Making the decision to send an elderly family member to live in a nursing home is often a difficult and emotional choice. It can come with guilt, arguments with other family members, and adjusting to a new reality. If you then hear that your loved one suffered a fall while at the facility, it’s understandable to feel both enraged and increasingly remorseful.
If you’ve recently received that distressing phone call, you are probably wondering how to move forward. Who’s responsible for the fall? Was it a particular staff member? Was it the nursing home as a whole? Was it an accident?
Can You Sue a Nursing Home For a Fall?
As with most legal questions, the answer is: it depends. Depending on the circumstances, you could bring a cause of action for either negligence or premises liability. If you’re able to prove the elements of either, you’d be able to sue the nursing home for the fall of your loved one and recover damages for medical costs, as well as for the mental anguish that may result from the incident.
To prove that a nursing home was negligent, you must show that they breached their duty of care to your loved one, and that such a breach was the cause of the fall.
For example, elderly individuals have specific needs to prevent falls – such as bed rails, lower bathtub edges, anti-slip mats in showers, handrails in showers and stairs, ramps for residents who cannot go up or down steps, and any additional precautions to prevent them from falling during the ordinary course of the day.
It also depends on whether your family member resides in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home. While both names are used interchangeably, both types of organizations provide different services. Some assisted living facilities allow their residents to maintain a level of independence, while nursing homes have trained personnel to provide around-the-clock monitoring and medical treatment.
If your loved one has a specific medical condition that requires additional safety measures, such as assistance getting in and out of bed, assistance taking care of personal hygiene, supervision after taking medications, or anything else instructed by your family member’s healthcare provider, the nursing home has a duty to comply with such requirements once they’ve been put on notice. If they fail to do so, they are liable for negligence.
Proving Premises Liability
In addition to falling due to negligent care, it’s possible for a nursing home resident to suffer a fall after slipping on a spilled substance or wet floor. In such event, Florida Statute Section 768.0755 establishes that if a person slips and falls because there was a spill in a business facility, that person must prove that the business knew or should have known about the existence of the dangerous condition.
For example, if nursing home staff had just mopped the floors and failed to place warning signs, they knew that such conditions would be dangerous for people walking by – especially for elderly, frail residents.
Then there’s constructive notice. This is when the nursing home should have known of the existence of a dangerous condition, such as leaky pipes or water that seeps in during rains. To be held liable, those conditions had to exist for such a length of time that it was foreseeable that someone could get injured if not fixed immediately.
If you don’t know if a nursing home had constructive notice about a particularly dangerous condition, you can find out through a process called discovery. This is when an attorney requests information from the nursing home, such as surveillance videos, shift logs, work orders, sworn testimony from employees or other residents, or anything else your lawyer may consider to be relevant to get all the pieces of the puzzle. Do keep in mind that for the nursing home or assisted living facility to preserve surveillance video footage, such request must be presented in writing.
Call Us to Discuss Your Case
If your family member fell at an assisted living facility or nursing home, let us help. The longer you wait, the more damage could be caused to your loved one and the harder it may become to gather evidence.
At Laporte, Mulligan & Werner-Watkins, P.A., we have experienced attorneys who can best design a strategy to help you.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended to be for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney/client relationship.