As medical care providers, New York hospitals, nursing homes, and elder care facilities bear the considerable burden of keeping their patients and residents safe. In fact, it’s their explicit mission. We bring our loved ones to care-giving organizations to maintain their health and protect them from harm.
What happens if our trust is violated? According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC), only 5% of the American population over the age of 65 lives in a nursing home. Even so, “nursing home residents account for about 20% of deaths from falls in this age group.” While some of these accidents are unforeseeable, many could have been prevented.
The problem is pronounced in hospitals, as well, where more than 1 million falls occur each year. 30% of these falls result in injury, and 10% in serious injury, including trauma to the head and bone fractures.
In a recent case against a hospital, the plaintiff was successful in proving negligence of the hospital for knowingly not repairing an uneven step on a stairs. For more information on this type of accident click here.
Is A Civil Lawsuit An Option To Compensate For Negligence?
New York allows victims and their families to bring personal injury lawsuits against negligent medical care facilities. After a serious accident, families are often saddled with exorbitant medical expenses and devastating emotional costs. With the help of an experienced New York based lawyer, victims can receive valuable compensation – for medical expenses and pain and suffering – far more than an insurance settlement will provide.
How Common Are Slip & Fall Accidents Among The Elderly?
For people between the ages of 65 and 84, falls are the second most common fatal accident. Over 85, falls lead the pack of injuries that end in death. In fact, the National Floor Safety Institute has labeled the incredible prevalence of slip and falls among the elderly an “epidemic.”
In 2011 alone, around 22,900 seniors died after a fall.
Common Fall Accidents In New York Nursing Homes
Nursing homes are legally responsible for the safety of elderly residents. Beyond that simple fact, it’s well known that seniors are at particular risk of falling. The CDC has found that one out of every three older Americans will fall each year and, among seniors, “falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries.” It’s very likely that the elderly are the most affected by a slip and fall. Generally ailing health, along with osteoporosis, mean that seniors are often unable to recover from a serious accident.
Obviously, nursing homes and assisted living facilities must leverage a considerable amount of their resources toward fall prevention. It is not enough for nursing homes to adequately respond after an accident; they must actively attempt to prevent them. New York State law is unequivocal on this count: upon admission, every resident must undergo a thorough risk assessment. A nursing home’s management must take into account the resident’s history of falls and particular safety needs.
Many cases of nursing home negligence revolve around this preliminary risk assessment. Was the nursing home aware that your loved one was at heightened risk for a fall? If so, did they take the proper precautions to prevent an accident. Nursing homes that fail to employ adequate intervention strategies can be held liable for negligence.
Common Causes: Falls In Nursing Homes
- Spilled liquids
- Inadequate lighting
- Improper use of bed rails, or none at all
- Inappropriately calibrated bed height
- Broken wheelchairs, or those left unadjusted for a new patient
- Tripping hazards, like debris, that clutter rooms and hallways
- Understaffing; inadequate number of employees to address problems
Is Nursing Home Negligence To Blame?
But is that really true? The CDC reports another statistic that seems to suggest otherwise:
“Environmental hazards in nursing homes cause 16% to 27% of falls among
And environmental hazards are anything but unavoidable. Take a look at the following list of dangers cited by the CDC:
- wet floors
- poor lighting
- incorrect bed height
- improperly fitted or maintained wheelchairs
Do any of those fall risks sound like a normal aspect of aging? Of course not. Instead, they’re the result of a nursing home’s direct failure to properly ensure its residents’ safety.
And that’s a real cause for concern.
Are Nursing Homes Safe?
In many cases, nursing homes simply aren’t living up to the standards we should demand. While the Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality (AHRQ) has outlined rigorous guidelines for promoting resident safety, they acknowledge that their recommendations are not followed universally.
Here are the results of an annual survey the AHRQ sends out to elder-care facilities:
- Only 35% out of 18,968 nursing home employees felt that their facility was staffed properly. It’s impossible to properly supervise a number of patients with only a skeleton crew.
- Only 74% would recommend the nursing homes in which they worked to friends or family as “safe.”
- Only 58% of staff members working in large nursing homes (over 200 beds) would rate their facility as “Excellent” or “Very Good” in terms of resident safety.
With employee opinions like that, it’s clear that many nursing home residents are falling through the institutional cracks, and suffering serious injuries as a result.
How Are Nursing Home Accidents Different From Slip & Falls?
Did your loved one fall in a nursing home? This is not a simple slip and fall case. Nursing homes have specific responsibilities, ones that property owners do not share, which impact their potential liability for resident injuries.
Central to questions of legal responsibility is a resident’s individual “care plan.” Here’s how it works:
1. Nursing Homes Are Health Care Facilities
The very foundation of a nursing home’s existence is the safety of its residents. If patients aren’t safe, what’s the point? And with falls so prevalent among the elderly, preventing them is one of a facility’s main duties.
In New York State, nursing homes are health-care facilities, not businesses or private residences. They’re rigorously regulated and have one purpose: promoting their resident’s health wherever possible.
2. They Need To Make A Plan
Every resident who enters a nursing home is given a “fall risk assessment.” This evaluation is so important that it’s reported to the Federal Government.
After determining a senior’s history of falls and current chances of falling, staff members must design a unique prevention program, a care plan, intended to prevent injuries as much as possible.
3. They Have To Use The Plan & Make It Better
The care plan must be communicated to all staff members who will work with the senior, and followed to a tee. If not, it was made in vain.
Over time, the care plan must be reviewed and altered if necessary. If a fall does take place, what went wrong and how can we fix the problem? Nursing home employees should be asking these kinds of questions all the time.
Do I Need A Lawyer To Pursue My Case?
Analyzing this process, from the assessment of a resident’s risk, to the development of an appropriate prevention plan and its revision if necessary, is the bedrock of a successful nursing home slip and fall lawsuit.
If you intend to file a lawsuit against a nursing home, you’ll have to thoroughly investigate your loved one’s care plan. But before that, you will need to determine whether or not they were properly assessed for risks in the first place.
Over the course of an exacting examination, you’ll need answers to essential questions, like:
- was their fall prevention program adequate?
- was it properly communicated to staff members?
- was it followed appropriately?
- was it regularly revised for the better?
It’s almost impossible to do all that without an experienced personal injury lawyer. Moreover, you should look for an attorney with experience in both slip and fall cases and nursing home negligence.
What About New York Hospitals?
Hospitals, emergency rooms, and community clinics are places of healing and recovery. Most of all, they are facilities devoted to quality care. When we think about hospitals, most of us turn our attention first to highly-educated surgeons and intensely-complicated machinery. But these wonders of innovation are based in simple principles, ones we all implement everyday at home. Cleanliness, organization, and ensuring that resources are up to the task; it’s the foundation of any well-run home, and any well-run hospital.
When hospitals fail to maintain safe conditions, they fail patients most of all. Spilled liquids, inadequate fall-intervention measures, and cluttered halls can lead to serious slip and fall accidents, and extremely severe consequences.