Are Nursing Homes Liable for Falls?

If you’re wondering are nursing homes liable for falls, the answer is typically yes. When a resident slips, trips or falls in a nursing home, the home is liable under the legal theory of premises liability. In addition, a nursing home can also be liable under the medical negligence theory if a resident falls and suffers serious injury.

There are several ways that a nursing home can be negligent when it comes to preventing falls among older residents. Some of these are:

  • Wet or slippery floors
  • Inadequate hand railing in hallways, stairwells and showers
  • Under-staffing and inadequate staff supervision
  • Mistakes in administering medications, causing dizziness, drowsiness or fatigue among residents
  • Staff negligence, leading to patients left wandering in the hallways
  • Inadequate provision of wheelchairs, walkers, and other equipment to aid in mobility
  • Improper staff training
  • Malfunction of bed railings
  • Inadequate risk assessment related to falling.

These are just a few of the many ways that nursing homes can be irresponsible and provide inadequate care for your loved one, which can result in falls, broken bones, concussions and worse. Most nursing homes have protocols to prevent falls – such as bathroom checks, bed alarms, and bed call buttons — but if these protocols are not implemented correctly or are ignored, then serious accidents can happen.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four older adults falls each year, and falling one time doubles an older person’s chances of falling again.  One out of five falls causes a serious injury like broken bones or a head injury.  More than 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or hip fracture.

These are startling statistics, because they show the frequency and severity of fall injuries in America. Even if an older person is not injured when they fall, studies show that falling once causes a person to become afraid of falling again — so they cut down on daily activities, reduce their mobility and stay home more. Such cautious behaviors reduce the quality of an older person’s life.

Fall death rates in the U.S. increased by 30% from 2007 to 2016 among older adults, according to the CDC.

If your loved one has been injured in a fall at a nursing home, you may have legal recourse and be entitled to financial compensation. An experienced nursing home lawyer can assess your situation and explain your legal options.

What happens when a resident falls in a nursing home?

Are there specific times when a nursing home is liable for a fall?

Lawyer Magazine lays out several of the most common reasons that residents fall at nursing homes.  Contributing factors can include:

  • Poorly maintained buildings, including loose carpet, uneven flooring, and cluttered hallways
  • Over- or under-medicated residents
  • Impaired vision among residents
  • Residents with pain and weakness.

When a resident falls in a nursing home, staff should provide immediate medical care, including transportation by ambulance to a hospital emergency room if the situation requires it.  Staff should also promptly inform family members if their loved one falls, but sometimes this doesn’t happen.  Either staff tries to hide the fall injury from family members or they render minimal and inadequate medical care.  When loved ones suffer slip and fall injuries, families have a right to know, and families should be able to trust a facility to provide reasonable care.

Important Steps: What to do if someone falls in a nursing home

If your loved one falls in a nursing home due to staff negligence or improperly maintained premises, there are things you can do to document the injury. Some of these are:

  1. Take picture of the bruises and injuries.
  2. Take pictures of the flooring, broken railing, or other objects that contributed to the fall.
  3. Review medical charts to make sure fall risks were adequately documented and protocols followed.
  4. Get copies of X-rays, MRIs or other tests administered at a hospital after a fall.
  5. Check records documenting the nursing home’s administration of a loved one’s medications.
  6. Get the names and contact information of any visitor, resident or staff member who witnessed the fall.
  7. Contact a skilled personal injury lawyer to represent you.

More statistics about falls among older adults

Med Alert Help published the following data about falls among the elderly:

  • Every 11 seconds, an older person receives emergency room treatment for a fall.
  • Older people with hearing loss have three times the risk of an accidental fall.
  • 67% of falls don’t happen when individuals slip or trip. 
  • 80% of hospital patient falls aren’t witnessed by staff.
  • In the U.S., accidental falls complicate 2% of older persons’ hospital stays.
  • A person dies by fall every 19 minutes.
  • Programs aimed at fall prevention have been successful, resulting in a 35% reduction in hospital fall rates.
  • Medications like antidepressants and sedatives increase the likelihood of falls.
  • People with center-body obesity are 37% more likely to fall than people with little body fat.
  • By the age of 85, about two-thirds of all injury-related deaths are attributed to falls.

Here are some additional fall statistics from the CDC:

  • Each year, 3 million older people are treated in emergency departments for fall injuries.
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI).
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • In 2015, the medical costs for falls totaled more than $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid shouldered 75% of these costs.

Potential injuries in nursing home falls

When a resident falls at a nursing home, common injuries include:

  • Concussions and TBIs
  • Hip fractures
  • Broken arms, elbows, ankles, and legs
  • Contusions and bruises
  • Memory loss and cognitive impairments
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage.

Contact a nursing home injury lawyer today

If your loved one has suffered a fall injury at a nursing home, you may be entitled to financial compensation. You trusted the nursing home to care for and watch over your family member, and they failed to do so. A skilled personal injury lawyer can explain your rights and file a legal claim. Our attorneys at Johnson Law Firm have helped many families just like yours. To find out more about the legal services we provide, call us for a free initial consultation at 606-437-4488.

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