When Nursing Home Wheelchair Transfers Go Wrong, Residents Suffer Broken Bones and Wrongful Death
People with mobility impairments have to rely on the assistance of skilled medical workers—whether in nursing homes, hospitals, or assisted living facilities—to go about their daily life on the move. When these people become injured as a result of the actions of those who are responsible for helping them to move around, most families are concerned about how the injuries occurred and why. While not every injury is the fault of the facility or staff, transfer injuries often require an extensive investigation to determine who is liable for the accident.
Transfer injuries can occur in a number of ways, and it is important to understand what transfer injuries are, how they happen, and what to do if you or someone close to you suffers a transfer injury.
Injuries during transfers in and out of bed or a wheelchair are a common cause of fractures in nursing homes. Unsafe nursing home transfers can bring serious, life-threatening injuries. Our nursing home negligence attorneys explain how wheelchair transfer injuries occur and what your legal rights are in bringing a transfer injury nursing home lawsuit.
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What Is a Transfer Injury in a Nursing Home or Hospital Setting?
A transfer injury refers to any injury sustained by a mobility-impaired person during a transfer from one position to another, one mode of transportation to another, or from one location to another. An example of this phenomenon is when a person is aided in their transition from a bed to a wheelchair.
Common circumstances in which transfer injuries take place include:
- Assisting a resident or patient who wants to sit up in bed
- Assisting a resident or patient into their wheelchair from another resting location, such as a chair or bed
- Aiding a resident or patient into and out of a bath or shower
- Moving a resident or patient between areas of the facility
Common Forms of Transfer Injuries That Result in Litigation
- Dropping a resident while helping them in or out of their wheelchair
- Failing to lock the wheelchair wheels during a transfer, resulting in the patient falling
- Dropping a patient while assisting them on or off the toilet in the bathroom
- Failing to secure a resident while bathing them, resulting in a shower fall
- Improperly using a Hoyer Lift, leading to the patient falling or suffering a fracture
- Moving the patient in or out of a chair and allowing them to slide off and fall to the floor
- Allowing a patient to fall or be dropped from the hospital bed while getting them up and dressed
Common Injuries Resulting from Negligent Wheelchair Transfer Injuries
Why Do Wheelchair Transfer Injuries Occur in Healthcare Facilities?
The short answer is usually understaffing. When a nursing home or healthcare facility tries to make large profits, they pack the facility with patients and cut staff. This high revenue and low overhead business model means there are not enough hands to care for high needs residents.
By definition, a transfer-dependent patient is going to need human assistance to get in and out of their chair. Many wheelchair bound patients are deemed 2 person assist, meaning they need two staff members to safely transfer them. When staff numbers are low, the nurses and aides are overworked. This is when mistakes happen. Tragically, if a nursing home wheelchair transfer is done incorrectly, the results can be deadly.
Transferring Wheelchair Residents is Easy, When Performed Properly
While these tasks may seem relatively straightforward, transferring a person with mobility impairments takes comprehensive training and attention from the staff due to the risk of injury. When a facility does not provide a staff member with sufficient training, catastrophic consequences can occur. Remember—staff cannot feel what an individual is feeling, and simply lying them down incorrect could twist, break, or otherwise compromise a body part, resulting in injury.
Transferring a resident must be done in a specific manner, and not following protocols for transfers can lead to serious injuries. For instance, if a resident or patient needs assistance moving out of their wheelchair, they can dislocate their arm if a staff member attempts to move them out of their wheelchair by pulling on their arm. Even helping a resident sit up in bed requires a specific strategy and can cause fracturing or dislocations if done wrong.
Poor judgment can lead to these injuries, but lack of proper equipment can also contribute if the staff is not given the correct tools necessary to transfer a patient. Many negligent transfer cases our law firm has handled involve faulty or improperly used Hoyer Lifts.
Each person should have their own specific plan devised by staff and relevant medical professionals that informs workers how a proper transfer should occur; this plan should be followed as closely as possible to avoid injury.
How Serious Are Transfer Injuries?
While transfer accidents that result in broken bones or more severe injuries are obviously of grave concern, there are often long term effects of a poorly performed nursing home wheelchair transfer.
Falls are the most common type of injury in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities. Almost a third of community-dwelling people over 65 fall each year. Residents in a nursing home are three times more likely to fall than people their age who live outside of one. Of these falls, 10-25% result in fractures, or worse, hospitalizations. A person of the same age who is not in a nursing home only requires hospitalization in 5% of falls. While not all falls in nursing homes are a result of transfer injuries, the increased risk that elders in a nursing home setting face show that nursing homes must aim to reduce the chance of a fall, including by reducing the frequency of transfer injuries.
Preventing Transfer Injuries
Falls are often not the result of a single issue. There are usually intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors that contribute to a fall, like the health of the resident, the condition of the facility, and the training of the staff. Interventions needed to reduce fall risk are multifaceted and should include a variety of assessments and modifications that look at all possible risks and extensive staff training. Communication of fall prevention methods to staff can lead to more awareness and changes within nursing homes to prevent these injuries from occurring as frequently.
Another measure to prevent transfer injuries is improving the quality of staffing. Staffing can significantly reduce the risk of harm to residents, but proper training must also be emphasized. While adding to existing staff can ease the burden of their work, better training is also beneficial for resident care. Training employees to properly assess residents and construct individual plans for each person can significantly lessen the risk of transfer injuries. Additionally, ensuring that each employee is properly trained on transferring and has the proper equipment, if necessary, to handle the transfer are both effective in reducing the overall incidence of transfer injuries.
