Can Nursing Homes be Liable for a Wheelchair Injury?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on October 6, 2020 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 24, 2024

assisting elderly person transferring out of wheelchairMany nursing home residents are either confined to a wheelchair or need to use one almost all the time. By using a wheelchair, these residents should be able to avoid falling and the severe, potentially life-threatening injuries that may result from falling.

Unfortunately, many nursing homes are understaffed, which means staff members are often careless with residents, particularly those in wheelchairs. There are so many things to deal with, staff members may be reckless in helping residents transfer into or out of a wheelchair. They may leave residents in wheelchairs for so long pressure sores develop.

Residents often become impatient waiting for help to transfer into or out of a wheelchair and try to do it alone. This often leads to severe injuries.

When these injuries occur, staff members at the nursing home may bear liability for medical expenses and other damages. At PKSD, our Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers have obtained millions for injured nursing home residents and have extensive knowledge of how careless and negligent nursing homes and long-term care facilities can be.

How do Wheelchair Injuries Happen?

For the most part, wheelchair injuries occur when residents are transferring into and out of their wheelchairs. For example, the resident may fall when moving from the bed into the chair or vice versa. Residents could fall while transferring out of the chair into a shower stall.

Accidents could also occur while staff members are pushing residents’ chairs. For example, one of the smaller wheels on the front of the chair could hit something, get stuck, and cause the chair to stop. If the staffer continues pushing, the resident could fall forward out of the chair.

Falls can result in broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, head injuries and other severe ailments. The elderly have brittle bones that break much more easily. Muscle weakness can also cause the elderly to fall so fast they cannot use their arms to break their fall. That is how brain injuries happen.

Staffers need to make sure residents keep their arms and legs out of the way as the chair is moving. Hitting a wall or corner too hard could resident in bruising or potentially broken bones.

Injuries in Electric Scooters and Power Chairs

Some residents may be using motorized scooters or power chairs instead of manual wheelchairs. However, there are risks with these as well. Residents may lose control and crash into things, including other residents.

If staff members do not pay enough attention, the battery on a power chair or scooter could die, and the resident may be stuck somewhere in the facility. If he or she tries to get up without help, he or she could easily fall and suffer an injury.

Steps for Preventing Wheelchair Injuries

There are many reasonable precautions nursing homes can take to help prevent a wheelchair injury:

  • Installing a seat alarm on the chair to alert staff members when the resident tries to get up
  • Providing physical therapy to help residents get stronger so it is easier to stand up with less assistance
  • Carefully monitoring residents in wheelchairs so staff members can get to them quickly when they need to transfer
  • Checking motorized scooters or wheelchairs for any mechanical issues that may cause the device to stop working or cause the resident to lose control
  • Locking the wheels when the resident is sitting in one area, as the resident may not be able to stop the chair from moving (this may also prevent the resident from wandering)
  • Parking wheelchairs in places where the ground is level, to prevent the chair from rolling around uncontrolled
  • Using leg braces to prevent the resident’s legs from catching on things
  • Making sure wheelchairs are never placed near stairways
  • Keeping residents away from congested areas that could result in a crash that could cause a fall

Liability for Wheelchair Injuries

Nursing homes could be held liable if you can prove staff members did not uphold a duty of care and this led directly to your loved one’s injury. Failing to take reasonable steps, like those listed above, may constitute negligence on the part of the nursing home and/or its staff members.

The failure to take these steps could be due to various oversights by the nursing home, such as:

  • Understaffing
  • Poor training of staff members
  • Failing to monitor residents

Understaffing is one of the most common causes of nursing home neglect and abuse. When nursing homes lack enough staff members, it is very difficult to provide the attention every resident needs, particularly the attention needed by those who are confined to wheelchairs.

Call PKSD to Discuss Your Loved One’s Wheelchair Injury

People send their elderly loved ones to long-term care facilities because their loved ones need help with so many things each day. Unfortunately, nursing homes often fail with the most basic of tasks and residents suffer the consequences.

When this happens, our attorneys are here to help. We are dedicated to pursuing maximum compensation for damages and holding the at-fault parties accountable. By holding them accountable, we can hopefully help prevent others from engaging in the same behavior in the future.

Your initial consultation is free and there is no obligation to take legal action. Partner and founder Jeff Pitman is a member of the Nursing Home Litigation Group in the American Association for Justice.

We are ready to take your call. 414-333-3333 . No upfront fees.

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