Suing for Bedsore Injuries and Nursing Home Neglect

Bedsores often lead to lawsuits against facilities like nursing homes and hospitals.

By , J.D. · Villanova University School of Law
Updated by Stacy Barrett, Attorney · UC Law San Francisco

Pressure ulcers, also called bedsores, happen when a person lies or sits in one position for too long. People who stay at hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted-living facilities are at risk of developing bedsores. Not all bedsores can be prevented, but many can be with good care. In this article, we'll cover:

  • bedsore treatment and prevention
  • facility and caregiver liability for bedsores
  • who can bring a bedsore lawsuit, and
  • how much a bedsore lawsuit might be worth.

What Are Bedsores (Pressure Ulcers)?

Bedsores are wounds caused by constant pressure on the skin. Bedsores can develop anywhere, but they tend to form on skin that covers bony parts of the body, like hips, heels, ankles, and tailbone. People who lie in bed or sit in wheelchairs for long periods of time are most susceptible to bedsores.

Bedsores are treatable. But, without treatment, the sores can lead to life-threatening complications, like infections.

Doctors and care providers divide bedsores into four stages:

  • Stage 1. The skin is not yet broken, but it looks red or discolored.
  • Stage 2. The skin is broken or looks like a pus-filled blister.
  • Stage 3. The sores have gone through the second layer of skin into the fat tissue.
  • Stage 4. The sores are deep wounds that might reach the muscles, ligaments, or even bones.

What Causes Bed Sores?

Patients at long-term care facilities often develop bedsores. Risk factors include:

  • immobility
  • incontinence
  • poor nutrition and hydration
  • medical conditions affecting blood circulation (like diabetes), and
  • medical conditions that result in a loss of sensation (like spinal cord injuries).

How Care Providers Can Prevent and Treat Bedsores

Some bedsores are unavoidable. But caregivers can take steps to stop bedsores from developing or getting worse. Care providers can:

  • relieve pressure on the bedsores by changing a patient's position frequently
  • clean bedsores and dry them gently
  • feed patients a healthy diet and give them plenty of water
  • monitor bedsores for infection, and
  • prescribe medication if necessary.

Can I Sue Care Providers for Bedsore Injuries?

If you or your loved one develops serious bedsores at a facility, you might be able to sue the facility and care providers if you can show a connection between the bedsores and substandard care at the facility.

You can sue a nursing home or other care facility for negligence or potentially file a medical malpractice claim. (You might also have a wrongful death claim if a parent or relative dies from bedsore complications.)

You'll have to show the facility and care providers:

  • owed you a duty of care
  • violated (breached) that duty
  • the violation caused you to develop bedsores or made your bedsores worse, and
  • you suffered losses (called "damages") as a result.

Examples of potential bedsore-related negligence and malpractice include:

  • patients not regularly turned and repositioned
  • patients not getting proper nutrition and hydration
  • bedsores not caught in the early stages
  • bedsores not adequately cleaned and dressed, and
  • understaffing.

Learn more about medical negligence.

Who Can Sue for Bedsore Injuries?

Typically, the person with bedsore injuries can sue the facility and care providers for bedsore injuries.

If the injured person is incapacitated by illness, age, or disability, a family member or legal representative might be able to file a lawsuit for them. For example, a court may appoint an adult child of a parent with advanced Alzheimer's disease to be the parent's "conservator of the person" and allow the child to file a lawsuit on behalf of the parent.

If the injured person dies from preventable bedsore complications, a surviving spouse or surviving children might be able to file a survival action or wrongful death claim.

Bedsore Lawsuit Deadlines

You only have a certain amount of time to file a lawsuit. The legal term for this deadline is called the "statute of limitations." Each state has its own statute of limitations for personal injury claims. Let's say you develop bedsores in a nursing home in Florida and want to sue the facility. You will have to file your lawsuit within the two-year time limit set by Florida law. (Fla. Stat. § 671.1.)

Learn more about the deadlines to file personal injury and medical malpractice lawsuits in your state. (Time limits range from one to three years in most states.)

Federal Laws on Bed Sores and Nursing Home Neglect

Congress requires caregivers at nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide a minimum level of care to be eligible for Medicare or Medicaid funding.

For example, the Nursing Home Reform Act of 1987 establishes a number of rights for nursing home residents, such as the right to privacy, the right to communicate freely, and the right to live free from abuse and neglect.

Federal law also requires facilities to prevent bedsores that are avoidable and treat residents with bedsores to promote healing, prevent infection, and prevent new sores from developing. (42 C.F.R. §483.25(b)(1).)

Damages in a Bedsore Lawsuit

The amount of compensation a person might get in a bedsore-related lawsuit (called "damages") depends on the nature and extent of the injuries. But damages in these types of cases typically include:

  • past and future medical bills
  • pain and suffering (physical and mental), and
  • loss of enjoyment of life.

Patients with Stage 4 bedsores typically get more compensation than patients with less severe bedsores because they require a higher degree of medical care and often suffer severe physical pain and mental trauma.

Talk to a Bedsore Attorney

If you're thinking about filing a lawsuit over bedsore injuries, you should talk to a lawyer. The facility and care providers you're suing will almost certainly be represented by experienced lawyers. Having a lawyer on your side with medical and legal expertise can make a big difference in the outcome of your case.

One of the best ways to start your search for a lawyer is to ask someone you trust for a referral. And state bar associations usually have websites that allow you to look up lawyers. Learn more about finding the right lawyer for a personal injury case.

You can also fill out the form at the top or bottom of this page to connect with a lawyer in your area for free. If you are suing a nursing home or assisted living facility, consider talking to a lawyer who specializes in nursing home injury and elder abuse law.

Get Professional Help

Talk to an attorney.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you

Talk to a Lawyer

Need a lawyer? Start here.

How it Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you