Practice Areas

Nursing Home Slip & Fall

The Florida Health Care Association reports there are nearly 700 nursing homes in Florida, with some 84,000 beds. Additionally, there are 3,050 licensed assisted-living facilities in the state, with a total of about 85,000 beds. The dependence level of individuals at these centers is increasing, as is the number of individuals requiring care, as our population ages.

At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our nursing home fall attorneys in Southwest Florida recognize that falls are far too common in these facilities. Although we trust nursing homes to provide care for our loved ones, the reality is far too many fail to meet even basic expectations.

Slip-and-falls in nursing homes occur because facilities are routinely under-staffed, meaning hazards aren’t always addressed promptly. Many of these centers also feature tile floor, where the impact of a fall is going to be more serious than if it occurred on a softer surface. It’s also been proven that older adults tend to suffer more severe injuries, even given the same degree of impact as a younger counterpart.

Nursing Home Fall Statistics

A study published in 2004 by the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association uncovered the stunning prevalence of these falls: About 1.5 per bed every year. That means a facility with 100 beds can expect 150 reported falls. Even more go unreported. About half of the country’s 1.5 million nursing home residents fall at least once every year. A lot fall more than once.

Some of the most common falls are known to occur in resident bathrooms, in common eating areas and hallways and while getting into and out of bed.

The end result can be devastating.

Among older adults, falls are the No. 1 cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries. In 2012, there were 2.4 million elder adults treated for non-fatal falls in hospital emergency rooms, and of those, 725,000 had to be hospitalized.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report approximately 1,800 people die annually as a result of injuries related to falls in nursing homes. Of those who died from a fall, nearly half were attributed to a traumatic brain injury.

Even those who survive may be left permanently disabled, with a severely diminished quality of life than what they may have enjoyed before. Many suffer fractures of the hip, spine, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis hand and upper arm. These kinds of injuries can accelerate mental and physical decline.

The direct medical cost of falls among older adults in 2012 was $30 billion.

Federal law requires nursing homes to conduct a fall risk assessment of each patient when they are first admitted using a Minimum Data Set. The goal is to identify if a patient is at heightened risk for a fall, and if so, to implement cautionary measures. Some of the possible risk factors include:

  • A history of falls;
  • Dizziness;
  • Wandering;
  • Restrain use;
  • Use of drugs in high-risk classes (antihypertensives, diuretics and hypoglycemics);
  • Strength of vision;
  • Use of assistive devices for transfer or movement;
  • Cognition and degree of impulsivity.

However, the problem is plans to address these issues often include a preprinted form that does not adequately address each individual’s needs, leaving them still vulnerable to a slip-and-fall injury.

Is A Nursing Home Fall a Traditional “Slip-and-Fall” Case?

Not all falls that occur in nursing homes happen for the same reason. An important distinction to make early on in a case is whether the fall should be handled as a traditional “slip-and-fall, “or whether it should be pursued as a case of general negligence. The answer is going to steer the direction of a case because it will establish the burden of proof on the plaintiff.

Slip-and-fall cases have gotten more difficult to pursue in recent years since the 2010 passage of Florida Statute 768.0755. This law burdens plaintiffs injured after slipping and falling on a “transitory foreign substance” to prove defendant had actual or constructive knowledge the danger, and failed to remedy it or warn of it.

So for example, let’s say a nursing home resident walks from her room into the hallway and slips and falls on some juice that was spilled by an aide several hours earlier. Plaintiff here may be able to assert staffers’ constructive knowledge of the hazard – and failure to remedy it – by virtue of the fact that it had existed on the floor for some time without anyone addressing it. Had the staff exercised reasonable care in maintenance of the property, the danger likely would have been discovered.

In that case, a nursing home might argue an “open and obvious” defense. That is, the juice on the floor was obvious and the patient would have easily been able to see it and should have avoided it. However, patients of nursing homes generally can’t be held to that same kind of standard, particularly when there might be issues of cognitive dysfunction or impaired mobility that might affect one’s ability to protect themselves.

However, general negligence cases may not bear this same burden. What must be proven in those cases is:

  • The defendant owed a legal duty to the plaintiff (in these cases, to provide an appropriate level of care);
  • The defendant breached that legal duty by acting or failing to act in a certain way;
  • The breach proximately caused injury to the plaintiff;
  • Plaintiff was harmed or injured as a result of defendant’s actions.

There is no requirement in general negligence cases to prove defendant’s actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard. An experienced lawyer will be able to determine the best course of action in your case.

If you or a loved one has been a victim of a nursing home slip-and-fall in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.

Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation
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