For readers of legal blogs, you likely know that if you slip and fall at a grocery store or other business, you may have a premises liability claim against the business owner. However, what if you fall at a hospital while you are receiving medical care? Is that a medical malpractice claim or a premises liability claim?
Are hospital falls common?
Surprisingly, yes, at least according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About a million people fall in hospitals in the United States every year, and 800,000 require hospitalization. Especially for those that fall while receiving treatment, these falls can exacerbate your injuries or illnesses as they can cause fractures, head trauma, paralysis, etc. These additional injuries can extend your hospital stay, delay your recovery or even result in your death.
Medical malpractice claim versus a premises liability claim
What caused your fall will dictate whether your claim is a medical malpractice claim, premises liability claim or a combination of the two. For example, if you fall out of your hospital bed because the nurse or doctor forgot to raise the bed rails or lower the bed, this is likely a medical malpractice claim. Conversely, a premises liability claim would be a fall in the hospital parking lot that was caused by a pothole, debris that was not properly cleaned up or snow/ice that was not removed.
Examples of medical malpractice falls
Another example of a fall that may qualify for medical malpractice is falling in the hospital room’s bathroom because you were not provided with some kind of assistance, like physical assistance, a walker, wheelchair, etc. Other examples could be passing out during a walk because your nurse or doctor did not appropriately adjust your medication or check your blood pressure prior to encouraging you to walk. Even a fall after surgery could count, if the medical providers did not give you proper physical instructions or provide adequate post-operative care.
Examples of premises liability falls
Similar to the fall in the hospital parking lot described earlier, if you fall in the hospital’s lobby because of debris/clutter, uneven flooring, loose carpeting, curled rug, etc., these will likely qualify as a premises liability claim. If you fall in the hospital cafeteria because they failed to mitigate spilled food or drinks, or a defective chair or flooring, those too will likely qualify. The key is whether the fall was caused by the hospital negligence in maintaining the building, walkways or parking areas, or whether the fall was caused by medical negligence.