Are Nursing Homes Liable For Falls?
While accidents do happen, resident falls at nursing homes are not something that should happen. If your loved one has been injured in a nursing home fall, it is critical to learn what happened.
If the nursing home failed to follow acceptable practices and take measures to keep your loved one safe, you may have a potential lawsuit against the nursing home. If your family member has suffered serious injuries, we can help.
Call the attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyer for a free consultation, and we can help your family recover financially when your family member has suffered serious injuries.
Falls Are a Leading Cause of Injury to Nursing Home Residents
The sad fact is that too many nursing home residents fall. According to the Centers for Disease Control, every year,roughly half of nursing home residents will experience some form of a fall.
One in every three nursing home residents will fall more than once. Thousands of Illinois seniors are injured each year in falls.
One in every ten residents who fall will suffer some type of serious injury. 65,000 residents annually will break their hips in a fall. This is one of the more serious fall-related injuries.
The Legal Obligations of Nursing Homes to Prevent Falls
The nursing home has a legal obligation under federal regulations to assess the resident's risk factors and provide for an individualized care plan. This includes a care plan to prevent falls.
The nursing home must assess the risk of patient falls as part of the initial care plan when an elderly resident moves into the facility. Staff must be aware of the patient's risk factors that could make a fall a greater likelihood.
The fall prevention plan must be tailored to the resident, their own circumstances and health conditions.
While the nursing home cannot keep eyes on a resident 24 hours per day, they must gear the level of supervision and preventative measures to the resident's fall risk.
When a resident is considered high risk, the plan must be far more detailed and careful.
Then, the nursing home must make sure to follow the fall prevention plan. It does not good to have a plan in place if staff members ignore it.
If the resident falls, the nursing home staff must review the fall plan and make adjustments to it.
Measures to Prevent Falls in a Nursing Home
Here are some of the things that may be part of a plan to prevent fall related injuries and protect residents:
- Physical therapy and exercise to strengthen a nursing home patient
- Frequent checks by nurses when residents are prone to wander on their own
- Scheduling bathroom trips for residents who are incontinent
- Mobility assistance for residents who cannot get around on their own
- Managing underlying health conditions that could make residents more likely to fall
- Removing hazards from a resident's environment to the greatest extent possible.
Other Reasons for a Nursing Home Fall
Fall prevention is just not on an individualized level. The nursing home has a legal obligation to all residents to keep the pathways clear.
There are numerous ways that a nursing home adds to fall risks, even if the specific individual resident is not an elevated fall risk:
- Cleaning the floors in the room or common area and not condoning off wet floors and slippery areas
- Frayed carpet in common areas cause residents to trip
- The nursing home leave debris, equipment or other fall hazards in the path of where residents walk
- Poor lighting in common areas keep people from being able to see where they are going
Medication Errors That Cases Falls
An elderly resident does not need to be a fall risk for the nursing home to place them in danger. Elderly people are usually on many different medications.
When the nursing home gives them the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage, it can affect the resident's balance and cause fall accidents.
Then, the nursing home can be held liable for failure to exercise the proper care.
Staff Must Be Properly Trained
It takes skill to move and transport a frail nursing home resident. Not every staff member has the physical ability to move a resident.
However, some staff members who do not have the ability or training to move a resident try to do it sometimes. In addition, the staff may use the wrong equipment to transfer a resident back and forth between their bed and their chair.
Nursing homes often cut back on staff training because it is an expense that eats into its bottom line.
The end result is that there are nursing home staff who do not know how to do their jobs and implement a fall prevention plan.
Nursing Home Fall Injuries
Here are some of the severe injuries that an elderly person can suffer in a fall:
- Broken bones- residents can suffer broken arms or legs. Even more serious is a broken hip, which can permanently restrict their mobility
- Traumatic brain injuries- head injuries are one of the most serious consequences of a nursing home fall. A head injury can cause lasting damage, if the resident even survives the fall. A traumatic brain injury can cause death or loss of other function
- Internal injuries
Even if seniors survive the initial fall, the resident's quality of life may never be the same again. Some older adults suffer injuries due to falls, from which they never fully recover.
