrator’s fee, which may come to hundreds of dollars an hour, says Paul Bland, a senior attorney at Public Justice, a public interest law firm based in Washington.

“In court, you don’t have to pay the judge,” he says. “Our taxes pay for that.”

Court proceedings are also conducted in a public courtroom and leave a detailed public record that can inform industry practice and help develop case law, say experts. Not so with arbitration hearings, which are conducted in private and whose proceedings and materials are often protected by confidentiality rules.

The amount awarded — if any — may also be less if an arbitrator hears the case than it would be if a case went to trial, say experts.

Aon Global Risk Consulting analyzed 1,449 closed claims involving long-term-care providers between 2003 and 2011 and found that there was no money awarded in 30 percent of claims where a valid arbitration agreement was in place, compared with 19 percent of claims in which there was no arbitration agreement or the agreement was determined to be unenforceable.

Likewise, nearly 12 percent of claims without arbitration agreements resulted in awards of $250,000 or more, compared with 8.5 percent of claims with arbitration agreements.

The study was conducted with the American Health Care Association, which represents 11,000 long-term-care facilities. According to the report, “loss rates” — reflecting the dollar value of liability claims paid — are increasing 4 percent annually.

“Liability costs for providing care have grown and escalated” in recent years, says Greg Crist, a spokesman for the association. Arbitration agreements help keep a lid on those costs, he says.

That may explain why arbitration agreements have become much more common in nursing homes, experts say. The agreements are increasingly used in assisted living facilities as well.

Arbitration can also benefit patients and their families, Crist says. Claims are typically resolved more quickly than court cases, he says, so attorney costs are lower and patients can retain a larger portion of any financial settlement.

The Federal Arbitration Act, enacted in 1925, allows for two sides in a dispute to agree to binding arbitration to resolve their differences. If a dispute arises and an arbitration agreement is in place, the arbitrators are jointly selected by the patient and the nursing home.

Although consumers usually don’t realize it, there’s a simple way to avoid being forced into arbitration, say experts: Don’t sign the arbitration agreement.

What happens if you don’t sign? Nothing, Crist says. “It’s not a condition of admission to the facility,” he says. The American Health Care Association doesn’t support requiring people to sign an arbitration agreement as a condition of admission, he says, although practices may vary at individual nursing homes.

If you do sign and then wish you hadn’t, arbitration agreements typically have a 30-day “opt-out” provision that allows you to change your mind and retain your rights to sue.

The judge in John Mitchell’s wrongful death case threw out the agreement on the grounds that it was “unconscionable,”  a legal term used to describe contracts that are unfair or unjust.

“The judge agreed it was too much to expect me to digest all of this information at once, and that the arbitration clause hadn’t been explained thoroughly,” says Ormond. A trial date hasn’t yet been set.

Arguing that an agreement is unconscionable is one of the few ways people can extricate themselves from arbitration agreements once a dispute arises, says David Hoey, a North Reading, Mass., lawyer representing the Mitchell family. Another possibility is to prove that the person wasn’t competent to sign an agreement or that the family member who signed wasn’t legally qualified to do so.

Better yet, experts agree, is not to sign in the first place.

Related article: Should you sign that nursing home agreement:

New Lawsuits for Pharmaceutical side effects & Medical Devices

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Our firm has become aware of concerning pharmaceutical and medical device side effects that may have impacted you, a friend or family member. If you or a loved one has been affected by any of these drugs or devices, please feel free to contact us to learn more about your legal rights and a possible monetary settlement. After receiving calls for legal help from some of our clients we are now working with a national law firm who specializes in litigation against large manufacturers of these products in an effort to hold them accountable for failing to warn patients of dangerous side effects. Below is a list of drugs and devices:

Xarelto—this medication is a blood thinner that can lead to serious and uncontrollable internal bleeding.

Testosterone Supplements–can bring on a heart attack or stroke, or cause deep vein thrombosis, DVT, blood clots, pulmonary embolism.

Risperdal—is an anti-psychotic medication marketed for use in children with ADD and other behavior disorders and is known it cause breast growth in prepubescent males, a condition known as gynecomastia.

Bard Inferior Vena Cava Filters—these devices are intended to stop blood clots traveling from the lower body to the heart and/or lungs, however they can break off and migrate into the heart, lungs, and other vital organs resulting in serious injury or death.

Potiga—is a seizure epilepsy medication that can cause blindness and other eye problems in patients.

Benicar—prescribed to treat high blood pressure, this drug has been linked to a serious gastrointestinal condition known as sprue-like enteropathy; symptoms include excessive weight loss or chronic diarrhea.

We can help you and your loved ones with any legal matters arising from use of these dangerous drugs and medical devices. If you know of someone that has used these medications please forward the information and inform them of the dangers.

If you have any questions feel free to contact me. -Brian