When you placed your loved one in a Charleston nursing home, you made a decision to improve their quality of life. You could never have anticipated that they would suffer from painful pressure sores and bed sores. These disturbing ulcerations develop when limited mobility patients remain in one position too long. They occur on the skin surfaces over elbows, heads, ankles, and other areas where the bone protrudes. Sores are usually avoidable when the nursing home staff provides proper preventative care.
Medical standards dictate that simply repositioning an immobile person is the best way to prevent this pervasive problem. The Healthcare Medical Journal study, “Improving Outcomes by Implementing a Pressure Ulcer Prevention Program“ found that pressure ulcer incidents were directly related to the quality of nursing care. When a nursing home fails to implement simple preventative procedures, they’re responsible for the damages their inaction causes.
At Hughey Law Firm, our Charleston pressure sore and bed sore attorneys have long understood that negligence, neglect, and abuse are the root causes of these preventable injuries. We believe that when a nursing home is responsible for that negligence, neglect or abuse, they should pay for their actions. We handle plaintiffs’ cases only. Our attorneys understand nursing home liability issues and complex pressure and bed sore injuries. We’ve used our firm’s knowledge and resources in producing the best outcomes for our clients.
Hughey Law Firm’s Case Results
Attorney Nathan Hughey has been an advocate for injured people since he founded Hughey Law Firm in 2007. Our attorneys have worked hard to produce the best results, recovering millions for our clients. Each case is unique with different, injuries, circumstances, and liability issues. While we can’t guarantee a specific outcome, our results demonstrate our commitment to protecting our clients’ rights.
- Nursing home neglect, $220,000: Our client sustained Stage 4 pressure sores which became infected. She underwent painful debridement procedures.
- Nursing home neglect, $220,000: Our client sustained pressure sores while residing in a nursing home.
- Home care liability, $850,000: Our client sustained a carbon monoxide injury during a fire at a caregiver’s residence
- Nursing home neglect, $235,000: When a nursing home failed to monitor our client, she sustained a scaphoid fracture and head lacerations during a fall.
What Is a Pressure Sore?
Pressure sores and bed sores are also known as pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers. They occur when a patient’s skin encounters unrelieved pressure, shear, or friction. Pressure comes from a person’s weight. Shear happens internally when bone and skin move in opposite directions. Friction occurs when the skin rubs against a surface. These dynamics occur while the patient is in bed, in a wheelchair, or restrained by a medical device. Pressure sores form on the skin that covers elbows, heels, hips, shoulders, heads and other prominent bony structures.
Pressure sores begin as skin irritations. When the patient receives no relief, surface irritations quickly degrade into open wounds that expose underlying tissue and bone. Bed sores cause pain, mobility issues, disfigurement, and scarring. They contribute to a patient’s overall physical deterioration.
Open sores provide a point of entry for invasive infections. The Advanced Skin Wound Care article, “Pressure Ulcers: More Lethal Than We Thought?” cites a 10-year study (1990-2001) that confirmed pressure ulcer-related septicemia infections as the underlying cause of 114,380 deaths.
The CDC National Center for Health Statistics’ brief, “Pressure Ulcers Among Nursing Home Residents” explains how medical professionals rate pressure injuries by severity.
- Stage 1: Skin reddens or darkens and may have sensation, temperature, or skin firmness changes.
- Stage 2: Skin loses thickness. Wounds may appear red and look like blisters, abrasions, or craters.
- Stage 3: Skin loses full thickness. Sores form deep craters that expose subcutaneous layers.
- Stage 4: Skin loses full thickness and subcutaneous tissues and exposes muscle and bone.
Who Is Responsible for a Nursing Home Resident’s Pressure Sores?
Elderly nursing home patients develop pressure sores due to a combination of direct and indirect factors. Pressure, shear, friction, and immobility are direct causes. Dehydration, malnutrition, uncleanliness, soiled linens, unclean catheters, and other issues are indirect factors. When your loved one is under 24-hour nursing home care, the staff is in control of direct and indirect issues. The injury itself is strong evidence of their negligence and failure to meet the appropriate standard of care.
A nursing home is negligent when they don’t provide quality care or maintain adequate staff to protect their patients from physical harm. Patient medical treatment that’s below the standard of care is considered medical negligence under South Carolina’s Medical Malpractice Codes, §15-79.
Any facility employee or medical staff member who fails to meet standard of care guidelines are responsible for a resident’s pressure injuries. If the negligent service providers are employees, the nursing home is responsible for their errors, omissions, and negligent acts. Non-employees may be jointly, severally, or contractually liable for their actions, including:
- Visiting or contract physicians not employed by a facility
- Subcontracted nurses
- Subcontracted healthcare assistants or attendants
In addition to civil remedies, nursing homes risk criminal penalties when they don’t comply with South Carolina Adult Protection Codes, §43-35-5. They must also meet federal guidelines under Public Health Regulations, §42-483. A non-compliant facility risks losing Medicare funding.
What Damages Can a Nursing Home Resident Recover for Pressure Sores?
When we’ve settled our clients’ claims, we recovered economic and general damages and on rare occasions punitive damages. Special damages are the actual costs for treatment and other out of pocket expenses, including:
- Lost income;
- Doctor bills and medications;
- Physical and psychological therapy;
- Corrective surgery;
- Prosthetics and mobility equipment;
- Lost earnings capacity; and
- Funeral and burial expenses.
General damages consider the value of an injury based on subjective factors, including:
- Pain and suffering;
- Loss of spousal relationship;
- Diminished family relationships;
- Lost bodily functions; and
- Scars and disfigurement.
Juries award punitive damages under South Carolina 15-32-510. The injured plaintiff must show “…clear and convincing evidence…” of the defendant’s “…willful, wanton, or reckless conduct.”
Can a Nursing Home Successfully Defend a Bed Sore Case?
Nursing homes and their staff generally have few defenses to a pressure ulcer negligence case, but they may defend it anyway. When a plaintiff files a malpractice action, the court mandates attempted resolution through pre-litigation Alternate Dispute Resolution. If the attorneys can’t resolve the case through ADR, the lawsuit proceeds and the nursing home and its staff can defend their actions during a trial.
A nursing home’s defense efforts will include documentation of preventative efforts, training, employee actions, and standards of care compliance. They may also cite common defenses used by nursing homes:
- No negligence: If the defendant facility, doctor, or other responsible parties convince a jury that they were not negligent in causing a resident’s bed sores, they avoid an adverse judgment.
- Comparative negligence: If a facility, doctor, or other responsible party convince a jury that the plaintiff was negligent in causing their bed sore injuries, South Carolina’s Modified Comparative Fault statute allows a damage reduction based on their negligence percentage. If a defendant is found 51 percent at fault or greater, he can’t recover damages.
At Hughey Law Firm, we’re familiar with nursing home defense tactics. Our attorneys understand the legal issues and injury complications. We’ve prepared our clients’ cases and documented critical evidence to overcome their defense strategies.
Contact Our Charleston Pressure Sores and Bed Sores Attorney
If your loved one was injured due to nursing home negligence, neglect or abuse, we want to help. Hughey Law Firm attorneys have represented clients in the Charleston metro region and in communities throughout South Carolina. We’re also licensed in North Carolina and Georgia. Our attorneys work for you on a contingency basis. We don’t collect a fee until we resolve your case.
Give us a call at (843) 881-8644 or complete our online contact form. We’ll schedule a free consultation to determine if we can help you.