Falls and Nursing Home Negligence
Slip and falls are one of the leading causes of nursing home admissions. Furthermore, over 60 percent of nursing home residents fall at least once during their stays. So, in a nutshell, falls put many older adults in nursing homes, and falls keep these individuals in nursing homes much longer.
Nursing home overcrowding causes many fall injuries. Since they must accommodate more residents, dangerous construction, from minor renovations to major expansions, is an ongoing process at most long-term care facilities.
Younger people can avoid uneven walkways and other construction-related fall hazards. But many older adults with poor eyesight cannot see warning signs. Additionally, because they shuffle their feet when they walk, when they stumble, they almost always fall.
Nursing home owners cannot blame these falls on residents. Instead, these owners must accept legal responsibility for these falls, at least in most cases, as outlined below. If negligence causes injury, a Columbia premises liability attorney can obtain the compensation these victims need and deserve in court.
Building a Case
Nursing home owners are legally responsible for fall-related damages if they had a duty of care and they knew about, or should have known about, the injury hazard.
Most nursing home residents are invitees. They have owner permission to be at the property and they economically benefit the owner. If the victim was an invitee at the time of the injury, the owner usually has a duty of reasonable care. This responsibility includes a requirement to ensure the property is reasonably safe and conduct frequent safety inspections.
This process includes immediately recognizing, addressing, and removing common fall injury hazards like:
- Uneven or damaged walkways,
- Wet or slippery floors,
- Missing or damaged handrails and grab bars,
- Damaged or improperly fitted equipment, such as beds, wheelchairs, or walkers, and
- Inadequate supervision of residents, including those who exhibit aggressive behavior.
If the victim was behind on payments or in violation of a nursing home rule, such as fighting in a common area, a lesser legal status might apply. A lower legal status generally means a lower duty of care.
Additionally, a Columbia personal injury lawyer must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the nursing home owner knew about, or should have known about, the fall injury hazard.
A “Caution” sign is an interesting case. Many owners display these signs to invoke the assumption of the risk defense. Such a sign is also an admission that the nursing home owner, or rather a nursing home employee, knew about the risk.
Nursing home owners are usually financially responsible for slip-and-fall and other negligent injury damages, even if the owner is an out-of-state holding company that couldn’t find Columbia on a map.
We mentioned the assumption of the risk defense above. Now, let’s break it down. Unless an attorney refutes this defense, the court could reduce the victim’s compensation all the way to zero.
First, usually during a pretrial hearing, an insurance company lawyer must establish the basic prongs of this defense, which are:
- A voluntary assumption of
- A known risk.
As mentioned, many older adults cannot see signs well, especially if the space isn’t well lit. If the victim couldn’t see the sign, the victim didn’t voluntarily assume the risk.
If the judge allows the defense, insurance company lawyers must convince jurors that the victim’s assumption of the risk, as opposed to the owner’s negligence, substantially caused the fall.
Finally, based on the evidence, which includes the victim’s inability to avoid a fall, jurors must divide responsibility on a percentage basis. South Carolina is a modified comparative fault state with a 51 percent threshold. Victims are entitled to a proportionate share of damages if they’re no more than 49 percent at fault.
The open and obvious defense is like assumption of the risk on steroids. Owners aren’t responsible for damages when open and obvious hazards, like a large sinkhole in a park, cause fall injuries. Obviously, this defense only applies in limited situations.
Connect With a Savvy Richland County Lawyer
Injury victims are entitled to significant compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Columbia, contact the Marc Brown Law Firm. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.