Oftentimes, the fall sets in motion a process that will eventually lead to death. When that happens, our legal team will work with your family to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
What to Do After Nursing Home Falls Occur
There are steps that you must take to hold a negligent nursing home responsible for the serious injury that your loved one has suffered.
The first step is to call a personal injury attorney to hold the facility accountable. They will investigate your loved one's fall and see if the nursing home took the proper safety measures and did what they could to provide a safe environment.
You should also report the accident to the state government agency or the federal government that oversees the nursing home.
They will also investigate the accident. If they find that the nursing home failed to follow federal rules, it could help your case.
The Standard to Hold a Nursing Home Liable for Falls
Like any personal injury lawsuit, negligence will be the standard used to decide whether the facility should be held liable for falls in a nursing home.
This involves using a four-part test, and your family must prove each of these elements:
- The nursing home owed your loved one a duty of care (this is always true)
- The nursing home failed to uphold the duty of care by acting unreasonably under the circumstances
- Your loved one suffered an injury
- They would not have been hurt had it not been for the acts or omissions of the nursing home
Falls Can Be an Example of Nursing Home Negligence
When a resident falls at a nursing home, it may not automatically be considered negligence.
However, if you can show that the nursing home failed to do something to supervise your loved one or did not properly implement a fall prevention plan, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
The facility must have the proper equipment and the trained staff necessary to move your loved one.
While not every fall is necessarily negligence, nursing homes open themselves up to legal liability when they fail to take reasonable measures to protect residents.
Damages for Fall Related Injuries
If your loved one has been injured in a fall accident, and you can prove that the nursing home was negligent, you may be able to recover the following damages:
- Medical bills - the nursing home must pay for the full cost of medical treatment related to the fall injury, including the costs of surgical procedures
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- If your loved one died from the fall, your family can receive wrongful death damages
Nursing Home Abuse FAQ (Related to Resident Falls)
Here are some questions that we are often asked during the free consultation with the family:
How Do I Know If the Nursing Home Was Negligent?
Your personal injury lawyer will perform an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the fall injury to learn what the nursing home did.
They will compare it to accepted measures that nursing homes would take to protect residents who are a fall risk. If they have fallen short, they may be liable in a lawsuit.
How Much Is My Nursing Home Fall Case Worth?
There is a wide variance in settlement and jury awards in your case. It all depends on the specific facts of your case and the jury that you get.
If the nursing home has acted particularly poorly, you may even be able to get punitive damages.
When Should I Call a Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer?
You should contact an attorney as soon as possible after your loved one has been injured. This way, your lawyer can perform an immediate investigation and obtain evidence before it is lost.
Families Have Held Nursing Homes Liable for Falls
Here are some cases where Illinois families have either received a settlement or won their case in front of the jury when their loved one was injured or killed by a fall at a nursing home:
St. Aubin v. Claridge Imperial Ltd. - a family won a $545,000 verdict when the nursing home failed to provide a patient's wheelchair with a pommel cushion and alarm, causing the patient to fall and sustain injuries resulting in his death.
Ratz v. Countryside Care Center - a family received a $450,000 settlement when the nursing home staff either dropped their mother or allowed her to fall, causing her to suffer broken thighbones and a brain injury, leading to her death. The family had alleged that the nursing home had inadequate staff and did not properly supervise their mother.
Green v. Southpoint Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC - A jury awarded a family over $2.7 million when a nursing home resident hit his head and died from a fall. The family had alleged that the nursing home did not have a fall prevention plan for this high-risk resident and had failed to assess his risk factors.
Contact Us for a Free Case Evaluation
If your loved one suffered serious injuries from negligence and a lack of supervision, you should contact a nursing home abuse lawyer for a free consultation.
The Chicago attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers can help your family seek financial compensation and hold the nursing home liable for falls.
While nursing home falls sometimes happen, it does not mean that a nursing home should get away with its negligence.
To seek full and fair compensation, call us at (888) 424-5757 or contact us online to schedule your free legal consultation.