Who May Be Liable for a Wheelchair Injury in a Santa Fe Nursing Home?

Posted by PKSD New Mexico Law Firm on May 21, 2024 in Nursing Home Neglect

elderly man sitting alone in wheelchair and looking out windowMany nursing homes residents suffer from medical conditions or illnesses that confine them to a wheelchair. Others may still have some mobility but need someone to wheel them to other places around the facility. If a resident falls out of or off the wheelchair while being transferred or transported, which is very common, who is responsible for the damages?

Below, we discuss more about different types of wheelchair injuries and why they happen. We also discuss who may be liable for the damages.

Did your loved one or family member suffer a wheelchair injury in his or her nursing home? If so, our knowledgeable Santa Fe nursing home abuse lawyers may be able to help. We help victims of nursing home neglect and abuse every day, something we have been doing for decades. Contact our law offices to find out if you have legal options. We are here to help you.

Request a FREE case review today. 505-677-7777

How Do Wheelchair Injuries Happen in a Nursing Home?

Wheelchair injuries in nursing homes are often related to residents falling or being dropped while being transferred in or out of a chair.

High staff turnover and staffing shortages are two significant problems at many nursing homes today that increase the risk of wheelchair injuries. Residents may get tired of waiting for someone to help them get into the wheelchair, especially if they need to use the toilet. Their fragile state makes it very difficult for them to successfully transfer themselves and they may fall and get hurt in the process. Residents may also get injured in this situation if the wheelchair tips over.

Improper use, along with maintenance and environmental issues increase the risk of a wheelchair injury. Here are some other common factors that frequently cause wheelchair injuries:

 Improper Wheelchair Use

  • Lack of Training: Nursing home staff or residents may not be properly trained on how to use the wheelchair safely.
  • Incorrect Transfers: Improper techniques during transfers from the wheelchair to a bed, toilet, or chair can lead to falls and injuries.
  • Overloading: Exceeding the weight capacity of the wheelchair can cause it to malfunction or tip over.

 Maintenance Issues

  • Worn-out Parts: Wheels, brakes, and other components can wear out over time, leading to malfunction.
  • Lack of Repairs: Failure to regularly inspect and repair wheelchairs can result in mechanical failures.
  • Improper Adjustments: Wheelchairs not adjusted to fit the resident’s size and needs can cause discomfort and increase the risk of injury.

 Environmental Factors

  • Cluttered Walkways: Obstacles in hallways and rooms can cause wheelchair users to collide with objects or tip over.
  • Poorly Designed Ramps: Steep or improperly designed ramps can make it difficult for wheelchair users to navigate safely.
  • Uneven Floors: Cracks, uneven surfaces, and slippery floors can cause wheelchairs to tip or slide.

 Human Factors

  • Neglect: Inadequate supervision or neglect by nursing home staff can lead to accidents.
  • Resident’s Health Condition: Cognitive impairments, muscle weakness, or other health issues can contribute to accidents and injuries.

By addressing these factors, nursing homes can significantly reduce the risk of wheelchair injuries and ensure a safer environment for their residents.

Who May Be Liable for the Damages Caused by a Wheelchair Injury?

Nursing homes are often liable in this situation. An example of this is if a resident falls because the staff transferring them into or out of the chair were never properly trained to do this task. However, staff could also be held liable for some of the damages if they received training but failed to follow proper safety protocols.

What Are the Most Common Wheelchair Injuries in Nursing Homes?

Injuries resulting from being dropped or falling out of a wheelchair are very common. Residents confined to a wheelchair are often much more frail. Even a bump on the head can lead to a dangerous brain bleed, which can sometimes be fatal. The most common wheelchair injuries in nursing homes tend to include:

  • Pressure Sores: Falls are not the only way residents get injured in wheelchairs. Extended periods of sitting without proper repositioning can lead to pressure sores.
  • Bruises and Abrasions: Poorly fitted or maintained wheelchairs can cause bruises and skin abrasions.
  • Fractures: Falls or improper handling during transfers can result in fractures, especially in elderly residents.
  • Muscle Strains: Incorrect positioning or lack of support in the wheelchair can lead to muscle strains and discomfort.
  • Cuts and Lacerations: Sharp edges or broken parts of a wheelchair can cause cuts and lacerations.
  • Joint Dislocations: Improper transfers or sudden movements can lead to joint dislocations, particularly in the shoulders and hips.

Residents often suffer severe injuries when they fall from a wheelchair because their bodies are frailer. Sometimes falls can be fatal for residents. Residents taking blood thinners have an increased risk of a brain bleed if they hit their head. Without immediate care, this injury could be fatal for someone on blood thinners.

How Can Nursing Homes Prevent Wheelchair Injuries From Happening?

It may not be possible to prevent every wheelchair injury from happening. However, there are definitely steps nursing homes can and should take to reduce the risk. Nursing homes owe residents a duty of care to take steps to keep them from being harmed.

To prevent wheelchair injuries, nursing homes should take these and other steps, including:

  • Ensure the appropriate number of staff are working each shift
  • Fully train staff on how to handle and transfer residents in and out of wheelchairs
  • Make sure footrests are up and residents feet are not dragging during wheelchair transport
  • Install seat alarms on wheelchairs to ensure residents can get help from staff quickly
  • Lock the wheels when residents are in a wheelchair, but not moving
  • Securely strap residents into the wheelchair to prevent them from falling out
  • Regularly inspect and maintain wheelchairs to prevent injuries due to mechanical issues
  • Keep walkways clear and uncluttered, ensure ramps are safe, and maintain even flooring.
  • Regularly assess residents’ needs and health conditions to ensure they have the appropriate wheelchair and support.

Did Your Loved One Sustain a Wheelchair Injury?

If your loved one suffered a wheelchair injury, you may be eligible to recover compensation for his or her medical costs. If the injury was fatal, you may have a wrongful death case.

At PKSD in Santa Fe, we have a history of proven results, and we are prepared to fight for full and fair compensation on behalf of your loved one. We provide a free case review to discuss your situation, including whether you may have legal options. If we find you have a case, there are no upfront costs or fees to hire our services.

Experienced Lawyers. Proven Results. 505-677-7777

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