How much is a bedsore case worth?
Meritorious bedsore lawsuits may be worth anywhere from low six figures to several million dollars, depending on the facts of the specific case. Still, nothing is guaranteed. There are many, many factors affecting bedsore case value, including the venue in which the lawsuit is filed, the overall health of the resident, family relationships, available insurance coverage, and how far along an attorney has taken the case. Any specific set of facts may turn an otherwise meritorious case into a loss.
Do not trust any attorney that tells you a case value without a substantial review of the resident’s chart, medical records, witness statements, and the nursing home’s corporate documents.
What makes a bedsore lawsuit worth more?
Again, every case is different. But, the stronger the case, the more likely it is that a nursing home will pay to settle it. One tiny fact may render an otherwise fantastic case into an insurmountable challenge. Still, there are some factors that will likely (but not always) add value to a bedsore lawsuit.
- Fewer Comorbidities. The nursing home’s primary defense in most bedsore lawsuits is that the injury was unavoidable due to the resident’s health status. In other words, even if the nursing home did everything that was required, the bedsore would have developed anyway. As such, diagnosis like diabetes, end stage renal disease, peripheral artery disease, and cancer are all used as defenses. So, when a resident has few or none of these medical conditions, the case may be stronger.
- Family Involvement. Juries respond to compelling, human stories. They respond to how the resident lived his/her life within the community and the type of family that was left behind. When there are generations of family that were deeply involved in the life of the resident and are able to testify as such, nursing homes get scared.
- Medical Records. A bulk of the evidence comes from hospital charts and nursing home records. When these documents point to abuse and neglect on their own, a case can become that much more compelling.
- Ex-Employee Testimony. Nursing homes are a revolving door of overworked, undervalued employees. Sometimes, a former staff member is willing to testify to what he or she saw, or the policies and procedures of the nursing home. Testimony by the nursing home’s own representatives can be some of the most damaging.
- Corporate Malfeasance. Many attorneys frame a bedsore case as simple neglect. An experienced attorney can turn the case into a story of corporate greed that resulted in a bedsore. When the jury sees that the injury was a foregone conclusion based on budget or policy, rather than simple neglect, the case’s worth increases.
What makes a bedsore lawsuit worth less?
By the same token, many factors can deflate the value of a bedsore case. Just because one of these factors exist does NOT mean there is no case. Again, every single case is different. Still, here are some facts that would tend to reduce the value of a bedsore lawsuit:
- Causation. All injury cases require the plaintiff to prove that the injury was actually caused by a negligent act of the defendant. Just because a bedsore developed after admission to the nursing home doesn’t mean the facility is liable. Where there are other contributing factors, like non-compliance, multiple comorbidities, or other at-fault parties, the nursing home can say their staff didn’t cause the problem.
- Arbitration. Many studies show that arbitration tends to favor nursing homes (and other corporate defendants). In other words, arbitration awards are often lower than jury verdicts. Therefore, if an injured resident is unable to bring the case in front of a jury, the nursing home is less likely to settle the case at a high amount. Learn more about arbitration here.
- Circulation Related Illnesses. Bedsores are the result of disruptions to blood flow. As such, any chronic or acute illness that impedes circulation may exacerbate bedsore development. Diagnosis like diabetes, peripheral artery disease, and cardio pulmonary disease can be argued as the bedsore culprit, rather than staff negligence.
- Recovery. Often, the value of an injury case increases with the severity of the injury. Severe injuries include those that cause permanent damage, like amputation or impaired mobility, or death. While many bedsore victims sustain severe injury, others are able to recover after a period of time. In the instances of full recovery, the value is not typically as high.
Who determines what a bedsore case is worth?
A bedsore case’s worth is most often decided by agreement of the resident’s family and the nursing home after a negotiated settlement. This the most common way a case is assigned a value. Essentially, the worth is the amount that the nursing home is willing to pay and that the resident’s family will accept.
If the parties are not able to come to an agreement as to the value of a bedsore case, then the only other ways to resolve the claim are the following:
- Jury Trial. A jury may render a verdict. In short, twelve community peers are tasked with making the determination of how much money, if any, to award.
- Arbitration. A neutral arbitrator or arbitration panel may render an award.
- Bench Trial. A judge will both hear the facts and render an award.
- Mediated Settlement. Most courts nowadays require mediation. This is where the parties take turns speaking with a professional mediator, who attempts to facilitate a settlement.
Why is it difficult to determine the average bedsore case worth?
An experienced nursing home lawyer can typically guesstimate bedsore case value based on a thorough review of all facts. But, at the end of the day, it will always be an educated guess. There is simply not enough nationwide data to provide a more accurate projection. Here’s why:
- Confidential Settlements. According to the most recent statistics, over 95% of lawsuits settle before trial. These settlements are nearly always confidential. All involved must keep settlement values secret. Even the participating lawyers are prohibited from talking to other lawyers about it. Therefore, attorneys for injured residents are not allowed to share information.
- Confidential Arbitrations. A large percentage of bedsore cases against nursing homes are resolved in arbitration rather than trial. This is because most residents and resident representatives sign arbitration agreements during the admission process without realizing. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method in which claims are heard by a private neutral. Almost always, arbitration awards are strictly confidential. Again, this means that attorneys for injured residents are not allowed to share information.
