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Injury from a Fall

The decision to turn the care of an aged loved one into the hands of strangers — even professional caregivers employed at a well-regarded nursing home or other type of Maryland elder care facility — can be difficult for any family. Even under the best of circumstances, this kind of situation can be stressful for many member of the family, but when suspicions are raised as to the quality of care that your loved one has been receiving, it can be especially hard to know what to do when it becomes clear that things are not as they should be.

Many people are not fully aware of the services that elder care facilities must provide under the law. Here in Maryland, the general requirements for nursing homes and the responsibility owed their residents are numerous. From monitoring of vital signs and administering proper medication to providing proper nutrition and regular hydration, nursing homes and their staff are responsible for nearly every aspect of an elderly resident’s daily needs. These responsibilities also include maintaining a healthy and safe living environment, free from physical dangers that could result in serious and life-threatening injuries.

But, accidents do happen. And when a patient at a Maryland eldercare facility does receive an injury due to a fall, the family may not always be around to witness that incident. In fact, it can be days, if not weeks, before knowledge of a serious fall reaches the victim’s family. In general, Maryland nursing homes can be held liable in whole or in part for injuries sustained by one of its residents. And while the circumstances surrounding the injury often dictate the extent of the nursing home’s responsibility, there is frequently some kind of monetary compensation that may be due the victim.

As legal professionals representing families and victims of nursing home accidents, the attorneys at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, have experience in pursuing monetary recovery for victims of trip-and-fall accidents at eldercare facilities throughout Maryland and the Washington, D.C., area. Our personal injury experts know that a fall is one of the most common types of event that can happen to an old or infirm individual. And sadly, the average nursing facility sees an average of one or two fall incidents each year for EVERY paying resident.

Depending on one’s point of view, two falls per year for each and every resident of a Maryland elder care facility may or may not seem extraordinary; however, that statistic applies to those incidents that are known to have happened. Amazingly, many more falls go unreported at many elder care facilities around our state. The odds of an elderly family member being hurt in a nursing home fall are actually quite high according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which has determined that at least half of all nursing home residents will experience some type of slip-and-fall event during any given year.

Some other statistics include the following, for reference:

  • One in five of all fall-related accidents results in serious injury, such as broken bones, hip fractures, closed-head injury, fractured wrists and/or ankles, etc.
  • Millions of elderly or infirm individuals are treated for fall-related injuries every year
  • More than 9 in 10 fractures of the hip result from a sideways fall
  • One of the most common results from slip-and-fall accidents is traumatic brain injury (TBI)

Although the majority of fall-related accidents do not result in serious injury, one in every five trip-and-fall events do result in some kind of severe bodily injury. For many older individuals, the result of a serious fall can mean the loss of mobility and a corresponding increase in the reliance on others for help with even the most basic of daily activities. Many elderly fall victims who suffer from a serious head or brain injury can experience even greater difficulty especially if they were already experiencing some level of physical limitation while residing in a Maryland nursing home or assisted living facility.

Even in cases where a patient does not suffer permanent ill effects from a nursing home slip-and-fall event, the experience alone can often instill such a fear of falling again that a person may curtail his or her previous level of activity; this can result in a slow loss of physical ability, possibly resulting in a marked decline in physical strength, which may result in a greater fall risk going forward, or forcing the patient to become bedridden, which can pose its own hazards to the individual’s continued health and well-being.

An elderly individual’s overwhelming fear of falling can is frequently a major factor driving the family’s decision to move an elderly parent or grandparent into a Maryland assisted living facility or nursing home. It can often come as a shock, therefore, when the family learns that their loved one has experienced a potentially debilitating fall at the very facility that was entrusted to prevent such an occurrence.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we know that falls are an ever-present threat for many elderly people, whether they are living at home or at a nursing facility; which is why every resident of an eldercare facility in Maryland should be properly assessed for his or her overall fall risk. Every Maryland skilled nursing facility has a legal obligation to do this when a resident first arrives at the facility.