Nursing Home Wheelchair Injury Lawsuits
When a hospital, nursing home, or assisted living facility is at fault for a wheelchair transfer injury, pursuing a lawsuit can be effective for ensuring that the victim of the accident is not left shouldering the cost of receiving medical care. Additionally, if the negligent wheelchair transfer results in a wrongful death, the victim’s family can be compensated for their pain and suffering.
Nursing home wheelchair injury lawsuits can also be effective to spur change within the facility if there are severe deficiencies in the way it is run. While settlements can compensate for medical costs, punitive damages, meant to punish the facility, can increase compensation.
Lawsuits Against Nursing Homes for Wheelchair and Transfer Injuries
In 2010, an Iowa nursing home paid the family of a former patient $546,000 after he died due to injuries suffered after a drop while being transferred. The 89-year-old patient was being assisted out of the facility when the gurney he was on ran over cracks on the pathway, flipping and causing him to fall. He struck his head on the pavement as a result and died a few days later.
In 2019, a Pennsylvania plaintiff received a confidential settlement from a Philadelphia area nursing home, after suffering a fall while being assisted by staff in the shower. The bathroom fall resulted in a compound elbow fracture.
In 2021, a Florida family received $350,000 in exchange for dismissing a lawsuit against a West Palm Beach nursing home. The allegations in this case involved staff allowing a mobility impaired resident to slide out of their wheelchair during a transfer. This injury was not initially reported, and the non-verbal victim was forced to suffer with a broken hip for 8 days before an outside provider noticed something was wrong.
Statistics on Transfer Injuries
Falls are one of the most common injuries in the healthcare field, and transfers are one of the leading causes of fall-related accidents and injury. In hospitals, falls occur in nearly 2% of hospital stays; a quarter of all hospital falls result in injuries, with 2% of these resulting in a fracture. The financial costs of these injuries are significant, as patients who suffer injuries from falling stay an additional six to 12 days in the hospital, which costs roughly $13,000 more than the stays of those who do not fall.
In nursing homes, roughly 1,800 people die from falls every year. There are 1.6 million nursing home residents, and half of those residents will fall at least once a year. Most residents fall more than once as well, with the average resident falling 2.6 times a year. In nursing homes, the risk of a serious injury can be ten times that of hospitals, as up to 20% of falls result in serious injuries. Nursing homes, while only accounting for 5% of the over 65 population in the U.S, account for 20% of all deaths from falls. Even those who survive falls can see a significant decrease in their quality of life. Those who do not suffer injuries can develop a fear of falling that limits activities they would normally be able to participate in.
The CDC reports that falls in older adults have increased 30% in a ten-year span from 2007 to 2016. They also estimate that there will be seven fall deaths every hour by 2030. In 2015, falls cost more than $50 billion. While this rate includes the general population, the growth rate of falls is alarming because of the statistics within nursing homes and the frequency of negative outcomes in these long-term care facilities.
Downstream Health Consequences Following a Negligent Nurse Transfer from a Wheelchair
Falls and bedsores are two frequent injuries that result from transfer accidents or negligence. Falls can happen during the act of transferring a resident from one place to another (such as if staff lose their grip and drop the individual), but they can also occur later if the resident was not properly transferred to a location (such as slipping out of a bed if they were placed at the edge).
Bedsores occur from being bedbound and often arise after a resident suffers a serious fracture. Bedsores develop after intense pressure on areas of the body after a prolonged period of time. People at risk for pressure sores, specifically with mobility impairments, should be assisted in ensuring that sensitive areas are not exposed to prolonged pressure. This is one of the most common types of injury in nursing homes, and it frequently arises because the effort and detail required to properly shift an individual’s position in bed takes too much time, and so staff neglect this procedure.
Contact an Attorney on your Potential Nursing Home Wheelchair Transfer Injury Case
If you or a family member suffered a transfer injury, you should consider pursuing a lawsuit against the facility where the injury took place. Transfer injuries are often avoidable and a result of negligence or inattentiveness by those in charge.
Transfer injuries can have lasting impact on victims, not only health-wise but financially as well due to the cost of medical treatment. A lawsuit will help mitigate the burden of these costs and can hold the facility that allowed the injury take place accountable for their actions. Lawsuits can also encourage systemic change within the facility through punitive damages, which aim to punish an organization for their faults.
Attorneys like those at Senior Justice Law Firm understand that bringing a case against a nursing home can see overwhelming and confusing. We specifically attend to elder abuse and negligence cases, and our years of experience can help you to seek the justice and compensation that your family deserves. We have helped hundreds of families like yours successfully pursue a nursing home fall case.
At Senior Justice Law Firm, we solely focus on cases involving vulnerable seniors injured inside healthcare settings. This is all that we do. Let our firm help your family after a negligent transfer injury inside a healthcare facility. Our attorneys would be glad to speak with you during a consultation free of charge. Reach out to us through our chat feature or call us at 888-375-9998. If you prefer, you can also submit your information below.
*Each case is different. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome or indicate an expected outcome on your particular case. The above prior lawsuit information is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney. This individual case information above is publicly filed information gathered from the publicly filed complaint. This information and these cases are not the work of this law firm. Speak with an attorney immediately if you believe you have a viable case against a nursing home, assisted living facility or medical facility.