Is it possible to claim compensation for a hospital patient falling out of bed if no guard rails were in place?
It is possible to claim compensation for a hospital patient falling out of bed; although only under certain circumstances. A claim can only be made against the HSE – or a private hospital – if the failure to raise or install guard rails on the bed involved a breach in a duty of care and the person responsible for the mistake was negligent.
For a claim for a fall out of bed in hospital to be successful, you must also have sustained a personal injury from the fall and it must be proven – ‘on the balance of probabilities’ – that the fall would have been prevented had the guard rails been raised.
Establishing that a member of staff was negligent and failed to take sufficient care to prevent a fall from a hospital bed can be complicated. While the failure to raise the guard rails may appear to be a clear case of negligence, there may have been a legitimate reason why the bed rails were not put in place.
When a patient is admitted to hospital, a risk assessment needs to be performed to determine whether guard rails should be used on the bed. It is not always advisable for guard rails to be raised, because in some cases lifting the bed rails can actually place a patient at risk of injury. There have been a number of serious injuries sustained by patients who have trapped arms and legs in guard rails, and a number of patients have sustained fatal injuries due to the use of guard rails. Because of the risk of injury from guard rails, they are only used when there is a significant risk of a patient falling out of a hospital bed.
When the risk assessment was conducted, a decision may have been made by a doctor or nurse not to the raise guard rails on the bed. If the risk of injury from the rails themselves was deemed to be higher than the risk of injury from falling out of a hospital bed, even though the latter occurred, it would be unlikely to be classed as negligence or have involved a failure in a duty of care.
If a serious error of judgement occurred when the risk assessment was performed, or if no risk assessment took place, this would be classed as a failure in a duty of care and medical negligence, and compensation for a patient falling out of bed could be claimed on these grounds.
The most common reason for guard rails not being raised is forgetfulness of nurses and hospital porters. If the risk assessment had been conducted and the guard rails should have been raised, the member of staff who forgot to lift them into place and lock them into position would be deemed to have been negligent, and a claim for compensation for a hospital patient falling out of bed could be made against the HSE or hospital’s insurance policy.
We recommend speaking with a personal injury solicitor about your case to find out if you are likely to be able to claim for a fall out of bed in hospital, and to receive assistance with proving negligence of the hospital staff.