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Are Nursing Homes Liable for Fall Injuries?

Posted in Blog on July 17, 2019

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), millions of people aged 65 and older fall. They state that one out of four older people fall each year and that falling once doubles their chances of falling again.

Are Nursing Homes Liable for Fall Injuries

For older citizens, falling can cause serious injuries and even death. The CDC says that:

  • One out of every five falls causes a serious injury like a head injury or broken bone.
  • Three million older people are treated in ERs each year due to fall injuries.
  • Over 800,000 people are hospitalized each year due to fall injuries.
  • Around 300,000 older people are hospitalized with hip fractures each year.

The CDC also says that by 2030, there could be seven fall deaths in older Americans every hour. As the US population ages, we will see more and more citizens needing assistance at nursing homes. We need to know when a nursing home is liable for our loved one’s injuries.

Nursing homes and falls

It should come as no surprise that nursing home residents have an increased risk of falls. Armed with this knowledge, most nursing homes come equipped to assist patients who are fall risks. This can include:

  • Installing grab bars and cushioning
  • Ensuring at-risk residents use canes, walkers, or wheelchairs
  • Ensuring resident beds and chairs are at safe heights
  • Using fall pressure alarms that alert staff when an at-risk patient tries to get up
  • Using resident call buttons or cords in rooms and bathrooms

Nursing home staff must also be properly trained to understand falls and how to handle at-risk residents.

When a fall injury occurs in a nursing home, that does not mean the staff or organization is necessarily responsible. For a nursing home to be held liable, they need to have been careless or negligent in their duties. For a nursing home or staff member to be held liable for a fall, it needs to be shown that they:

  • Failed to enact an appropriate plan based on a resident’s fall risk and health conditions.
  • Used improper techniques when aiding a resident’s mobility.
  • Failing to properly monitor residents.
  • Defective or improperly installed bed rails.
  • Failed to use protocol concerning pressure alarms or resident access call buttons.
  • Allowing known hazards to persist within a room or public area (wet floors, loose carpeting, inadequate lighting, etc.).
  • Medication errors that cause a patient to become a fall risk.
  • Allowing a resident to use defective walking aids such as walkers, canes, or other devices.
  • Or acted in any other careless or reckless manner to cause a resident’s fall.

In the worst cases, a nursing home resident’s fall could be caused by elder abuse on the part of nursing home staff or volunteers. The CDC defines elder abuse as “an intentional act or failure to act by a caregiver or another person in a relationship involving an expectation of trust that causes or creates a serious risk of harm to an older adult.”

If a nursing home is negligent in their duties, they could be held liable for any injury expenses. This can include:

  • Coverage for medical expenses related to the fall
  • Pain and suffering damages
  • Loss of enjoyment of life damages
  • Relocation expenses if a move is necessary
  • Possible punitive damages against a grossly negligent party

It is the responsibility of the nursing home staff to keep our loved ones safe, but we play a role as well. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, check on their well-being regularly to ensure they are being cared for properly.