While it is important not to assume every slip-and-fall event that takes place at a Maryland nursing home is automatically the fault of the facility or its nursing staff; there is always a chance that this kind of event may have resulted from negligence or malpractice.

Some of the criteria that are considered when making an assessment of a nursing home resident include the following. Keep in mind that in addition to performing an assessment, eldercare facilities must create and maintain — as well as make certain that its nursing staff follows — an individualized care plan, which is designed to adequately protect the health, safety and well-being of each Maryland nursing home resident. Typical care plans should take into consideration:

  • Whether the resident exhibits a general loss of strength or balance
  • The particular mobility limitations or restrictions for that resident
  • Whether or not the resident takes any medications that could cause dizziness, drowsiness or reduced reaction time
  • Whether or not the resident exhibits any signs of dementia or reduced mental capacity
  • The resident’s visual acuity or lack thereof

A resident’s care plan should also include a listing of any and all equipment or assistive devices, which that individual needs in order to stay reasonably safe from a fall. Items that are often included as part of nursing home residents’ care plan may include the following:

  • Wheelchairs, walkers or other mobility aids
  • Listing the safe height for beds, chairs and toilets for that particular resident
  • Locations/positions of grab bars and assist railings
  • Locations/positions of cushioning devices and soft-faced surfaces

If a Maryland elder care facility or one of its nursing staff is determined to have acted negligently or through inaction has failed to take reasonable steps to prevent a slip-and-fall, there may be grounds for filing a personal injury claim. A skilled Maryland personal injury lawyer with background in nursing home neglect and abuse should be able to guide victims and their families through the legal landscape toward monetary recovery for injuries received in such instances.

Because not every fall is preventable in a nursing home setting, determining liability is the job of an experienced personal injury attorney. Here at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we have the legal training and litigation experience to determine whether a client has a viable personal injury claim against a Maryland eldercare facility. If liability can be established, then a personal injury lawsuit may be a practical option.

If you suspect that a loved one has been injured in a nursing home slip-and-fall accident, there may be grounds for a lawsuit. The following list includes some of the more obvious signs that a nursing home may be legally responsible for your family member’s injuries:

  • Failing to establish a sufficient care plan based on an assessment of the victim's health and personal needs at intake
  • Failure to do regular reassessments of the victim on a timely basis resulting in a failure to modify his or her care plan
  • Failing to provide appropriate care based on the above-mentioned plan
  • Using improper or faulty nursing techniques (such as transferring from his or her wheelchair to the bed)
  • Employing unqualified or poorly trained staff for the victim’s care
  • Under- or short-staffing, leading to a reduction in safe and adequate care
  • Failure of nursing staff to properly follow facility protocols (not maintaining vacant bed alarms or placing a call button out of a resident’s reach)
  • Failing to recognize and/or correct environmental hazards in a timely manner, such as not drying a wet floor surface; not repairing loose carpeting; failing to replace dim or inoperative lighting, etc.

At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we understand that an elderly resident of a Maryland nursing home may not always remember to tell their family about a slip-and-fall. Whether due to cognitive issues or fear of retribution by the facility’s staff members, this leaves much of the vigilance up to the family. It is in your loved one’s best interest for every member of the family to be cognizant of any signs of a fall-related injury. This can include, but may not be limited to, unexplained bruising or abrasions.

If you, a friend or relative suspects that your aging parent or grandparent has suffered a fall at a Maryland nursing home, you should ask your loved one’s caregivers about any recent accidents. Keep in mind that it is the legal right of any relative who acts as the guardian of a nursing home resident to request and review that person’s chart.

Should you suspect negligence, the legal team at Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, is prepared to provide you with legal guidance. Though it is sometimes difficult to know whether a trip-and-fall accident at a Maryland eldercare facility qualifies under the legal heading of abuse, neglect or malpractice; you owe it to your loved one to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney.

If you believe that an aging loved one has suffered serious health effects from negligent care, or if he or she subsequently died as a direct result of nursing home neglect, please take the time to contact our legal offices today to learn more about your rights under the laws of the State of Maryland. The initial consultation is free and there is no obligation whatsoever. Our legal staff 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 or abuse.

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