Falls are by far the most common nursing home injury. About half of all long-term care residents fall every year. Mostly because of pre-existing conditions, many of these victims sustain serious injuries.
For the most part, these incidents are not “accidents.” People accidentally leave the water running. They do not accidentally slip on a wet spot and fall. The nursing home owner is usually responsible for property defects, such as the aforementioned wet spot. Typically, the nursing home owner is an out-of-state holding company. So, from a legal and practical standpoint, these claims are often complex.
Therefore, only the most experienced Indianapolis personal injury attorneys should handle these claims. In addition to these complexities, there is also a lot at stake. These victims are usually entitled to compensation for economic losses, which might include lost wages or doctor bills, and noneconomic losses, which might include loss of enjoyment of life, pain and suffering, or disfigurement. Punitive damages might be awarded, as well, but these are less common.
What Causes Nursing Home Falls?
Almost all nursing home residents have pre-existing conditions. These conditions often increase the risk of a fall as well as the resulting injuries.
Many residents suffer from Age-related Macular Degeneration. AMD blurs straight-ahead vision, which is necessary for balance. The symptoms usually are not too bad, unless the area is not well lit. Unfortunately for victims, many nursing home hallways are rather dimly lit, especially at night.
Additionally, many residents have pre-existing physical conditions, like arthritis or a previous injury. As a result, they have a much harder time recovering from a fall.
Insurance companies cannot use pre-existing conditions like these to reduce or deny compensation to victims, thanks to the eggshell skull rule. Pre-existing physical, emotional, or other conditions do not affect compensation claims. An insurance company cannot use victims’ vulnerabilities against them in court.
To determine legal duty, most jurisdictions, including Indiana, use a common law based classification system. This system has three categories:
- Invitee: An invitee has direct or indirect permission to be on the land. And, the invitee’s presence benefits the owner in some way. Nursing home residents are clearly invitees. If the victim was an invitee, the landowner had a duty of care to keep the area reasonably safe.
- Licensee: Some nursing home visitors are licensees, although they could be invitees as well. The aforementioned benefit could be economic or noneconomic, and since visitors perk up residents, the owner benefits. If the victim was a licensee (permission but no benefit), the owner had a more limited duty.
- Trespasser: In no permission and no benefit situations, the owner had no duty. Trespasser claims do not come up very frequently, especially in a nursing home fall context.
These three categories determine direct liability for fall injuries. The ultimate responsibility rests with the property owner, which is usually either a larger holding company or a landlord.
Nursing home landowners are only responsible for damages if they knew or should have known about the fall hazard. This evidence could be direct or circumstantial.
Direct evidence of actual knowledge includes things like restroom cleaning reports and unpaid repair invoices or estimates. CIrcumstantial evidence of constructive knowledge (should have known) usually involves the time-notice rule. Think of a banana peel on the floor. If the peel was black and gritty, like it had been on the floor for some time, an employee should have seen it and should have picked it up.
Reach Out to Savvy Lawyers
Nursing home fall victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Indianapolis personal injury attorney, contact Holland & Holland. You have a limited amount of time to act.