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Can You Sue a Nursing Home for a Fall Accident?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

If a loved one falls and is injured in a nursing home, one of your first questions may be, “Can you sue a nursing home for a fall?” Yes, you can file a lawsuit if your loved one falls due to negligence on the part of the nursing home.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), 1.3 million nursing home residents fall each year. Falls can cause serious injuries, such as broken bones, hip fractures, and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs).

With over 3 million ER visits and 36,000 fatalities annually, the CDC considers falls to be a major threat to the health of all older adults, including nursing home residents. If the cause of the fall can be traced back to negligence or abuse, you may be able to recover compensation from the nursing home facility.

The experienced nursing home abuse lawyers at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., are ready to provide you with the legal counsel and support necessary to seek justice. We can assist you throughout the process, from gathering evidence to reporting the facility to the appropriate authorities.

Common Reasons for Nursing Home Falls

While falls can sometimes be linked to a resident’s health conditions, nursing facilities have a responsibility to prevent them. Neglect, mistreatment, and insufficient care can increase the likelihood of residents experiencing falls in nursing homes. Common contributing factors include:

  • Dangerous environment. Common, preventable environmental hazards include unmarked slippery floors, loose carpets, poor lighting, and missing or improperly secured safety rails.
  • Staffing issues. A staff shortage raises the risk of residents wandering without supervision, potentially encountering fall or trip hazards. Inadequate training may leave them ill-equipped to assist residents in preventing falls, diminishing the effectiveness of their supervision.
  • Medication errors. Incorrect dosages or the use of incorrect medications can expose residents to unwanted side effects, elevating the risk of falls. For example, improper administration of anti-anxiety medications (anxiolytics), sedatives, or sleep aids can lead to symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, or loss of balance.
  • Failing to address mobility risks. Every resident has unique needs; some may have health issues that reduce mobility. Examples include unsteady gait, cognitive impairments, poor vision, balance problems, or limb and extremity weaknesses. The nursing facility is responsible for identifying residents with mobility risks and taking appropriate measures to address their needs.

What Is the Standard of Care in Nursing Homes?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) established the standard of care for nursing homes in the United States. These standards are outlined in federal law and summarized as follows:

  • Quality of care. As healthcare facilities, the primary objective of a nursing home is to ensure all residents receive the medical, nursing, and rehabilitative care they need in accordance with their care plans.
  • Resident rights. Nursing homes and long-term care facilities must uphold their residents’ right to make choices, access medical records, and receive respectful treatment.
  • Quality of life. Nursing facilities must provide sufficient amenities and services to maintain their residents’ quality of life physically, mentally, and socially.
  • Regular assessments and adjustment of care. A nursing home must regularly re-assess the needs of each resident to ensure the care they provide remains appropriate.
  • Dietary and physician services. As long-term care facilities, nursing homes must provide safe, nutritious, and palatable meals to their residents. Physicians must also be always available to ensure all residents have access to regular medical services.
  • Safe environment. Like all other healthcare facilities, nursing homes are required to maintain minimum safety and infection control standards. The facilities should also be sufficiently comfortable for long-term living.

State-level Standards of Care

In addition to the federal standards of care, nursing homes in Michigan must also adhere to state-specific mandates outlined in the Michigan Legislature:

  • Professional requirements. Nursing facilities in Michigan must be licensed to operate in the state. A facility must have at least one registered nurse (RN) with gerontology expertise as part of its staff to obtain a license. One of these nurses must be the facility’s director of nursing and must plan and direct care for residents.
  • Staffing requirements. Michigan nursing homes must employ sufficient nursing personnel to provide continuous, quality care to 100% of residents 24 hours a day. Staff must be able to provide at least 2.25 hours (2 hours 15 minutes) of nursing care per patient per day.
  • Patient-to-staff ratio. Michigan nursing facilities must remain at or under specific patient-to-staff ratios during the day: 8 patients per nurse during the morning shift, 12 patients per nurse during the afternoon, and 15 patients per nurse during the night shift. If the facility has 30 beds or more, the director of nursing does not count in that ratio.

Types of Abuse and Neglect

Nursing homes that do not adhere to state or federal care standards are at a higher risk of neglecting or mistreating their residents. Below are some of the most common forms of abuse and neglect, along with how they can contribute to fall incidents in nursing homes:

  • Physical abuse. Rough handling, striking, or improper transfers to and from beds or chairs can cause a resident to lose balance and fall. Both physical abuse and the resulting falls can cause severe injuries.
  • Neglectful conduct. Nursing staff failing to assist residents with mobility issues can result in falls. Neglect can result from improper training, such as nurses without fall prevention skills. It can also result from improper supervision, such as allowing residents to wander alone and fall.
  • Environmental neglect. For example, failing to mark and clean wet or slippery floors or not repairing broken or malfunctioning lighting. These issues can create environmental hazards, increasing the risk of a resident slipping or tripping.
  • Emotional abuse. Poorly trained or abusive staff can cause residents to become fearful, agitated, or nervous. These emotional states can potentially contribute to falls as they try to avoid abusive situations.
  • Improper restraint usage. Residents overly or incorrectly subjected to restraint systems are at an increased risk of soreness and muscular weakness. These issues can cause residents to lose balance and fall.

