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CalAttorney2
CalAttorney2, Attorney
Category: Legal
Satisfied Customers: 10237
Experience:  Civil litigation attorney for individuals and businesses.
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I'm a RN working in a large gh profile hospital. One night

Customer Question

I'm a RN working in a large high profile hospital. One night we had a patient who was actively detoxing become hostile and disruptive to the point of where he was trying to walk into other patients bed area. Security was called to assist and while waiting the patient became even more violent. It took several staff members to basically restrain him to a chair so he wouldn't hurt anyone and continued to hold him down. Five minutes later security had not shown up. We pressed the panic button at least twice initially to get additional assistance but they still did not show up -- they did call to tell us that we shouldnt press the button twice, it takes them longer because they have to answer the phone. At this point, 2 staff members had to take the patient down to the floor and were pinning the patient down while two of us female RNs grabbed a leg each because the patient was kicking equipment into the vicinity of other patients. In the process of my grabbing the patient's leg, he got loose and kicked me right in the upper abdomen. Security had still not shown up, this is now almost 20 minutes later.
When they did show up they reprimanded us for our continual push of the panic button. We justified our cause stating that we had at least 4 staff members physically holding a patient down while others tried to assist with calling the MDs, security and giving him medications.
Here is my issue. By the morning, I being the one who was kicked in the abdomen, was quite sore. I ended up going to Occupational health with the another co worker who was holding the patient down. They diagnosed me with a rib and abdominal contusion and restricted me to a 10lb lifting restriction. This ultimately meant I could not carry on in my regular role as an RN. They wanted to put me on modified duty, but being as shaken up as I was by the whole incident, I did not want any part of the hospital at this point, I just wanted to stay home for a couple days to recover from, frankly, an assault.
Long story short, I ultimately did not get paid workers comp because I had declined modified duty.
I'm wondering what type of a case I would have to pursue the hospital's super slow response from security which caused myself and other staff members to be injured by a violent patient. I felt the hospital was negligent and I ended up losing money, vacation hours (our sick time and vacation hours are from the same bank), from taking care of a patient and not given help when i so desperately needed it.
I felt no compassion from the hospital that feels assault from a patient does not constitute some amount of time off for mental distress.
Submitted: 9 months ago.
Category: Legal
Expert:  CalAttorney2 replied 9 months ago.

Dear Customer,

I am sorry to learn of this situation.

With regards ***** ***** employer, you are going to need to pursue your claim through the worker's compensation system (this may include needing to retain a worker's compensation lawyer - which I would highly recommend if you have already received a denial).

The worker's compensation system substitutes for the tort claim system to compensate employees that are injured on the job. In exchange for the strict liability that employees have under the worker's compensation system (if it happens on the job, the employer is liable), the employee is limited to the damages offered under the worker's compensation plan (so you must cooperate with limited work releases, etc.). (I am of course simplifying things, worker's comp is a subspecialty and most attorneys that work in this field do nothing else).

Exceptions to the above would include instances where an employer acts intentionally (but based on what you have posted, it appears that the employer acted negligently - placing it within the worker's comp system).

With the above understanding, that does not mean that you must automatically accept whatever the initial recommendation by the worker's comp evaluator is. This is why you retain a worker's comp attorney to represent you.
Unfortunately, based on where you are in the process (again, based on your post), you are far too advanced in the process to be able to competently proceed without counsel, you really need an attorney to help you salvage this before you inadvertently harm your case beyond recovery. (You likely still can, but do not triffle with the matter, hire an attorney promptly).

You can find local attorneys using the State and local Bar Association directories, or private directories such as www.AVVO.com; www.FindLaw.com; or www.Martindale.com (I personally find www.AVVO.com to be the most user friendly).

You can still sue the patient for his battery on you (once he struck you it changed from an assault to a battery). Whether or not you are going to be able to recover anything from the defendant is another matter (I don't know how financially solvent he is, but you can certainly sue. Both assault and battery are intentional torts and you can recover punitive damages (understand that the circumstances of the battery may affect how much you can recover, as will the fact that you were acting in a healthcare setting which may lead to an argument of "assumption of the risk" which can limit recovery (although they should not eliminate it)). But again, you can sue - just without knowing how solvent the defendant is, I have no way of knowing if this is viable for you or not.

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