- Losses Seldom Reported. Nearly 60% of injury cases against healthcare facilities are dismissed before trial. Even when a medical malpractice case makes it to trial, injured residents prevail less than 10% of the time. Plaintiff’s lawyers also typically do not advertise their losses. Consequently, a Google search of “pressure ulcer verdicts” tends to return ONLY the multi-million dollar verdicts, not the losses.
- Damage Caps. Many states have limits on the amount of money juries may award. For example, Georgia has $250,000.00 cap on punitive damages. Texas has a $250,000 cap on damages for pain and suffering. Nursing homes and insurance companies keep the venue in mind when determining when to settle.
- Venue Demographics. Some states are prone to award more money in medical malpractice cases. Some states tend to award less. However, these trends may be changing. As such, it is difficult to accurately predict what one venue’s jury will do from one year to the next.
Recent bedsore verdicts
The verdicts listed below are NOT typical. Verdicts in the millions of dollars generally arise from unique sets of circumstances. Do not believe any lawyer that guarantees you any amount, let alone millions of dollars.
- Utah: $1,800,000.00 jury verdict for sepsis death resulting from bedsore (2017).
- Arizona: $2,500,000.00 jury verdict for bedsores, malnutrition, and other neglect (2015).
- New York: $5,700,000.00 jury verdict for bedsores of the foot, causing permanent damage (2013).
- Arizona: $6,500,000.00 jury verdict for bedsores causing the death of the patient (2015).
- New York: $500,000.00 jury verdict for pain and suffering caused by bedsores (2015).
A settlement can only occur when there is agreement between all the parties involved. In other words, no one can be forced into a settlement. A settlement means that that the nursing home will pay a certain amount to the resident’s family, and in exchange, the family will promise not to pursue a claim or terminate any claims already put forward.
As mentioned above, bedsore lawsuit settlements are almost always confidential. As such, it is difficult to accumulate accurate data about bedsore case value.
Are bedsores neglect?
Often, bedsores are a sign of nursing home neglect. Under Federal and State Law, nursing homes are required to take appropriate steps to prevent bedsore development. Or, if a resident enters the facility with a bedsore, the nursing home must take reasonable steps to heal the wound.
Nursing homes are required to do the following with every resident, whether at risk for bedsores or not. Failure to do any one of these is considered neglect.
- Assessment. Multiple members of the nursing home must do a head-to-toe assessment of the resident at admission, and at regular intervals after that. Everything is taken into account. Items such as cognition, chronic illnesses, dietary restrictions, required assistance, fall risk, and others. The assessment is extremely important because it provides the road map of treatment.
- Care Plan. With the information contained in the assessment, the nursing home must create a plan of care. The care plan lists all the items that the staff must do to keep the resident healthy. For example, routinely reposition the resident or monitor for bowel movements.
- Adjustment. The care plan is a living document. If it appears that the care plan is not working, or if there has been a change in condition of the resident, then the nursing home is required to adjust the care plan.
What causes bedsores in nursing homes?
Bedsores are caused most often by prolonged pressure on a particular spot on the body. Most often, it occurs over a bony prominence, like the sacrum, heel, shoulder blade, and hip. Essentially, blood flow is cut off to the underlying tissue, which causes a chain reaction of decaying tissue. Ultimately, the body is opened up to infection and death.
What determines bedsore lawsuit worth?
The value of a bedsore case is going to depend on the facts of your specific case, including where the lawsuit is to be filed.
All nursing homes accepting federal funds are required by law to assess each resident for bedsores, initiate appropriate preventative actions (like consistent repositioning), and periodically update that assessment. When a nursing home fails to do this and a bedsore occurs, that nursing home has likely breached the standard of care and may be held liable for the harm done. For this particular topic regarding case value, we will assume that the nursing home has breached the standard of care.
There are generally going to be two primary drivers of the value for bedsore cases. The severity of the bedsore and the physical impact that the bedsore has on the life of the resident.
Bedsore severity is measured in stages that range from 1 to 4, with Stage 4 being the most severe. Cases involving Stage 3 or Stage 4 bedsores are quite often more valuable than those involving Stage 1 or Stage 2. Similarly, cases in which there are multiple high stage bed sores will be more valuable than those involving only one bedsore. This is so because of easily quantitative factors like medical bills. More severe wounds take longer to heal and require more medical treatment. Also, pain and suffering is going to be higher with more severe bedsores.
The second factor affecting bedsore case value is the wound’s effect on the resident’s life. A Stage 4 bedsore that results in a limb amputation or death will almost always be higher than where the bedsore heals quickly and the resident gets back to normal.
One of the problems with this component will be linking the bedsore to the ultimate injury like death or severe infection. In other words, eliminating all other causes of the death or amputation. Nursing homes tend to point to co-morbidities and other physical factors to point the blame away from the bedsore.
Even jurisdiction has an affect on case value. Some states, and even some counties with states, tend to be more “plaintiff friendly.” Further, jury awards tend to favor the nursing home resident while arbitration awards tend so skew towards the nursing home.
If your loved one developed a bedsore at a nursing home, and you are not sure about the value of the claim, please feel free to call and speak to one of our Georgia nursing home neglect lawyers today. Our consultations are always free. If you would like more information about this topic, be sure to click on our other videos, or better yet, click the subscribe button to subscribe to our YouTube channel. Thank you.