Falls in nursing homes are extremely common. In fact, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that of the 1.6 million people in nursing homes each year, half experience a fall and one out of every 10 will experience a serious injury because of that fall leading to devastating consequences for the resident. Upon learning of the incident, many loved ones question liability, who is to blame for the fall and what could have been done to prevent it.
Consequences of Nursing Home Falls
Nursing home falls can have catastrophic consequences, especially for the weak or frail elderly population. Just the fear of falling again can cause some people to avoid certain activities and start to diminish the resident’s quality of life and mobility. An elderly person may have a harder time recovering from serious injury and has an increased risk of death from a serious injury caused by a fall.
Causes of Nursing Home Falls
The most common cause of falls in nursing homes are the intrinsic factors of aging such as muscle weakness and gait problems. However, there are external factors that come to play -- many of which are preventable and avoidable if nursing homes have adopted a success fall management program. Environmental factors account for 16 to 27 percent of falls among residents and include things like equipment blocking an area of a hallway, wet floors, poor lighting, unstable bed wheels, and improperly fitted or poorly maintained wheelchairs.
Newly prescribed medications can also increase the risk of injuries from falls. Medications including anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives can have side-effects affecting balance and clarity, particularly those that affect the central nervous system. The risk of those side effects is particularly acute in the first 3 days after the medication regimen begins.
Liability for Nursing Home Falls
Nursing homes owe a duty of care to residents, which includes preventing accidents by following accepted safety practices and guidelines, training staff and using fall-prevention equipment like hip pads. Because of the enormous prevalence, falls are a major safety concern for nursing facilities. While the nursing home may not be liable in every situation, injuries resulting from falls are a major reason for lawsuits against facilities and staff.
Liability for a nursing home fall largely depends on the cause of the fall. If the resident fell on a slippery floor or tripped over equipment left in a hallway, the cause of that fall would largely be environmental and something the nursing home should be able to prevent with proper protocols. Similarly, in the case of a resident on newly prescribed medication or a resident with dementia who falls because they may not remember to use a wheelchair, there should be enough staff at the facility to understand the residents’ medical conditions, monitor, and keep them safe.
If a fall happens as a result of something that could have been prevented with proper care and attention, then the nursing home may be found to be negligent and liable for the resident’s injuries. It's also possible that a medical device manufacturer could be liable for a fall if that fall was caused by faulty medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or improperly constructed bed. If you believe your loved one’s fall in a nursing home was caused or partially caused by negligence on the part of the nursing home, you should contact a personal injury attorney who specializes in nursing home neglect.
Nursing Home Neglect Attorney
Don’t wait to act if your loved one is experiencing neglect at their care facility. At Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law, we have decades of experience helping injured clients and their loved one get the compensation and justice they deserve. Our New Jersey nursing home abuse attorneys can explain your legal options, investigate your case, and help you file a claim. Don’t let injustices against your loved ones continue. Contact us today for a free consultation.