Seeking Compensation for Pressure Sores

Pressure sores are commonly known as bed sores or ulcers. They are lesions that develop when too much continual pressure is placed on an area of the body, such as when a bedridden patient lies on his or her back all day long. Pressure sores are more likely to develop in older people and overweight people, and are also helped along by temperature and humidity. They can go through several stages of severity, from stage I (which is a superficial sore) to stage IV (which is damage that goes through to the tendons or muscles and sometimes all the way through to the bone). When a patient suffers from pressure sores, his or her caregivers may be held liable for improper care and may be subject to pay damages.

Understanding Pressure Sore Liability

When a patient is being cared for in a nursing home or hospital setting, or by a doctor or nurse, the caregiver(s) owe the patient a certain duty of care. This duty is set under negligence laws that apply to professional malpractice, and essentially these rules state that the caregiver must behave as a competent professional in the same situation would. A nursing home or a hospital, for example, must exhibit the same level of care that any reasonable nursing home or hospital would, including having reasonable policies about rotating patients and using pressure-relieving devices to avoid or minimize the development of bedsores.

When a hospital, nursing home or other caregiver falls short, then liability may arise. In order to prove liability on the part of the caregiver, the patient or the patient's representative must prove:

  1. That a duty of care was owed (this is proven by virtue of the caregiver/patient relationship alone).
  2. That the duty of care was breached (this is proven by showing that any reasonable caregiver would have been more cautious).
  3. That the breach directly led to injury (i.e. that the pressure sores would not have developed or been as severe had more care been exhibited).
  4. That the injury occurred and caused compensable damages (i.e. that treatment was required for the bedsores and/or that the patient suffered some type of actual loss).

Provided that a patient is able to prove this, then he can recover damages from the responsible parties. These damages may be recovered if a settlement is offered outside of court or by filing a lawsuit. Typically, damages will include the cost of treatment and medical care necessitated by the pressure sores, any lost wages if the person missed work as a result of the sores (usually, this isn't relevant because of the patients' bedridden status), pain and suffering (this can be relevant as bedsores can be very painful and treatment treatment- including debridement or the removal of dead skin- can be painful).

Defenses to Liability

While the patient has the burden of proving his claim, the defendant only has to show that the patient did notprove some element of it. It is common for caregivers to raise the defense that the bedsores weren't caused by negligence, but that they developed because of something unrelated to the caregivers actions. The caregiver, for example, may blame the patient's obesity or may assert the bedsores or pressure sores developed because of the patients advanced age.

When the caregiver makes these assertions, an out of court settlement may not be available because of the caregivers refusal to accept fault. The case will instead go to court and the plaintiff will need to prove that it actually was the caregiver who caused or contributed to the bed sores. Usually, this comes down to which side has the most credible expert witnesses.

Getting Help

If you wish to recover damages for pressure sores, the best thing you can do is contact a lawyer. He or she can explain to you what your options are as far as recovering damages and can help you to get the compensation you deserve for the suffering your negligent caregiver caused.

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