Quite often, falls send people to nursing homes and keep them there longer than they hoped or expected. Serious falls cause about 40% of all long-term care center admissions, and 60% of all nursing home residents fall while they are there. Most elderly fall victims can never live independently again.
Many older people have pre-existing conditions that make them more prone to a fall and/or make their injuries more serious. Generally, negligence, or a lack of ordinary care, is easier to establish in these cases. Furthermore, because of the eggshell skull rule, full compensation is usually available.
This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Furthermore, an Indianapolis personal injury lawyer shines the light of justice on these incidents, so the nursing home must take measures to protect other residents from falls.
Legal Responsibility in Nursing Home Fall Claims
Indiana law divides premises liability victims into several categories, depending on the relationship between the victim and the property owner.
Nursing home residents are invitees. These individuals have express or implied permission to be on the land, and their presence benefits the owner in some way. Because of the close relationship, if the victim was an invitee, the owner has a duty of reasonable care. This duty includes making the premises safe and frequently inspecting the area to make sure it remains safe.
Nursing home visitors are probably invitees, as well. Their visits cheer residents, and happy residents benefit owners.
Alternatively, nursing home visitors might be licensees. These individuals have permission to be on the land, but there is no benefit. So, owners have a lesser legal responsibility. They need only warn licensees about latent (hidden) defects, like a loose stair rail.
All other visitors, legally, are trespassers. These people have no permission and create no benefit. So, in most cases, the owner has no legal responsibility.
Establishing Knowledge in Marion County Fall Claims
To be responsible for the aforementioned damages, the owner must have a legal duty and be aware of the property hazard which caused the fall. Victim/plaintiffs may use two kinds of evidence to establish this element:
- Direct Evidence: Direct evidence of actual knowledge, like repair estimates and internal safety memos, usually surface during the discovery process. An Indianapolis personal injury lawyer must know the right questions to ask in order to obtain evidence like this.
- Circumstantial Evidence: Alternatively, victims/plaintiffs may use circumstantial evidence to prove constructive knowledge (should have known). This process usually involves the time-notice rule. If the hazard existed for a long time, the owner should have known about it.
Victim/plaintiffs must establish knowledge by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not). That is the lowest standard of proof in Indiana law.
The Open and Obvious Defense in Indiana
In some states, if an open and obvious hazard, like a colored wet spot on a floor, causes a fall, the owner is automatically not liable for damages.
But in Indiana, an open and obvious hazard triggers the contributory negligence defense. This doctrine shifts part of the blame for the accident to the victim. Since Indiana is a modified comparative fault state, even if the victim was 49% responsible for the fall, the victim still receives a proportionate share of damages.
Contributory negligence is difficult to prove in nursing home fall matters. As mentioned, many residents have medical conditions, so they are unable to avoid what might otherwise be an open and obvious hazard.
Partner with Tenacious Attorneys
Nursing home residents who fall often sustain serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Indianapolis, contact Holland & Holland. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no insurance or money.