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What to Do if Your Loved One Falls in a Nursing Home?

Posted on July 19, 2023 in Personal Injury

If your loved one is in a nursing home, you trust that the staff is meeting their needs with care and professionalism. Unfortunately, falls are common in skilled nursing facilities. Fall-related injuries can cause emotional distress, injuries, and even death.

You may wonder what to do if your loved one falls in a nursing home. What legal responsibility do nursing homes have for resident safety? Does the law entitle your loved one to financial compensation? Learn more about the actions you can take and how an attorney can help you.

4 Steps to take after a nursing home fall to protect your legal rights

When you learned that your loved one fell, your primary concern was likely their well-being and safety. Start a paper trail as soon as possible. A medical malpractice lawyer can help you with this process.

Notify the nursing home administration

Experienced Lawyer for Nursing Home near Phoenix AZ areaNotify the nursing home’s administration once you learn about the fall. This step lets the facility investigate the incident, address any safety hazards or concerns, and take appropriate measures to prevent future falls. Your attorney can help you ensure the nursing home takes this seriously.

Ensure that staff document the incident

After reporting the fall to the nursing home administration, make sure your loved one’s medical records include its documentation. These records can serve as evidence in your claim, providing a timeline of events and an account of the injuries.

Report the incident to state regulatory agencies

You may need to report the incident to your state’s regulatory agency that oversees nursing homes. These agencies ensure that nursing homes meet standards of care and investigate any complaints or incidents.

Your attorney can determine if you should report the fall to the state agency and how to do so.

Collect photographs, witness statements, and surveillance footage

To build a strong case against the nursing home, your attorney can gather evidence:

  • Photographs of the location of the fall that show any unsafe conditions, such as wet floors, cluttered walkways, or poor lighting.
  • Witness statements from your loved one, other residents, nursing home staff, or visitors who saw the incident or can attest to the conditions in the facility.
  • Surveillance footage from the nursing home, if available, to provide an unbiased account of the incident and the circumstances surrounding the fall.

Most individuals do not have the time or resources to gather evidence. This is where an attorney’s skill and knowledge can prove invaluable.

Standard of care in nursing homes: What does this mean for residents?

Nursing homes have a legal obligation to provide residents with a certain standard of care. They must meet each resident’s safety, well-being, and health needs.

Nursing homes should implement various measures to minimize the risk of falls.

These precautions may include:

  • Providing proper training for staff members in fall prevention techniques and safe handling of residents.
  • Regularly assessing residents and updating their care plans accordingly.
  • Ensuring adequate supervision of residents, particularly those at a higher risk for falls.
  • Properly maintaining and repairing equipment, such as wheelchairs, walkers, and canes.
  • Implementing safety measures, like grab bars, non-slip mats, and adequate lighting.

Staff must take reasonable precautions to prevent harm and ensure patient safety in nursing homes.

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The consequences of failing to meet the required standard of care

If a nursing home fails to meet a resident’s required standard of care, the law may hold them responsible for any injuries that residents sustain. For example, if your loved one falls due to inadequate supervision or a hazardous environment, the nursing home could be liable for damages, including medical expenses and pain and suffering. Nursing homes may also face punitive damages in cases of extreme negligence.

An experienced nursing home negligence attorney can help you determine whether the facility’s actions (or lack thereof) breached their duty of care to your loved one. An attorney can also let you know if a legal claim is necessary.

Negligence, breach of duty, and causation

Three components of a nursing home fall claim are negligence, a breach of duty, and a link between the fall and injuries.

Identify negligence

Negligence in a nursing home occurs when the facility fails to provide the proper standard of care, causing harm or injury to a resident.

When determining if action or inaction meets the legal definition of negligence, your attorney can examine:

  • The nursing home’s documentation of policies and procedures related to fall prevention.
  • The adequacy of the staff’s training and supervision.
  • The facility’s maintenance and safety measures.
  • The resident’s care plan and risk assessments.

Some common examples of nursing home negligence that may contribute to a fall include:

  • Inadequate staffing levels, resulting in insufficient supervision and assistance for residents.
  • Staff members who have not undergone training in fall prevention techniques or safe handling of residents.
  • Poorly maintained equipment or facilities, such as broken railings, uneven floors, or inadequate lighting.
  • Failure to update a resident’s care plan to reflect increased risk factors for falls.

An attorney can help you hold the nursing home accountable by identifying lapses in safety measures.

