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Life in a nursing home is rarely any person's ideal living arrangement, and when things go wrong, it can often leave nursing home residents confused about their legal remedies. Nursing homes are like a mix between hotels and hospitals, which can both be held liable, like any premises's owner, for a slip and fall injury if it involved negligence.
Cases against nursing homes often present challenges and obstacles outside the legal variety of proving that it happened. Oftentimes, residents are afraid of making claims for fear of retaliation, or residents are unable to make a claim because of a physical disability. It is important to remember, especially if you are helping an elderly friend or relative, that they likely must continue to live there and may be uncomfortable with making a claim but not say anything to you.
Anatomy of a Slip and Fall
In order to prove a slip and fall case, a person must prove that the owner/controller of the premises was negligent. Proving negligence requires showing that a duty was owed to the injured party, that duty was breached, the breach of that duty led to the injury, and the injury resulted in damages. The duty owed in a slip and fall is for a premises owner/controller to ensure that there are no hazards, or if there are hazards that cannot be remedied, to make sure there are adequate warnings of the hazards.
In many states, nursing homes have a heightened duty of care when it comes to protecting their residents from injury and ensuring their premises are safe. This is particularly true for slip and fall accidents that are preventable, such as those caused by wet floors.
The Duties of a Nursing Home
The question of whether a nursing home will be liable becomes more complex when situations become more complex. Take for example a nursing home resident who requires a walker who slips and falls on a patch of wet floor while walking around without his walker. If he was seen walking around by staff without his walker, there's a good chance the home could be found liable for not stopping the resident to get him his walker. If he wasn't seen by the staff, and he spilled the water himself, then it is unlikely the home would be found liable unless there was duty they owed that was breached.
Basically, to have a meritorious claim, you must be able to point to some action on the part of the home and argue that "but for" this action the injury would not have occurred. These actions (or inactions) can involve almost anything, including, but not limited to: staff training, misconduct, or supervision, as well as failures to properly maintain the premises, furniture and/or equipment.
If you have been injured in a nursing home slip and fall accident, contact an attorney to understand if you have a legal claim.