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Handling Trip and Fall Cases for the Elderly

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We represented a woman in her 80s who tripped and fell on some construction equipment while shopping in a grocery store.  She broke her shoulder requiring surgery and rehabilitation.

Handling a personal injury case in Chicago for an elderly person is an entirely different ball game than handling a personal injury case for someone who is younger. I’m writing this article after having just closed out a case on behalf of one of my law firm’s elderly clients. Taking a moment to pat my team on our collective backs, the outcome was excellent.

Handling Trip and Fall Cases for the Elderly

We represented a woman in her 80s who tripped and fell on some construction equipment while shopping in a grocery store.  She broke her shoulder requiring surgery and rehabilitation.

In our Complaint at Law, we filed an ordinary negligence count against the construction company who was doing some work in the grocery store.  We filed a premises liability count against the grocery store.

After much litigation and a pre-trial settlement conference (ran masterfully by the Federal Judge presiding over the case), we obtained a very large six-figure settlement.  Beyond the successful settlement, I also learned an important lesson handling this case which will help me be a better injury lawyer for my elderly clients, and at the same time, learned that life is fragile.

Time is Important When Handling Personal Injury Cases for the Elderly

I signed this premises liability case up a few years ago.  The family of the elderly lady called me and asked me to meet with her at the rehabilitation center where she was.  I was glad to do so.  I went, met with the elderly lady and most of her family – they were very nice people.  I interviewed the elderly woman and felt she had a decent personal injury case that I could help her with.  She hired me.  Though she had some pain from her shoulder surgery, her mind was sound.  I didn’t feel the need to hurry her case along; in retrospect, I should have.

The Initial Plan – Pursue this Premises Liability Case as a Claim

My initial plan was to wait until treatment was done, gather her medical records and bills, then submit a demand package to the responsible insurance companies.  I firmly thought this was a case that should settle without the need for time-consuming and expensive litigation.  I’ve been in the personal injury business for two decades so my judgment is pretty good in this regard.  Well, I almost made a mistake by not rushing things along.

My client’s medical treatment went smoothly.  She was done with treatment within approximately six months after her trip and fall accident.  We ordered her medical records and bills.  That process takes about 30 – 60 days.

Once we had the records and bills, we forwarded them to the responsible insurance company.  They said they needed about 60 days to review and evaluate the case.  That is not unreasonable for a personal injury claim of this nature.  I waited patiently to hear back from the insurance company.

I did not hear back from them.  When 60 days passed, I called and was told something along the lines of “we have a meeting tomorrow regarding this case and will get back to you within a week or two.”  Of course, they would not get back to me, at least with any settlement authority.

When I did speak with them, they just made excuses of why they haven’t been able to make me an offer.  I considered that they might be waiting for my client to pass on, therefore destroying her personal injury claim.  I hated thinking like that but I did work for an insurance company previously; it doesn’t take months and months to evaluate and negotiate a legitimate claim.

Eventually, I was forced to file a lawsuit.  I did this despite the fact that this was a straightforward case that, in my opinion, didn’t need to be litigated.

Time for Litigation

Litigation moved forward at the usual pace.  The defense seemed to move slowly but, in my mind, they always do.  As the case moved along, my client’s condition began to deteriorate.  She was diagnosed with dementia and that lively independent woman I met months ago was going downhill fast.

When it came time for her deposition – her time to give sworn testimony, her doctors and I felt she would be able to tell the truth.  She wouldn’t remember everything but being questioned by the defense lawyers would not be harmful to her health either.  Her deposition proceeded.

She did O.K. under the circumstances but the defense lawyers clearly saw that her condition was not good.  It appeared as if her days on this planet were limited.  As human beings, I like think the defense attorneys were empathetic to her cause.  However, as defense lawyers, I couldn’t help but think they saw this as a way to save some money for the insurance companies who paid the bills.

They knew that if my client passed, her case would be essentially worthless.  All of the sudden, they wanted to slow the already slow pace down some more.

I think that was the defense’s tactic – delay things until this woman was no longer with us.  It disgusted me.  As such, I convinced the Federal Judge to put this case on a fast track.  The Judge agreed despite the defense attorneys’ protest.

The case eventually settled. My client still has time to enjoy the monetary proceeds of that settlement.  She was able to use the funds to move to a much nicer nursing home where she will live out her days in peace, surrounded by family and friends.

Chicago Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer: Lack of Motion Can Cause Serious Pain

With seniors making up a larger percentage of the population, we are seeing a significant increase in ailments that commonly affect seniors, most notably: mobility.

Adults are living longer than ever before. But longer life does not necessarily equate to fewer health problems.

