Falls at Hospitals can be Medical Malpractice

Most readers will know that medical malpractice is about medical professionals harming patients while giving treatment to those patients.  Of course, medical malpractice can be much more than that; for example, hospitals and other types of facilities can be sued along with doctors, nurses, assistants, and the like.  Gray areas exist as well, which leads to the question, if a patient falls at the hospital as a patient, is that medical malpractice.

The experienced Kingston medical malpractice attorney knows that answering this question with a “yes” will depend upon the circumstances of the patient’s fall.  Therefore, medical malpractice can lead to patient falls, but the fall can also be simply the result of ordinary negligence.

Yes, medical malpractice is a type of negligence, but it is substantially different than ordinary negligence.  For example, even though medical malpractice and negligence involves one’s breach of a duty owed to another, medical malpractice requires that a relationship exist between the perpetrator and victim while ordinary negligence can occur between two complete strangers.  

The relationship that is required for medical malpractice to apply is the doctor-patient relationship.  Without this, a patient fall will not be litigated under the medical malpractice umbrella.  Moreover, the patient’s fall must have been the result of something gone awry while being treated by a medical professional.  

Some examples are in order to illustrate the difference.  

A patient with a known issue of falling out of bed is placed in a bed that does not have rail guards.  Neither the doctors, nor the nurses made sure to protect the patient by ensuring that rail guards were in place.  And indeed, the patient does fall out of bed one night and fractures his hip.  This would be a medical malpractice issue and not ordinary negligence.  

Another patient is recovering in the hospital for a few days after receiving surgery on his jaw.  His diet is limited because he is not allowed to eat solid food.  What makes his day is having a grape slushy from the hospital cafeteria.  He decides to get it himself.  The walk would do him good he figures, besides, the doctors and nurses told him he is fine to walk and in fact should stay as active as possible. 

Looking at nothing but the slushy machine 50 feet in front of him, he never notices the hole jack-hammered into the floor so that plumbing repairs could be made.  No warning signs were in place to warn him anyway.  He steps into the hole, his foot gets lodged, and he falls to the ground.  His ankle and both wrists are broken.   This example is fitting for ordinary negligence.

The difference is that the first patient’s fall was related to his medical care while the second patient’s fall had nothing to do with medical care and did not occur within the doctor-patient relationship. 

But what do you think?  I would love to hear from you!  Leave a comment or I also welcome your phone call on my toll-free cell at 1-866-889-6882 or you can drop me an e-mail at [email protected]  You are always welcome to request my FREE book, The Seven Deadly Mistakes of Malpractice Victims, at the home page of my website at www.protectingpatientrights.com.

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