elder abuse attorneyFalls are the most common reason for injuries and deaths among older Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an older American (age 65+) falls every second of every day resulting in millions of injuries and tens of thousands of deaths each year.

If your loved one has fallen in a nursing home, an assisted living center, or another facility then you may have questions. You may wonder if the fall was an unavoidable accident or if, instead, it was the result of abuse or neglect.

Why Fall Accidents Happen

Everyone is different, and facilities should conduct individualized fall risk assessments to determine a resident’s risk of falling. Some factors that should be taken into account for older Americans include:

  • Reduced muscle strength
  • Inactivity
  • Medical conditions, including vision issues
  • Medications

Any of these things can make a particular person more likely to fall. However, not all falls are inevitable and not every fall is an accident. Sometimes, older Americans who are in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare facilities fall and suffer significant injuries because of negligence or abuse. For example, a person in one of these facilities may fall if:

  • There are slip or trip hazards. Torn carpeting, missing handrails, and cluttered floors, could, for example, cause a person to slip or to trip and fall.
  • Fall prevention equipment is missing. Bedrails, canes, and walkers could help prevent falls. However, physical restraints have been proven to be unsafe and should not be used to prevent falls.
  • They are not checked on regularly. Without adequate staff support, some people may need to get up on their own to move around or to use the bathroom.
  • They are not properly assessed for fall risks. Anyone who is potentially at risk for a fall should be assessed through a tool such as the Morse Fall Scale.
  • A fall prevention plan is not implemented. If the assessment for a fall risk indicates that there is such a risk, then a fall prevention plan should be developed and implemented.

Sufficient staff members must be hired and appropriately trained to help keep residents from falling and suffering the resulting physical consequences.

Fall Injuries Can Be Serious or Life-Threatening

Whether your loved one has fallen out of bed, out of a wheelchair, in the shower, in the bathroom, while walking, or while being transported by staff members, your loved one may be seriously injured. Specific injuries depend on the nature of the fall and your loved one’s overall health, but could include:

  • Head injuries. A person who falls can suffer a brain injury when her head hits the ground or another object.
  • Broken Bones. Any bone may break in a fall—including hip bones, pelvic bones, arms, legs, wrists, and ankles.

In some cases, broken bones may also occur for other reasons. For example, older Americans may suffer from compression fractures due to frail bones or osteoporosis or they may suffer stress fractures due to repetitive motions. While the nursing home or healthcare facility may not be responsible for these initial breaks, they may be liable for any further pain or complications that arise if they are neglectful in getting a person prompt medical care after a break occurs.

Many falls result in a decrease in an individual’s independence—some may even result in death.

A Legal Recovery Is Important After a Fall Injury

When your loved one is physically injured because of someone else’s abuse or negligence, then it is important to take action to protect her recovery. She may be entitled to compensation for her:

  • Healthcare costs. Any medical expenses made necessary because of the fall may be compensated. This could include hospitalizations, surgeries, doctors’ visits, physical therapy, and assistive medical devices (such as wheelchairs or walkers).
  • Physical pain. While no amount of money will undo your loved one’s physical pain, she is entitled to financial compensation for the pain that she endured and that she will continue to endure because of the fall.
  • Emotional suffering. Your loved one’s independence may have been significantly impacted. She may be suffering, and this suffering should be part of the compensation that she receives after a fall injury.
  • Other costs. Any other expenses that your loved one can prove were directly related to the fall can be part of the recovery.

If your loved one died from her fall injuries, then you may also be entitled to money for your loss and your loved one’s funeral costs.

How to Get a Fair Recovery After a Fall Injury

The nursing home or healthcare facility where your loved one resided had a duty to treat her with reasonable care and with respect. If they failed to do this and your loved one was hurt in a fall, then she deserves to make a fair recovery.

However, your loved one—and your family—do not need to fight for a fair recovery on your own. You do not need that stress. Instead, you have the right to work with an experienced attorney who not only understands the complexity of elder abuse and neglect cases but who also wants to get to know your loved one as an individual and to fight hard for your loved one’s recovery.

The laws protecting older people from abuse and neglect are complicated, and the insurance companies that provide coverage for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other healthcare facilities fight hard to prevent the recovery of damages in abuse and neglect cases. Our lawyers know how to investigate abuse and neglect claims, gather evidence, and present strong arguments. We are skillful negotiators who work toward fair settlements, but we will not shy away from trial if that is where your loved one’s fair recovery will come from.

At every step of the recovery process, our focus will be on your loved one. It is our job to help her recover from the abuse or neglect that never should have happened. Please call us today if your loved one has been hurt. Let’s schedule a free and confidential consultation and talk more about what happened to your loved one, how to hold the facility accountable, and how to get your loved one the compensation she deserves.

Case C. Barnett
Costa Mesa Personal Injury Attorney practicing in child injury law, car accident injuries and elder abuse law