When the Nursing Home is Liable for a Fall Injury

Your grandfather has been living in a nursing home for over six months. Last weekend, he slipped, fell, and broke his hip. You’re understandably angry and upset. Can you sue the nursing home for this unexpected injury?

Nursing Homes Held to a Higher Standard of Care

It’s not uncommon for an elderly person to slip and fall. Balance becomes more challenging with age, and many older people struggle with muscle weakness, nerve problems, and medication side effects that can increase the risk of a fall. A fall in an elderly person, however, has much more serious consequences than falls in younger people. It can significantly affect quality of life and may lead to premature death.

All property owners are responsible for maintaining safe premises. The federal government, however, holds nursing homes to a higher level of care. It requires these facilities to not only maintain a safe environment for their residents, but also to perform a clinical assessment of their residents known as the Minimum Data Set (MDS). The purpose of this assessment is to determine each resident’s health needs and his or her fall risks.

The MDS is completed during the admissions process so that the staff members are aware of who is particularly at risk for falling and therefore, needs additional supervision. Patients suffering from hip injuries, vertigo, fatigue, cognitive difficulties, or other conditions that affect balance and increase the risk of a fall are typically highlighted during this assessment. If the MDS shows that a resident is at risk of falls but was injured by a fall anyway, the nursing home may be liable for that injury.

Some negligent acts by nursing homes that could lead to a fall include:

  • Lack of supervision, particularly for patients at risk of falls
  • Over- or under-medication
  • Unsecured facilities—missing handrails in a shower or bath, for instance
  • Highly polished floor surfaces
  • Inadequate cleaning up of spills, debris, and other materials on the floor
  • Maintenance and housekeeping equipment left unattended in pathways used by residents to get around the facility
  • Inappropriate activities
  • Lack of bed alarms
  • Staffing inadequate to carry out proper supervision

Should the Nursing Home Be Held Liable for Your Loved One’s Injury?

Elderly people go into nursing homes usually because they are no longer able to take care of themselves, and their family members are unable to keep them safe. The federal government expects these facilities to keep their residents safe, so when an accident occurs, family members may be understandably concerned.

To determine whether the nursing home may be held liable, you may want to talk to a personal injury attorney. Meanwhile, ask yourself these questions:

  • Was the resident tagged as being at risk of falling during the initial assessment or follow-up assessments?
  • Was their adequate supervision of the resident at the time of the fall?
  • Was the care plan put into place to prevent falls at the nursing home adequate?
  • Was the plan to prevent falls carried out every day as expected?
  • Had the plan to prevent falls been reviewed and updated in a timely manner?
  • Was the resident’s medication given as instructed?