Hospital or Doctor’s Office
Falling at a hospital, doctor’s office or health clinic can be the most frustrating of all slip and falls or trip and falls in Indianapolis or the rest of the State of Indiana.
Because if you were considered a “patient” at the time of your fall, there is a significant chance that your slip and fall case could be categorized as a “medical malpractice” and not “premises liability” case.
So what? You might ask.
Well, if your slip and fall or trip and fall case occurred while you are considered a patient and the medical provider is a “qualified healthcare provider” under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act, then you will be required to file your claim first with the Indiana Department of Insurance. That department will then require you to form a panel group of three physicians who will review your claim and vote whether the slip and fall was caused by a negligent medical act — rather than a negligent premises act or omission.
Not only does this add years to the resolution of your case (empaneling a panel of doctors takes lots of time and expense), the standard of care is much different and can be more difficult to prove that your doctor made an error while performing a “medical” act that led to your slip and fall — rather than proving the property itself had a dangerous defect that led to your fall.
Even worse, you cannot bring your case in front of a jury without: (1) a favorable panel opinion by the three doctors; or (2) an expert witness that you hire to review your case that gives an opinion that negligence occurred. Expert witnesses can cost several thousands of dollars to prove a medical negligence case.
Consequently, it is very important to hire an attorney like Attorney Jeff JJ Shaw who has 30+ years of experience in reviewing slip and fall or trip and fall cases in Indiana hospitals and can determine whether the negligent act or omission that led to your hospital fall was medical malpractice or premises liability.
Not every negligent act or omission by a healthcare provider equals medical malpractice. In fact, in the case of Methodist Hospital of Indiana v. Ray, 558 N.E.2d 829 (Ind. 1990), the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the Medical Malpractice Act was not designed to include cases of premises liability. In Ray, the injured person allegedly caught an infection known as Legionnaire’s Disease through the venting of the hospital and sued for his injuries. Methodist Hospital claimed the cause of action (allegation) was a medical malpractice claim since it involved infections and medical care considerations. Plaintiff’s attorney, however, argued the case was one of “premises liability” because it was the condition of the land that caused his injuries — not a bad decision made by a doctor or nurse.
The Indiana Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiff and ruled the injury was not a medical malpractice case and was more like any premises liability case where the condition of the land caused the injury — just like a slip and fall case — it just happened to take place in a hospital.
The determinative factor in whether your slip and fall was a medical malpractice event was whether the actions complained of were undertaken in the interest of the patient’s health or for the benefit of the patient’s health.
Health care has been defined as an act or treatment performed or furnished, or that have been performed or furnished, by a healthcare provider for, to, or on behalf of a patient during the patient’s medical care, treatment or confinement (citing former statute I.C. 27-12-2-3).
Therefore, cases involving patients who were sexually assaulted by nurses or other employees have been held to not be medical malpractice claims, but rather torts involving intentional acts outside the Act.
If there is no evidence that a health care professional was involved in the cleaning of a facility or the transportation of a patient to his or her home, then the Medical Malpractice Act does not apply. Often, an employee of a healthcare facility will have the duties to mop a floor or clean a patient’s room. If the mopping or cleaning was performed negligently, causing the patient to fall and be seriously injured, then those types of cases are clearly outside the scope of the Medical Malpractice Act. Those cases can be filed directly in state court and bypass the Indiana Department of Insurance. Of course, the decision whether a case is a premises liability case or an action involving medical malpractice rests with the Judge, not a jury, to determine early in the litigation of the case.
Perhaps this questions comes up most often in the context of a patient who falls out of a hospital bed or off a gurney while being transported due to improper restraints or oversight. Those cases depend greatly upon the facts and what particularly led to the fall.
Call or Text Shaw Law Offices at (877) 225-5742 for all of your slip and fall questions like these.
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