Bed Sores: Lawsuits

Bed sores, or pressure sores were once almost seen as inevitable among the bedridden elderly; find out how they can be prevented, treated and if you’re eligible how to claim compensation.

Useful information for those affected by pressure or bed sores


Pressure sores, or bed sores as they are also known, were once almost seen as inevitable among those who had reduced mobility.  It has been reported in the British Medical Journal that they may have affected as many as 32% of hospital patients and 20% of nursing home patients, yet the fact remains that most cases are easily avoided with the right basic care.

What are bed sores?

They are damaged or broken areas of skin, usually those areas where the weight of the body is allowed to rest on them for long periods.  Pressure sores have four grades which can be used to identify them:

  1. The skin goes red or darker than usual.  Putting pressure on it won’t make any difference healthy skin will turn white when pressed firmly, but this won’t.

  1. The patient has partial skin loss, typically looking like a graze, a blister or a shallow crater.

  1. The top layer of skin has been lost around the sore, and the underlying tissue is exposed.

  1. The serious stage can be identified because the skin damage and loss has gone beyond the underlying tissue and into muscle and bone.

How can bed sores be prevented?

It’s much easier to avoid a case of pressure sores than it is to treat it, so health professionals are expected to assess their patients for the likelihood of developing pressure sores.  This is done using a formal score card, and in the UK the Waterlow Score is the most common.  If the patient is deemed to be at risk then preventative measures can be taken, such as:

  • Pressure reducing aids which spread the weight of the body around.  They can be as simple as a cushion or pillow, or they can be clinically designed items such as special mattresses

  • Ensuring a proper diet.  It keeps the skin healthy and provides the body with the means to heal itself if injuries occur.  Without the right diet, our bodies are much more susceptible to damage and take longer to heal.

  • Changing clothes and bedding.  This can make a huge difference.  Some materials irritate and chafe the skin more than others, so switching away from man-made fibres like polyester and using cotton instead will help prevent pressure sores forming.

How to treat bed sores: The first two stages can be treated fairly easily, even by yourself or by another at home.  The basic treatment simply comprises relieving the pressure, cleaning the sores and applying appropriate dressing.  The latter two stages are potentially serious, and require professional medical intervention.  Treatment of these stages may require specialist pressure relieving equipment, antibiotics or specialist dressings, possibly in conjunction with surgery for extreme cases.

What should you do if you discover bed sores?

The first consideration obviously has to be the patient.  You need to raise any concerns immediately with the carer or person in charge, so that the right treatment can begin.  All patients have a right to be cared for properly, regardless of their situation.  Clinical guidelines have been issued by several institutions (NICE 2005, NPUAP 2007) for the prevention of pressure ulcers, and all nurses, health visitors and so on are expected to understand and follow them.  That means that if a patient does develop bed sores, their care needs may not have been met and therefore the duty of care may have been breached.

Once you have notified the medical personnel, you need to consider whether the problem has been caused by poor care and, if so, you should consider contacting a specialist medical solicitor for advice on what to do next.  The patient may be entitled to claim compensation which will pay for any treatment required or special equipment and add an element for any pain and distress caused.

Bedsore Lawsuits

A specialist medical solicitor will guide you through the process of making a claim.  This essentially follows the steps below:

  • You or the patient will be asked some questions about the care they received, the current situation, and so on.

  • The claims solicitor will request care records, including details of whether the correct assessments were carried out and, if so, what was done in response

  • The evidence will be examined by independent medical practitioners, to determine that there is a case of medical negligence

  • Once it is established that there is a case, they’ll take it to the people responsible and attempt to negotiate a settlement.

  • In over 95% of cases, settlement will be agreed without any need to go to court.

  • You or the patient will then receive the agreed compensation payment for suffering from pressure sores.

photo credit: Susan NYC via photopin cc

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