Some adults may be strapped down to prevent them from hurting themselves or others. Other adults may be comatose or otherwise catatonic. However the immobility is caused, an important duty on behalf of the hospital or nursing home is to physically move the patient or resident, lest they incur one of the many injuries that accompany immobility.

Below are a few of the injuries caused by immobility. If you or a loved one has been affected by any of these, a Chicago personal injury attorney can advise on the best course of action.

Contractures

When someone is immobilized, catatonic, or comatose, it is very important to move their joints regularly. Under utilization of the joints in the fingers, hands, arms, or legs can cause the connective tissue in the joints to lose its natural elasticity. If this elasticity is lost, the joint cannot move properly without pain for the patient. This loss of range of motion is called a contracture, and while it most often affects the elderly, it can happen to younger people as well. Nurses, doctors, hospitals, and nursing homes owe a duty of care to their patients/residents. If the joints of an immobile patient are not regularly exercised, the facility and its staff may have opened themselves up to liability for the resulting muscle contracture.

Bedsores

If someone is bedridden or confined to a wheelchair, and is unable to move due to immobilization, sedation, or coma, their body makes contact at only a few points with the chair or bed. This contact creates pressure on those few points. If the body is not moved, relieving pressure on those points, a sore can occur.

Sores like this are called bedsores, pressure sores, or pressure ulcers. They can be as mild as a mere break in the skin and a bruise, or they can be so severe as to leave exposed bone. One of the duties of a facility administering to an immobile patient is to regularly shift the body to move pressure to other parts, preventing the development of bedsores. If a bedsore occurs, it is likely that someone has negligently failed to shift the patient, and this can result in liability for the facility and its staff.

Malnourishment and Dehydration

Those who are catatonic, comatose, or otherwise nonverbal may not be able to effectively communicate their needs to nurses or doctors. Because of this, hospital or nursing home staff may allow their patients to slip their minds, neglecting to bring them food or to change their IV bags. Some patients must be fed through a feeding tube; others get all of their nutrition through an IV. Regardless, if the staff neglects to regularly monitor the patient, the patient could get dehydrated or malnourished. Injury caused by such neglect would allow the patient to be compensated for extra costs needed to treat the injury.

Traumatic Brain Injuries In Elderly Present Unique Challenges

Severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) can leave a victim with permanent disabilities. If a personal injury accident claim is not handled properly during the investigative stage, an elderly victim may not get the damages that they deserve. Compensation may be reduced or even denied. TBI patients who are above the age of 40 years old should consult a Chicago personal injury attorney who understands the effects of age and other conditions when combined with a TBI. This can help elderly TBI victims get maximum compensation for their injury.

Special Concerns of Elderly Victims

A traumatic brain injury can cause irreparable damage to the brain. TBI can cause death of the brain tissue, affecting a person’s ability to lead a normal life. Older victims of TBI often have special concerns.

Effect of Age on Outcome of Traumatic Brain Injury

The older the victim is, the poorer the outcome after a traumatic brain injury. With age, the brain loses the ability to heal itself and restore function. Older victims are more likely to experience disability and need for placement in a nursing home.

A traumatic brain injury can aggravate the rate of atrophy in older victims. A patient may not be able to recover any damages for the atrophy that has occurred naturally before the injury, but any atrophy that is attributable to TBI can help establish the severity of the injury. It is the responsibility of the victim and the lawyer to provide evidence to distinguish naturally occurring atrophy from injury-related atrophy. This can have a huge impact on the final compensation award.

Alzheimer’s and Traumatic Brain injury

TBI is a known risk factor in the development of Alzheimer’s disease later in life. If an elderly victim had Alzheimer’s or dementia prior to the TBI, proper evidence and expert testimony may be required to establish aggravation of preexisting conditions due to the TBI.

Time is of the Essence when Handling Injury Cases for the Elderly

I learned from this case that, when handling personal injury cases for elderly persons, time is of the essence.  Aging is sometimes harsh and diseases associated with the elderly, such as dementia, can strike without warning.  It is important to move these cases quickly so my elderly clients get the compensation they deserve, like everyone who suffers a personal injury.  I also learned that life is precious.  This case caused me to reflect on my relationship with my elderly mother, who I owe everything to. I call and visit her more often because of the lessons I learned representing this case.

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Why Choose Willens Injury Law Offices

Millions in Case Verdicts & Settlements

Over the past two decades, Mr. Willens and his team of Chicago personal injury lawyers have been instrumental in obtaining numerous million-dollar-plus recoveries on behalf of clients in a wide variety of injury cases. One of the personal injury verdicts he was involved in was recognized by The National Law Journal as one of the Top 100 Verdicts in the country in the year in which it was tried. One of the verdicts he helped secure set a state record.

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