When we leave our elderly loved ones in the care of an Atlanta nursing home facility, we assume that the staff and management will take measures to ensure their health, happiness, and safety. We never expect something like unsupervised wandering will occur – or a resultant injury or death. Leaving safe areas can be incredibly dangerous for residents, especially those suffering from dementia or loss of cognitive function. Nursing homes that fail to prevent this type of harm may be guilty of negligence. To find out more about your specific case, contact Butler Wooten & Peak LLP.
Georgia nursing homes owe due care to their residents. What constitutes “due care” depends in large part on federal and state standards. According to the law, nursing homes must take adequate measures to reasonably prevent harm to residents. This includes known harms like the possibility of wandering off, or elopement. Nursing homes not only owe specific duties of care to elderly residents but also to family members. It is therefore often within your right as a family member to pursue justice and compensation on behalf of your injured or deceased loved one after elopement has occurred.
To have a case against the nursing home, the plaintiff must prove the home failed to take precautions to safeguard residents from foreseeable harms. The foreseeability of the wandering off is critical in these cases. If the resident had no history of wandering off and no risk factors such as Alzheimer’s or dementia, the risk may not be foreseeable. In this case, the courts may rule that the nursing home had no reason to take precautions to prevent the injured party from wandering. If, however, the nursing home had notice – or reasonably should have known – that the resident might wander, it becomes the facility’s duty to take preventive measures.
If your loved one wandered off and caused a scare, but did not sustain any injuries, you likely do not have grounds to sue the nursing home. Liability often depends on the plaintiff – the resident – suffering some kind of real damages as a result of the nursing home’s negligence. “Damages” may include physical injuries, emotional suffering or distress, or medical costs from the incident. Injuries in elopement cases can stem from trip and falls, pedestrian collisions, lack of medical care, or exposure to the elements. The resident may also have suffered emotional harms from fear or worry.
Nursing homes should properly evaluate residents during initial intake for risk factors for wandering off. If the resident exhibits risk factors, the facility should take steps to reasonably prevent wandering. These may include locked doors, security guards, or property fencing. Staff members should be well trained and knowledgeable about how to prevent wandering off and know if a resident goes missing. At Butler Wooten & Peak LLP, we know how to investigate potential claims for signs of nursing home negligence and abuse. We’ll set our team to the task of looking into your loved one’s injuries and potential grounds for a civil claim in Atlanta. Call (800) 242-2962 to get in touch with our team today.