Are Nursing Homes Responsible for Falls?

On the topic of Nursing Home Falls-

When I think of nursing home fall cases one particular case comes to mind right away.  My client’s mother was 89 years old and lived at home independently.  Unfortunately she had fallen at home due to issues with her balance. The family made the difficult decision to place their mother in a nursing home. Despite being assessed as a fall risk upon admission she fell within 3 days of arriving at the nursing home.  Having suffered a fractured hip she unfortunately died within 3 months of the fracture due to complications. Despite being a fall risk the nursing home failed to institute interventions- a low bed, periodic toileting and call bells within reach.  The very problem she was admitted to solve was what brought on her untimely death.  The facility’s website went so far as to specifically advertise and tout its ability to keep our loved ones safe and secure.  If your loved one has fallen at their nursing home and you have questions about how it happened or what could have been done to prevent the fall please call my office at 216.696.5700.

Let’s Go Over Fall Risk Factors:

Prevention of falls begins with a proper assessment of the resident to identify specific risk factors that increase the likelihood of a dangerous slip and fall. There are many medical and situational risk factors for falls:

  • New surroundings due to recent admission to nursing home
  • Recent transfer from hospital room or different room at facility
  • Moving from bed to chair
  • Previous falls
  • Urgency to get to bathroom to use toilet
  • Physical weakness, unsteady gait
  • Certain medications or multiple medications (poly pharmacy)
  • Diagnosis of dementia
  • Environmental hazards—poor lighting, wet or slippery floors, incorrect bed height, wheelchair obstacles
  • Underlying problems with health, memory, or cognition
  • Of these risk factors, the most common causes of falls are muscle weakness, walking problems, and environmental hazards

The nursing home is responsible for recognizing and assessing these risk factors to keep its residents safe.  If your loved one has or had any or all of these risk factors and the nursing home failed to recognize or address them the fall may be their fault.

Over the years I have seen all manner of nursing home falls.  In some cases the facility was truly not responsible and could not have prevented the fall.  However, that is not immediately apparent in most cases.  It is important to seek experienced help in investigating your loved one’s fall.  Often facts and details unfold like the layers of an onion and I can ensure that your case will be thoroughly evaluated and investigated.  If the fall wasn’t preventable I am here to explain to you why and if it was… I am here to represent and guide you and your family through the process of holding the facility responsible.

How is Liability for a Nursing Home Fall Proven?

A nursing home can be liable for your loved one’s fall if they didn’t take certain steps such as a proper assessment, an individualized care plan and implementing the plan and then if there is a fall, a reassessment and a new plan would be called for.

Some of these steps include proper assessment for falls and in turn developing a care plan to address the fall risk.  They must also regularly reassess the resident to ensure the care plan’s effectiveness.  Liability may be established if the nursing home did not follow federal guidelines or its own policies and procedures for things like transferring and toileting.  -And of course, at the root of most nursing home negligence cases I have litigated- the nursing home may be liable if they were understaffed or staffed with unqualified or untrained nurses and aides.

How is Compensation for a Nursing Home Fall Determined?

I am often asked “what is my fall case worth?”- and the honest answer is “It depends”.  First there are some legal issues on whether a case is considered by law to be a “medical claim” or an ordinary negligence claim.  This first legal issue will determine if a statutory cap or limit on damages applies and what that limit is. Then there is the determination of the nature of the injury suffered as a result of the fall.  For example, if there was a bone broken like a hip and what is the medical treatment for that injury? Is surgery required?  Finally, what is the resulting condition of the person who fell and suffered the injury? Did they suffer bruises and after weeks are those bruises gone? Has the pain subsided?   Has your loved one resumed normal activities? Or has the person fallen, suffered a broken hip, undergone surgery and all the pain that goes with that along with months of physical therapy, still has pain and has not regained full movement? Or did your loved one fall, suffer a fractured hip, had surgical repair but never regained their level of health and died several weeks later from complications of the fall? Each of these cases is valued differently based on the injury, duration of pain and recovery, and the resulting permanent disability or death.

How Long Does a Nursing Home Fall Case Take?

In evaluating a fall case I like to do as much evaluation of the case on the front-end before the cases is filed and as soon after the fall as possible.  It is all about the facts, both the medical facts of the injury, what effect that injury has had on the person and the facts on why this happened at the nursing home. Gathering the nursing home records, medical records for care necessary as result of the fall and information about the nursing home take time. It is important to gather information about the staffing levels, previous incidents and quality indicators to get a picture of how this nursing home was being managed and whether that affected the quality of care.  Keep in mind also that there are legal time limits which apply to filing a lawsuit for these claims.  Ultimately a fall case can take months but more than likely several years to resolve.

Why File a Lawsuit?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to turn back the hands of time and change what happened to your loved one but holding the wrongdoer responsible is important so that other families maybe be spared the same heartbreak.  What I and my firm can do is to seek justice on behalf of your loved one. We send negligent nursing homes a message that they will be held to account for their actions.

Over the numerous cases of injury and wrongful death that I have handled, there is one commonality to almost all injuries and wrongful death – the decision by nursing homes to put profits before resident care and safety.  This must stop.  Litigation and payments to injured residents and the families who have lost a loved one are often the only way to get nursing homes to change their unsafe practices.

If your loved one was injured or died as the result of some aspect of nursing home negligence, it is very possible that someone else suffered the same injuries (or also died) as a result of the same negligence at the same facility, or perhaps even at a nearby nursing home.  Litigation sends a strong message to nursing homes that injuries and death due to their negligence will no longer be tolerated, excused, or overlooked.  By bringing a lawsuit, hopefully no other families will have to suffer what your family and your loved one have endured.

I am here for you.

Please call me at 216.696.5700 to discus your case.  You may also visit my website at Nancy C. Iler Law Firm.