Establish a breach of duty

To successfully pursue a legal claim against a nursing home, you must establish that the facility breached its duty of care by acting negligently by presenting evidence of:

  • The nursing home’s failure to follow proper safety protocols and procedures.
  • Testimony from witnesses and experts about the nursing home’s actions and standard of care.
  • A direct link between the nursing home’s negligence and your loved one’s fall and subsequent injuries.

Gathering this documentation and testimony requires legal knowledge and skill. A nursing home negligence lawyer can work to demonstrate that the nursing home breached its duty of care by gathering and presenting this evidence.

Demonstrate causation

A nursing home negligence claim establishes that the nursing home’s breach of duty caused your loved one’s fall and resulting injuries. Your attorney must prove that your loved one would not have fallen but for the nursing home’s negligence. Establishing this link is called causation.

The role of expert witnesses in nursing home negligence cases

Expert witnesses can provide specialized knowledge and insight to support your claim.

Your attorney may consult with various experts, including:

  • Medical professionals to evaluate your loved one’s injuries and treatment and determine the standard of care the nursing home was responsible for.
  • Geriatric care specialists who can testify about the unique needs and vulnerabilities of elderly individuals and how the nursing home failed to address them.
  • Safety experts to assess the nursing home’s safety policies, procedures, and precautions, and identify any deficiencies or violations.

Expert witnesses can help build a strong case against a negligent nursing home.

Preserving evidence and maintaining records

An attorney can preserve evidence and maintain records throughout the legal process, like photographs, witness statements, medical records, and other relevant documentation.

Your attorney can compile evidence to demonstrate the extent of the fall-related injuries and the impact on your loved one’s life, including:

  • Medical records of the nature and severity of the injuries, such as fractures, lacerations, or traumatic brain injuries.
  • Evidence of the medical treatment your loved one receives, including surgeries, medications, and rehabilitative therapy.
  • Documentation of the ongoing impact of the injuries on your loved one’s daily activities, quality of life, and overall health.

An attorney can organize this information to strengthen your case and facilitate the best possible outcome.

How much is a nursing home fall case worth?

Negligence claims may also involve compensation for pain and suffering. These damages can be more difficult to quantify but are an important component of the compensation your loved one could receive.

An attorney can demonstrate the emotional distress, physical pain, and diminished quality of life your loved one experienced as a result of the nursing home’s negligence to maximize their potential compensation.

Time limits to file a nursing home fall lawsuit

The deadline to take legal action after a nursing home fall is called a statute of limitations. If you fail to file within this period, you can lose your right to pursue a claim against the nursing home. An attorney can help you understand and comply with the statute of limitations in your state.

Each state sets varying statutes of limitations for personal injury claims. You can avoid jeopardizing your case by engaging an attorney right away.

Time is of the essence in nursing home negligence cases. Acting quickly to gather evidence, report the incident, and consult with an attorney can strengthen your legal claim. Seeking legal advice early in the process will ensure that you are aware of your rights and options.

The benefits of hiring a nursing home negligence attorney

Hiring a nursing home negligence attorney offers numerous advantages in a nursing home negligence case.

Look for attorneys with the following qualities and experience:

  • A thorough understanding of relevant laws and regulations.
  • Familiarity with the specific laws and regulations governing nursing homes so they can navigate the legal system on your behalf.
  • Relevant experience in building strong nursing home fall claims.
  • The ability to gather and present evidence in a compelling manner.
  • Negotiation skills to work with insurance companies and opposing counsel trial experience.
  • A proven track record of success with nursing home negligence cases.

Recommendations from friends or family, online reviews, and professional associations can help you identify prospective law firms. Once you have a list of potential attorneys, schedule a consultation to discuss your case and learn more about their experience and approach.

What to expect from the legal process and attorney-client relationship?

You can expect a nursing home negligence attorney to guide you through the legal process, inform you of any developments, and provide advice on the best course of action. They can manage deadlines, gather evidence, and negotiate with opposing parties. If necessary, your attorney can represent your loved one in court.

Throughout the attorney client relationship, it is essential to maintain open communication, exchange relevant information, and trust your attorney’s experience and judgment. This collaboration can increase the likelihood of achieving the best possible outcome in your nursing home negligence case.

Robert W. Boatman - Experienced Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer for Negligence Cases in Phoenix, AZ area

Robert W. Boatman, Nursing Home Attorney in Phoenix, AZ 

Pursue justice with the help of a nursing home negligence attorney

As a family member or advocate for a nursing home resident, you play a crucial role in ensuring their well-being and protecting their rights. You can hold the nursing home accountable for its negligence by taking legal action. In addition, your legal claim could prevent similar incidents in the future. An experienced personal injury attorney in Phoenix can help you with the process.