Nursing Home Falls: What You Need to Know
Long-term care facilities are supposed to be safe places to convalesce. But in many cases, that’s not true. In fact, three out of four nursing home residents slip and fall every year. That’s twice the overall fall injury rate for people over 65.
The nursing home environment causes or contributes to many serious falls. Because of the elderly population explosion, many nursing homes are almost constantly under construction. This hurried activity creates hazards, like uneven floors, which older people have a hard time avoiding. Furthermore, to save money, many nursing homes have minimal staffing levels, especially on nights, weekends, and holidays. So, if residents wander too close to a dangerous area, there is no one there to help.
Resident condition contributes to the problem as well. Many people over 65 have gait and/or vision disorders. These conditions inhibit a person’s ability to avoid a fall and increase injury severity.
Legal Responsibility in Nursing Home Fall Matters
Florida, like many other states, divides fall injury victims into different classifications. These classifications also apply in other premises liability claims, such as swimming pool drowning and dog bites. The legal duty is tied to the relationship between the victim and the property owner, as follows:
- Trespasser: Some people have no permission to be on the property, and they do not benefit the owner. In these situations, owners generally owe no duty to fall or other injury victims. There are some limited exceptions, such as the attractive nuisance doctrine.
- Licensee: People like guests of apartment tenants are usually licensees. These individuals have express or implied permission to be on the land, but they confer no benefit on the owner. Because the relationship between victim and owner is rather remote, the legal duty is low. In these situations, most owners must only warn licensees about latent (hidden) defects.
- Invitee: Most fall victims are invitees. These individuals have express or implied permission to be on the premises, and the owner obtains an economic or noneconomic benefit. That benefit does not have to be significant. Almost anything will do. Because of the close relationship, in this context, owners have a duty of reasonable care to prevent falls.
The duty of care also includes a duty to inspect the premises and ensure that they remain safe for invitees and other covered individuals.
Establishing Knowledge in Hillsborough County
Theoretical legal responsibility is not enough. To obtain compensation, nursing home fall victims must also establish knowledge. To prove this element in court, victim/plaintiffs may use one of the following:
- Direct Evidence: Smoking guns like cleaning reports or floor repair estimates usually surface during the discovery phase of a lawsuit. This evidence is not available in all situations.
- Circumstantial Evidence: Victim/plaintiffs may also use the time/notice rule to establish constructive knowledge (should have known). Assume the victim slipped and fell on a black banana peel. Since the peel was black, it had probably been on the floor for some time, so an employee should have picked it up. If the peel was yellow, the opposite conclusion probably applies.
Damages in a fall injury claim usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Connect with Tenacious Lawyers
Nursing home residents are highly at risk for serious fall injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa premises liability attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. We do not charge upfront legal fees in injury claims.