Older adults are more prone to falling than younger adults because many do not have the strength and balance to safely climb stairs and navigate indoor and outdoor terrain. When an individual’s physical or mental condition makes it impossible for him or her to safely live without supervision, the individual’s family may choose to move him or her into a nursing home.
Although nursing homes often take a considerable amount of care to protect their residents from falling, falls happen in nursing homes every day. When a resident falls, he or she can be injured and potentially suffer permanent complications. When an injury is due to a fall that could have been prevented, the facility may be liable for the victim’s related damages. Victims and their loved ones can seek compensation for these damages through nursing home neglect claims.
WHAT CAUSES FALLS IN NURSING HOMES?
Individuals in nursing homes often lack the strength, balance, and vision to safely walk unassisted. With this in mind, many nursing homes are designed for residents’ safety and feature non-skid flooring, secure handrails in hallways and bathrooms, bright lighting throughout the facility, and frequent supervision by staff members. When a nursing home does not provide all the safety features necessary to protect residents from falling and being injured, the nursing home’s management may be deemed negligent and liable for any damages victims suffer in accidents related to the negligence.
A few specific examples of hazards and acts of negligence that can cause a nursing home resident to fall include:
- Wet, slippery floors;
- Uneven floor surfaces;
- Debris on the floor that creates a tripping hazard;
- Failure on the staff’s part to accurately evaluate each resident’s ability to walk unassisted;
- Failure on the staff’s part to inform a resident or his or her family of how medication can affect his or her ability to walk;
- Broken steps;
- Broken and loose handrails;
- Unsecured carpeting and wires; and
- Staff’s failure to supervise residents appropriately.
When a nursing home provides less protection and staff supervision to its residents than the residents need, the facility may be cited for neglect. Neglect is a type of mistreatment that is distinct from abuse because instead of occurring out of malice or personal gain, it occurs when there are not enough resources to provide adequate care. Like other types of mistreatment, nursing home neglect can have a severe, negative impact on residents’ physical and mental health.
HOW CAN A NURSING HOME RESIDENT BE INJURED IN A FALL?
There are a variety of ways a fall victim can be injured. The injuries an individual suffers depend on a few factors, such as his or her overall fitness level, how the individual landed from the fall, whether the victim came into contact with a sharp or otherwise dangerous object through the fall, and the angle of the fall. These injuries can include:
- Bone fractures;
- Soft tissue injuries;
- Burns, if the victim came into contact with a dangerously hot object, harmful chemicals, or the fall caused friction that resulted in rug burn;
- Head trauma; and
- Spinal cord injuries.
Many of these injuries can have long-term or permanent complications, like a traumatic brain injury following a blow to the head or paralysis resulting from a spinal cord injury. Individuals who suffer traumatic brain injuries may be more likely to develop dementia later. Older patients also often have more brittle bones than younger adults, which can make falls especially dangerous for this population. A bone broken in a fall could take much longer to heal in an older patient, potentially never completely healing.
SEEKING COMPENSATION FOR YOUR LOVED ONE’S DAMAGES AFTER A FALL
If your loved one is injured in a preventable fall at his or her nursing home, you can file a nursing home neglect claim with the facility’s insurance provider to seek the full value of the damages he or she suffered. After ensuring that your loved one receives appropriate medical care for his or her injury, discuss your case with an experienced nursing home neglect lawyer and report the incident to the Minnesota Department of Health Adult Abuse Reporting Center.
Through a nursing home neglect claim, you can seek compensation for the following damages:
- Your loved one’s medical expenses;
- The cost of moving your loved one to a new facility;
- Your loved one’s reduced quality of life;
- His or her emotional trauma;
- Punitive damages for the facility’s neglect; and
- Any other costs associated with your loved one’s injury.
If your loved one dies because of an injury sustained in a fall, you can pursue compensation for all related damages through a wrongful death claim.
PROTECTING YOUR LOVED ONE FROM FALLS
If your loved one fell in his or her nursing home because of a lack of oversight on the part of the facility’s management, your next step might be to move him or her to a different facility. While you evaluate new facilities to be your loved one’s potential new home, look for signs of a safe environment like ample lighting, secure handrails, and non-skid material on the floors. You should also be proactive about preventing future falls by providing your loved one with non-skid slippers to wear at the facility, having his or her condition thoroughly evaluated, and visiting the facility regularly so you develop a relationship with his or her caregivers and become familiar with your loved one’s day-to-day lifestyle.
WORK WITH AN EXPERIENCED MINNESOTA NURSING HOME NEGLECT LAWYER
If your loved one fell and suffered an injury in his or her nursing home, he or she could be entitled to recover compensation for any damages related to the fall. As your loved one’s advocate, it is your job to work with an experienced nursing home neglect lawyer to pursue that compensation. Contact Kosieradzki Smith Law Firm LLC today to set up your free consultation in our office, during which we can work with you to determine the most effective way to handle your claim.