By Marcus Fernandez
When a family member needs the services available in a nursing home, Florida offers 683 licensed facilities with more than 83,000 beds from which to choose. It costs almost $95,000 each year for a private room in a nursing home, but the high cost of care in a nursing home provides peace of mind until a call notifies you of your loved one being seriously injured or killed in a slip and fall. While it is true that an accident may happen through no fault on the part of the nursing home staff or management, inadequate maintenance and lack of patient supervision caused by understaffing as reported in the media may cause falls for which the nursing home can be held liable.
Older adults and nursing home falls
According to the Florida Department of Health, older adults 65 years of age and older were the victims of 88 percent of all fatal falls in the state with 2,445 of them losing their lives in a single year. They also account for more than 200,000 injuries from falls requiring a visit to hospital emergency departments throughout the state.
The health department report found 24 percent of fall-related deaths individuals older than 65 to be attributed to accidents in nursing homes. People with family members residing in long-term care facilities need to be vigilant about injuries to their loved ones and find out how they occurred.
Common slip-and-fall injuries in nursing homes
An injury caused by a slip and fall in a nursing home can have dire consequences for an elderly resident. Some of the common physical injuries suffered in nursing home falls include:
- Hip fractures
- Traumatic brain injuries and concussions
- Injuries to the head and face
- Fractures to bones in the upper and lower extremities
- Neck and spinal column fractures
- Bruises and lacerations
- Sprains and strains
There may also be psychological and emotional harm as a consequence of a slip-and-fall injury to a nursing home resident, including an ongoing fear of experiencing another fall causing them to refrain from moving about and engaging in normal activities. Victims who experience disability as a result of a fall could lose whatever independence they previously had and be unable to enjoy the same quality of life as they had before the injury by isolating themselves from other people and activities.
Causes of falls in nursing homes
Age, medications, and existing physical disabilities and impairments make nursing home residents particularly susceptible to a slip-and-fall accident. Some of the common risks associated with a slip and fall for which a nursing home could be held liable when a resident suffers an injury or dies include:
- Substances, debris and other materials spilling or dropping onto the floor and not being cleaned or removed by staff members.
- Missing or loose handrails in shower, bath and other wet areas where residents must walk.
- Loose or worn carpeting and rugs.
- Damaged, broken and missing floor tiles.
- Highly polished floor surfaces.
- Uneven floor surfaces that create a tripping hazard
- Maintenance and housekeeping equipment left unattended in pathways used by residents to move about the facility.
The risk of a slip and fall at a nursing home increases with the use of medications that cause a person to be unsteady while walking or to have problems with maintaining balance. When staff members fail to provide adequate supervision for patients whose impairments make them susceptible to slipping and falling, the facility could be held liable to pay compensation when injuries occur.
What to do when a slip and fall injury occurs at a nursing home
If a loved one has been injured in a slip-and-fall accident, report it immediately to the nursing home administrators and contact a Tampa personal injury attorney for legal advice and guidance. The attorney can advise you about how to proceed and possible defenses the nursing home could assert.
Holding a nursing home responsible for injuries suffered by a resident in a slip-and-fall accident due to a substance on the floor creating a hazardous condition, such as water, food, beverages, and debris, is a premises liability claim. A nursing home could raise the defense of a lack of knowledge of the existence of the condition to avoid liability, but knowledge may be proven through constructive knowledge when the evidence does not support actual knowledge of the condition.
What constitutes negligence in a slip and fall case?
Florida negligence law, §768.0755 Fla. Sta., holds someone liable in a slip-and-fall accident for having constructive knowledge when the condition existed long enough that the staff of the nursing home to have been aware of it and taken steps to clean or eliminate it. Other theories of liability an attorney might pursue include a lack of proper supervision by staff members over the resident, failure to monitor medications effects on a resident, and the failure of a nursing home to maintain the facility to avoid or remove dangers to the residents. Contact our team or a Tampa personal injury attorney to provide answers to your questions and concerns about your loved ones slip and fall in a Florida nursing home.