How Nursing Homes Can Be at Fault for a Slip and Fall

A slip and fall at a nursing home can be devastating given the circumstances why someone is a resident there.  You can have an elderly family member for whom a slip and fall can be a devastating and life altering event.  Or you or a family member could be in the nursing home because you are recovering from major surgery, in which case a slip and fall can cause a major set back to that rehabilitation process.

In determining whether the nursing home is at fault for a slip and fall, one step you can take is to report the fall to your state’s Department of Health.  If the Department of Health feels that the nursing home’s violation of a statute or regulation governing nursing homes lead to the fall, they will perform an investigation of the home called a survey.  We have written before about how to report incidents at nursing homes to the Department of Health here: https://thistlelaw.com/how-to-report-nursing-home-neglect-to-the-department-of-health/

You can also look to the regulations governing nursing homes yourself.  However an attorney experienced in handling nursing home claims will be familiar with these regulations as well. Under these regulations a nursing home must perform a comprehensive assessment of a resident’s needs, goals, life history and preferences when admitted to the home.  (42 CFR §483.20).  This assessment must include at least cognitive patterns, vision, physical functioning and structural problems, and psychological well-being.  This would include whether the resident is a fall risk for any reason.

After performing this assessment the facility must develop and implement a comprehensive care plan for a resident consistent with his or her rights. (42 CFR §483.21(b) The plan must have objectives and time-frames to meet a resident’s medical, nursing, and mental needs identified in the comprehensive assessment.  Therefore this care plan must include the services that are to be furnished to attain or maintain the resident’s highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being.  It must also include any specialized services or rehabilitative services the nursing home will provide.  These plans should include any specialized care needed if a resident – such as yourself or a family member – is considered a serious fall risk.

These plans must be done within 7 days after the comprehensive assessment is performed.  They cannot be made by just anyone in the nursing home either.  They must be prepared by the resident’s attending physician, a registered nurse with responsibility for the resident, a nurse’s aide with responsibility to the resident, a staff member of the nutritionist services, and the resident can have input also.

What does this mean about the nursing home’s responsibility for a slip and fall claim?  If an assessment was never done which would have revealed a resident is a fall risk, and the resident falls as a result, the nursing home can be liable.  If the assessment was rushed, fall risks of a resident were missed, and the resident falls as a result, the nursing home can be liable.  If the assessment identifies fall risks but a care plan is either never developed or is not developed within seven days of the assessment and the resident falls as a result, the nursing home can be liable for that.  Likewise if the care plan does not take into account fall risks because important people involved in the resident’s care – such as their doctor, registered nurse, etc. – were not involved in making it, and the resident falls as a result, the nursing home can be liable for that.  Finally if the nursing home staff does not follow the methods in the comprehensive care plan to prevent a resident who is a fall risk from falling (such as using wheelchairs, walkers, having an aide walk with them, etc.) the nursing home can be liable if the resident has a slip and fall accident and gets injured.

Nursing homes, like any other landowners, can also be at fault under common negligence claims for causing slip and fall accidents as well.  For example if a member of the nursing home staff spills a drink on the floor, leaves a floor wet and slippery without any warning signs, etc. the nursing home can be liable if a resident falls and gets injured as a result.  Or if the nursing home staff is aware of a hazardous substance on the floor left by someone else but does not clean it up, the home can be liable if a resident falls because of that substance and gets injured.

The Thistle Law Firm is experienced at handling claims against nursing homes.  If you had a slip and fall at one the attorneys at the Thistle Law Firm are here to take your call and answer your questions at 215-568-6800.

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