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Can a Baltimore Nursing Facility be Held Liable for my Elderly Parent’s Slip-and-Fall Accident?

In general, yes, liability on the part of a Maryland elder care facility for injuries sustained by a patient or resident could result in some kind of compensation, though the circumstances surrounding the injury will usually dictate the extent of the nursing home’s responsibility, as well as any monetary recovery on the part of the victim.

Falls of various kinds are one of the more common occurrences in most all Maryland skilled nursing facilities. In fact, the average elder car facility will average one or two falls each year for every paying resident; and those are the instances that are actually reported — many additional slip-and-fall accidents typically take place throughout the year without ever being officially recorded. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has determined that 50- to 75-percent of all nursing home residents will experience some kind of slip-and-fall event in any given year.

Some Facts on Falls
  • One out of five falls results in a serious injury (broken bones, head injury, fractured hip, wrist fracture, broken ankle, etc.)
  • Millions of elderly people are treated annually for fall-related injuries
  • Over 95 percent of all hip fractures are the result of a sideways fall
  • Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (TBI)

While it is true that many falls do not result in serious injury, 20 percent of all slip-and-falls do have significant injuries associate with them. Of these injuries, most can make it difficult for a person to get around as they previously did, which makes accomplishing everyday activities, or even living independently, extremely hard or next to impossible. Serious head or brain injuries are some of the worst results of slip-and-fall accidents in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

One of the more significant impacts of a slip-and-fall accident, even one that does not result in serious or permanent injury, is that the event can often instill a fear of falling in the victim. This fear can cause an individual to curtail their everyday activities, thus causing them to become less active, which can also result in that person becoming physically weaker over time and can actually increase their chances of falling at a later date.

Not surprisingly, a fear of falling in an elderly individual can often be a significant factor in the decision to move an elderly person to an assisted living facility. It is therefore often a shock to the family when the place that is supposed to be protecting their elderly loved one from falling becomes the source of a possibly debilitating fall.

Of course, if and when a slip-and-fall does take place at a Maryland nursing facility, it should not automatically be assumed that the nursing home or its staff was at fault from a legal standpoint. However, there is always a possibility that this kind of incident can truly have resulted from negligence or malpractice.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we understand that falls are inevitable for many elderly people. At nursing homes, however, each resident should be properly assessed for his or her risk of falling. This is why every Maryland skilled nursing facility has a legal obligation to properly assess both the health and individual needs of its residents when they first arrive at the facility.

Based on these assessments, the nursing home must create, maintain and make sure that its staff follows an individualized care plan that adequately protects the health, safety and wellbeing of each elder care resident. A typical nursing home resident’s care plan should take into consideration the following:

  • Does the resident exhibit a general loss of strength and/or balance?
  • What are the resident’s mobility limitations or restrictions?
  • Is the resident taking any medications that may cause dizziness, drowsiness, or reduced reaction time?
  • Does the resident exhibit any signs of dementia?
  • Does he or she have impaired vision?

As part of the resident’s care plan, the nursing facility should also include a list of all equipment and/or assistive devices necessary to provide the resident with appropriate and adequate care to help keep them reasonably safe from falls. This list will be specific to the particular individual, but may include the following:

  • Walkers and/or other mobility aids
  • An assessment of the safe height for beds, chairs and toilets appropriate to the particular resident
  • Locations and positioning of grab bars and assist railings
  • Installation of cushioning devices and soft-faced surfaces

If a nursing home or elder care facility — or one of its staff members — is found to have acted negligently or, by inaction, failed to take reasonable steps to prevent a slip-and-fall from taking place, there may certainly be grounds for filing a personal injury claim against one or more parties.

Establishing Liability

Again, it is important to reiterate that in the typical nursing home setting not every fall is preventable, which is to say that not every instance of resident injury will necessarily result in a viable personal injury claim. However, the experienced attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, have the legal training and background to determine is an elder care facility, or one of its employees, may have acted negligently. If liability can be established, then a personal injury lawsuit may be a practical option.

Some of the telltale signs that a nursing home or elder care facility may be found liable for the injuries sustained by one of its residents include one or more of the following:

  • Failure to create an adequate care plan based on an assessment of the victim's health and individual needs at intake
  • Failure to reassess the resident’s needs on a regular and timely basis in order to modify his or her care plan
  • Failure to provide the appropriate care based on the resident's care plan
  • Employing faulty or improper care techniques (e.g. when transferring from bed to wheelchair)
  • Using poorly trained or unqualified staff members for the resident’s care
  • Understaffing as it pertains to providing safe and adequate resident care
  • Failure of staff members to follow proper facility protocols (e.g. lack of vacant bed alarms or limiting access to call buttons)
  • Failure to recognize and correct environmental hazards (e.g. wet floors, loose carpeting, dim or inoperative lighting) in a timely fashion

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we understand that nursing home residents may not always report a fall to their family, whether due to memory impairment or fear of retribution by the facility’s staff. Therefore it is incumbent on his or her loved ones to be aware and vigilant for any indication of a fall-related injury, such as unexplained bruising or abrasions. If you suspect that your elderly relative has suffered a fall at their elder care facility, check with their care providers. It is the right of any relative who acts as a guardian of a nursing home resident to request and review that person’s chart.

If you suspect negligence, the personal injury team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, can provide you and your family with legal guidance regarding whether or not a skilled nursing facility may be sued for negligence under the laws of the State of Maryland. It is not always easy to know whether a slip-and-fall incident at an elder care facility comes under the heading of abuse, neglect or malpractice; however, the first step is to speak with a qualified attorney. Our legal staff can ask questions to help determine the specific circumstances surrounding your loved one’s slip-and-fall accident.

Contact our legal offices today to learn more about your rights under the law. The initial consultation is free and there is no-obligation. Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, is ready, willing and able to provide victims and their families with the knowledge to make good decisions regarding a claim of nursing home negligence.

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