The family of a motorcycle accident victim who died after falling six stories from his hospital room window says he was not suicidal. Disoriented? Yes. He was suffering from brain injuries, his daughter said. He wanted to go home.
But the hospital had a duty to make sure he was safe and not a danger to himself.
Determining whether his fatal injuries were the result of general negligence or medical malpractice will be part of what the family’s recently-hired injury lawyer will be exploring.
Medical negligence occurs when a health care provider offering health care services fails to adhere to applicable care standards and someone is injured as a result. General negligence involves the general breach of duty owed to another resulting in injury.
So for example, if as part of his treatment, he should have been confined to the safety of his bed and monitored to ensure he didn’t get up, that might be medical negligence. However, if the issue was a defective window, that might be a matter of general negligence (specifically, premises liability).
An investigation is being launched by the state Department of Health and Human Services Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services, according to the Portland Press Herald.
His daughter posted some of the details on her social media account, indicating her father was able to open his hospital window far enough to squeeze out. She insisted that this was not an act of suicide, but “a desperate attempt [by a brain-injured man] to be home with his family.”
All new hospital facilities in Maine have to by law meet the standards specified by the general guidelines put forth by the American Institute of Architects. According to the Press Herald, those guidelines don’t require rooms to have operable windows. However, if windows can be opened, they need to be restricted enough to prevent suicide or escape.
In this case, we’re talking about the Maine Medical Center, which utilizes older buildings side-by-side with newer construction, the 2006 standards are only applicable if renovations on the old structures were conducted after 2009 and cost more than $50,000.
The portion of the hospital where this man fell was erected way back in 1969. What was not clear was when that portion of the facility was last updated.
That wing of the hospital – the sixth floor- is a neurological care unit, which is the site designated for treatment of patients with traumatic brain injuries and neurological procedures.
A hospital spokesman would not give details about the windows to reporters, except to say the building was accredited in 2014 and one of the standards that is analyzed in that review is the installation of stops on operable windows.
Many times in personal injury cases, there are no witnesses. One benefit plaintiffs in this case may have is that there probably were a number of witnesses, at least prior to the incident. His head injuries certainly would have been well-documented. There is no indication that the man was suicidal.
Non-profit advocacy groups say that while hospitals are typically safe places for patients, there have been a number of incidents in New England in which patients have been seriously injured or died as a result of serious falls (mostly from beds) and burns due to exposure to flammable material.
Any miscommunication between staffers or outright errors in patient safety could have grave consequences for patients.
If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.
Daughter: Fall victim at Maine Medical Center wasn’t suicidal, was probably disoriented, March 30, 2015, By Matt Byrne, The Portland Press-Herald
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Maine Storefront Crash Results in Injuries, April 13, 2016, Maine Wrongful Death Lawyer Blog