What Happens If I Fall in a Nursing Home?
Falls are by far the most common nursing home injury. Almost two-thirds of nursing home residents fall at least once, and frequently, these falls cause serious injuries.
Many older adults have pre-existing conditions, such as injuries due to a previous fall, which make them more vulnerable to injury. Full compensating is usually available in these situations. Facility owners must take victims as they find them. They cannot profit because the victim happens to have an eggshell skull or another condition.
If a Brandon personal injury attorney establishes legal duty and knowledge of the hazard, as outlined below, compensation could include money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.
Nursing home owners are responsible for fall injuries if they owed the victim a legal duty. Florida law classifies duty in premises liability claims according to the relationship between the owner and the victim. “Premises liability” is an umbrella term for injuries like slip-and-falls, dog bites, and swimming pool drownings which occur on someone else’s property.
- Nursing Home Residents: These individuals are invitees. They have express or implied permission to be on the land, and their presence benefits the owner. In this case, that benefit is financial. If the victim was an invitee, the owner had a duty of reasonable care.
- Nursing Home Visitors: Arguably, these individuals are invitees as well. They have permission to be on the land. And, their presence benefits the owner. Nursing home visitors make nursing home residents happier, and that benefits the owner. The duty of reasonable care means the owner must ensure the property is safe and frequently inspect it to make sure it remains safe.
Alternatively, nursing home visitors might be licensees. These people have permission to be on the land, but there is no benefit. As a result, owners only owe licensees a duty to warn about latent (hidden) defects.
Duty is usually a question of law for the judge. Knowledge is usually a question of fact for the jury. To establish knowledge, victims can use either:
- Direct Evidence: Smoking guns like restroom cleaning reports or floor hazard reports usually surface during the discovery phase.
- Circumstantial Evidence: Alternatively, victims can use the time-notice rule to establish constructive knowledge (should have known). Think about a banana peel on the floor. If the peel was yellow, it probably just fell, so knowledge does not attach. But if it was black, it had probably been on the floor for awhile, and an employee should have picked it up.
Victims must establish either actual or constructive knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Insurance Company Defenses
Assumption of the risk and an open and obvious hazard are probably the two leading insurance company defenses in fall injury claims.
If there was a “wet floor” or other warning sign in the area, the assumption of the risk defense is easier to prove. Owners are not liable for damages if the victim voluntarily assumed a known risk. Open and obvious is a similar doctrine. Owners are not liable in these situations. Examples of open and obvious hazards include large cracks on walkways and colored liquid spills.
These defenses often do not apply in nursing home fall claims. Many older people have Age-related Macular Degeneration. AMD impairs straight-ahead visions. So, what is open and obvious to one person might be hidden in the nursing home context, especially if the lighting is poor.
Connect with Assertive Attorneys
Nursing home fall victims might be entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed, Attorneys at Law. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).