For the 1.6 million people living in nursing homes in the United States, falls pose a constant risk. About half of nursing home residents will suffer a fall this year (AHRQ). These falls can result in serious injury, long recovery periods, and even death.
It can be especially frustrating when the nursing home could have done something more to prevent the fall. It can leave you wondering if the nursing home can be held responsible.
Are Nursing Homes Liable for Falls?
A nursing home may be liable for a fall if they acted negligently in a way that allowed the fall to occur. Negligence should balance the high fall risk that nursing home residents carry and what amounts to reasonable measures to protect a resident.
When Can a Nursing Home Be Liable for a Fall?
Nursing homes exist for the safety and well-being of their residents. That gives them a legal duty to provide a reasonably safe environment for the people in the home. While they aren’t automatically liable for any fall that occurs, the nursing home can be legally liable for failing to provide a safe environment.
What makes a nursing home environment safe or reasonable?
What amounts to a reasonable and safe environment varies in different situations. A resident may have a very high fall risk. They may need more intervention and monitoring than the person in the next room. Things like a state of disrepair at the nursing facility or lack of adequate staffing may pose an unreasonable risk to all residents.
A nursing home may be liable for a fall based on some of these factors:
- Inadequate fall planning and prevention
- Failing to take responsive measures after previous incidents
- Leaving hand railings, stairs, and elevators in disrepair
- Allowing uneven surfaces and broken flooring to remain in the facility
- Having the resident in improper footwear
- Not having the patient receive the medical attention they deserve
- Restricting a resident’s exercise and activity so that they are deconditioned and unhealthy
- Errors in dispensing medications
- Placing furniture and objects in the facility where they may be a hazard
Some fall risks are intrinsic, like the person’s strength and medical conditions. Other environmental factors can add to the risk, like having uneven carpet or floors that are too slippery.
Fall planning is a critical part of appropriate care for any senior that lives in a care facility. The risk of falling must be assessed with proper measures taken to protect the resident. There are several ways to determine fall risk, including tests that the person can take and general health screening.
How Do You Determine If a Nursing Home Is Liable for a Fall?
To tell if a nursing home is liable for a fall, you must assess the fall and why it happened. Don’t just rely on the nursing home’s report, either. They must make a report, but they don’t want to admit they were at fault.
Assessing why the fall occurred means looking at all possible causes. The investigation should look at the facility and the circumstances surrounding the individual. It’s important to go beyond the immediate moments leading up to the fall and look at the person’s overall treatment and care. Negligence is specific to the individual and the circumstances, so the investigation must be personalized to the exact situation.
What can you do if you suspect your loved one has not received proper care?
If you’re concerned about the care that your loved one has received, there are things that you can do. You can ask questions internally at the facility. There should be a way to ask questions and make reports without fear of retaliation. In addition, you may report your concerns to the South Carolina Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. If your loved one is in immediate danger, call 911.
Greenville Lawyers to Investigate a Fall at a Nursing Home
Our nursing home abuse and neglect lawyers can help you investigate the causes of a fall. We can help you investigate what prevention measures were taken and whether the care facility acted negligently.
If the care facility was negligent in a way that harmed the resident, we can help you take the appropriate action to hold the facility accountable and claim reasonable financial compensation.
Contact us today for a consultation about your case.