For the past 25 years, our law firm has represented hundreds of senior citizens that have been injured in nursing home, assisted living, adult foster care facilities and hospitals. These lawsuits are brought on behalf of the injured victim and/or their family to seek justice and compensation arising out of an injury that occurs when one should not have.
The mere fact that somebody gets hurt does not serve as the basis of a lawsuit. Not every injury results in a lawsuit. The injury must be caused by the negligence on the part of a care giver, i.e., the failure to do what a reasonably prudent care giver would do under similar circumstances.
Prior to 1987, lawsuits involving nursing homes were relatively unknown. In 1987, Congress passed OBRA (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987). For the first time, strict safety standards were put into place involving nursing homes that accept money from Medicare. These standards plus the willingness on the part of attorneys around the country to help senior citizens has definitely helped pave the way for better safety awareness in long-term care settings.
Virtually every nursing home has a fall prevention program as falls pose one of the greatest threats to the health and safety of a senior citizen. Between 25% and 40% of people over the age of 65 who sustain a severe lower limb fracture die within the first year.
Lawsuits have led to numerous safety advances regarding the use of restraints including side rails. Contrary to the perception that side rails are a simple “nothing little safety device,” statistics show that more people are injured because of the use of side rails than because they were not used. People have a tendency to climb over them and become entangled in the side rails. In Michigan, a law requires that a nursing home resident and/or his or her family sign a specific waiver regarding the use of side rails. Side rails are considered a restraint and cannot be used without a doctor’s order and without the signature of the family or nursing home resident.
During the current healthcare debate, there was much talk about lawsuits and how they affect the cost of health care. The truth of the matter is that the entire medical malpractice system including payments, costs and all of the dollar factors associated with it amount to less than one-half of one percent of the total cost of the health care system in America. Eliminating and/or attempting to restrict malpractice cases does nothing except hurt those who have already been injured.
Health care providers have an obligation to be accountable to the public.
Every year in the United States, nearly 100,000 people die as a result of preventable medical errors. To put it another way, every year enough people to nearly fill the University of Michigan football stadium die because a doctor, nurse or health care provider made a mistake that should not have occurred. We are not talking about bad outcomes that are not anyone’s fault. We are talking about preventable medical error.
Every system and every business profession has an obligation to be accountable to the public. Without malpractice cases, there would be no accountability.