When a fall in a nursing home happens, family members often believe that it could have been prevented by a higher standard of care in the facility, well-maintained equipment, or a greater staff presence. When a loved one suffers unnecessary traumatic injury or even death, they may be entitled to compensation under the law. Filing a lawsuit may sound complicated, but with the help of an attorney experienced in litigating on behalf of victims of elder abuse, a lawsuit can help a victim and their family take meaningful action after an unexpected tragedy.
Nursing Home Falls and Negligence
The most common liability in nursing home fall lawsuits is negligence. Negligence broadly means that a certain responsible party exhibited a “failure to exercise the standard of care that a reasonably prudent person would have exercised in a similar situation.” In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must establish that there was a duty owed to the plaintiff, that the duty was not met, and that the failure to meet this duty directly caused the plaintiff's injuries.
There are many situations in which negligence would be named as the cause for a fall in a nursing home. The following examples show the flexibility of the term “negligence” and some common situations in which negligence may come into play.
A nursing home fails to keep its premises free from hazards. If a nursing home resident, for example, falls on a floor that was wet from cleaning but not marked, they could claim negligence. Other similar situations include objects left on the floor of common areas, showers without handles, or improper flooring materials.
The facility fails to protect its residents from the danger posed by other residents. Sometimes in long-term living facilities there are interpersonal conflicts, which should be recognized and mediated by nursing home staff. If the staff is aware of this danger and fails to protect a resident, leading to a fall, they may be considered negligent.
Lack of Medical Attention
The nursing home staff does not provide necessary medical services to a resident of the home. Even if the nursing home could not have prevented the fall, if they do not provide immediate and thorough medical evaluation and care after the fall occurs, they could be liable for any effects of the withheld medical care. For example, if a fall causes internal bleeding, which could have been remedied through surgery, but instead leads to death because the nursing home failed to bring the patient to a physician, they could be held liable for wrongful death.
Lack of Supervision
The nursing home staff does not provide adequate supervision to its residents. Failure to provide basic services to its residents, such as assisting them to the bathroom or the shower, can lead to falls when residents attempt to perform these actions on their own. Additionally, some residents have clear risk factors for falls, such as a degenerative disease or poor eyesight, and should be checked frequently to make sure they are quickly assisted if an accident occurs.
The facility's management hires staff without properly checking their references, background, and training. In addition, if the management fails to thoroughly train their employees in the facility's protocols designed to prevent falls, they may be held responsible. In a related matter, the facility may be negligent if they fail to operate under reasonable, site-specific protocols. For example, if there are not institutional structures in place to ensure that the residents and all safety equipment are checked periodically, the nursing home may find themselves liable.
There are many ways in which a nursing home can be found to be negligent. The nursing home itself is responsible in large part for the actions of its employees, especially if there is any record of improper conduct for the employee. If an employee abuses a resident and physically causes a fall in an altercation, the nursing home may still be liable for its employee's act of abuse. Sometimes, third party companies can also be held responsible for falls. If a hospital contracts any of its staff from outside parties, that company can be liable for the actions of its staff members working within the facility
Nursing Home Fall Damages
Damages in nursing home fall lawsuits are similar to those in any personal injury or wrongful death case. Victims may be awarded monetary compensation for medical bills such as visits to the doctor, hospital stays, prescriptions, and surgery. In addition, if there are any foreseeable future costs in medical care related to the fall, such as joint pain medication or physical therapy for rehabilitation, they may also be compensated if the nursing home is found negligent.
Patients and their families may also receive compensation for emotional distress from the trauma of the incident and loss of quality of life for the victim. Money may also be provided to the deceased's family members for loss of companionship and wrongful death. Attorneys fees are also usually included in the award to cover the victim's cost of litigating the trauma.
Statute of Limitations & Nursing Home Abuse
After a fall occurs, there is a certain period of time during which the victim and their family may file a lawsuit. After that window has closed, legal options are dramatically curtailed. In Pennsylvania, plaintiffs have two years from the time of the accident to file a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a nursing home or other long-term care facility. In Maryland, the plaintiff has three years to file.
If you have lost a loved one to a fall or seen them suffer from preventable injuries, it may be time to consider taking legal action. If nursing homes are not held responsible for the standard of care that they provide to their residents, they may be more likely to cut corners in the future. A personal injury attorney can guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit and investigating the nursing home. To get started with a free consultation on your case, call trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at 800.529.6162 or contact them online.