Nursing Home Fall Accident

When Can You Sue a Nursing Home for a Fall in Michigan?

If a loved one was injured in a fall while in a Michigan nursing home, you may be wondering about your legal options. One of the most frequently asked questions after a loved one falls is: “Can you sue a nursing home for a fall?”

You must establish that the fall was caused by a failure to meet standards of care, such as abuse or negligence, with supporting evidence.

Elements You Must Prove for a Nursing Home Neglect Case

If you suspect your loved one fell and was injured due to negligence or abuse, you must collect sufficient evidence to prove your case, including:

  • Medical records. Documents proving the type and extent of the injuries, including doctor’s notes indicating they were caused by a fall. Examples include imaging (X-ray, MRI), medication prescriptions, physician’s orders, nursing notes, and rehabilitation records.
  • Witness statements. Other residents, staff members, visitors, and others may have witnessed the fall. Collecting their statements can help strengthen your case and assess whether your loved one fell due to negligence or abuse.
  • Video footage. Video recordings can help establish the circumstances of the fall. An experienced nursing home abuse lawyer may be able to obtain surveillance footage from the facility. The incident may also have been witnessed and recorded by another person, such as a visitor with a smartphone.
  • Internal incident reports. If the staff members have recorded and filed the incident in their records, obtaining a copy of that report can be valuable in confirming the occurrence of the accident.
  • Expert testimony. A skilled nursing home abuse lawyer can review the facility and determine whether it breached standard care practices, contributing to the fall.

How to File a Nursing Home Abuse Complaint in Michigan

If you have evidence that can potentially prove your nursing home abuse case, start by contacting the relevant authorities before considering legal action. Official reports help ensure the proper government authorities are aware of the situation and enforce care standards. Demonstrating that you contacted the appropriate authorities first also produces official reports and findings, which can strengthen your legal case.

To report a nursing home for abuse in Michigan, follow these steps:

  • Visit the Michigan Bureau of Community and Health Systems (BCHS) website.
  • Click “File a Complaint” and select the “Health Agencies & Facilities” category.
  • Submit a complaint using the online BCHS form or call the toll-free Complaint Hotline at 1-800-882-6006. Your complaint will be handled by the Bureau of Survey and Certification (BSC).
  • Follow the form’s instructions and provide your contact information when requested.
  • If the BSC determines that your complaint warrants an investigation, a state surveyor will be assigned to your case. They may contact you with further instructions or if they need additional evidence.
  • Consider contacting your local Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program (MLTCOP) for additional support and advocacy.

Why Hire Our Attorneys for Your Case?

With decades of collective experience serving individuals and families in Michigan, the nursing home abuse lawyers at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. recognize the significance of selecting a trustworthy firm to represent your loved one following a fall due to nursing home neglect.

  • We represent people, not companies. Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. does not represent the interests of insurance companies, corporations, or medical facilities. We exclusively support individuals and families who have suffered losses and endured pain due to injury, disability, or death.
  • Receive the care and professionalism you deserve. Our firm provides a free, no-obligation consultation. Whether by telephone, online, or in person, we can accommodate your choice. If required, we can meet you in your hospital room.
  • No fee until we win. Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., operate on the contingency fee system. You only need to pay us if we secure compensation for you, whether we obtain it through a settlement or court decision.
  • Expertise in the medical field. Our senior partner, Eileen Kroll, has extensive experience as a registered nurse and a lawyer. She will combine her knowledge of law and healthcare to provide you with efficient representation and advocacy.
  • A history of success. Our firm has obtained millions of dollars in favorable settlements and outcomes for victims of abuse, neglect, medical malpractice, and other injury cases. Choosing us means choosing a team of lawyers who dedicate their time, effort, and expertise to ensure your case’s success.

Contact Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., to Restore Justice For Your Loved Ones

After a family member or another loved one has fallen due to a negligent or abusive nursing facility, you may have questions regarding your legal options.
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we can assist you, from initial questions like “Can you sue a nursing home for a fall?” in your consultation to a resolution in court.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at  1-866-MICH-LAW and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Brendan Beaumont is an experienced copywriter known for creating detailed, easy-to-read legal articles. He simplifies complex legal concepts, making them accessible to a broad audience.

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