Nursing Home Liability: What You Need to Know

Caregiver helping an elderly woman with her walking aid outdoors in the grounds of the retirement home.

Most people rightly understand that when an elderly loved one is placed in nursing care, the home is responsible for seeing to their health and well-being. When seniors can’t take care of their own needs, the trained staff at a nursing home is responsible for seeing to it that they have a clean living facility, their laundry is done, they get the medications and health care they need, and that they have a generally safe place to live.

But what about when the senior leaves the grounds to go elsewhere? Does the home still hold responsibility for their safety? Learn the responsibilities a senior care facility has when your loved one leaves the grounds, and how nursing home liability still attaches.

Nursing Home Liability

There are certain situations wherein a care facility can carry nursing home liability for a patient leaving the grounds. This is especially true if the person is permitted to “elope,” or run away from the home and they get hurt while off the grounds.

The nursing home owes a certain duty to their residents to defend them against harm that is foreseeable or predictable. If they can be shown to have broken this duty and harm resulted, they can be held negligent.

Did the Facility Know Wandering Was a Risk?

The first thing to consider is whether the facility was aware the patient might elope. Anyone suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other brain conditions could result in dissociation that leads to wandering. If this is the case, it’s far different than if the patient had never displayed any propensity for running off.

Did an Injury Occur?

If the patient wanders but is soon found healthy and hale, it’s unlikely that a charge of negligence will stick. In order for there to be liability, an injury has to result. If they disappear completely, if they get seriously hurt, if they suffer long-term exposure to the elements or if they die, on the other hand, the nursing home may be liable. Even if the damages are entirely related to emotional distress, this can result in a negligence case.

Did the Home Fail in Its Duties?

If the nursing home can be showed to have failed in its duties in some way, they might be held liable even if there wasn’t a known danger of elopement. If for example, they didn’t complete a proper and thorough intake evaluation, they can be considered negligent in not collecting the information they needed. If the staff was improperly trained to watch for signs of wandering, if the facility wasn’t properly secured, or if the home otherwise failed to perform its duties, a claim of negligence can result.

How an Elder Law Attorney Can Help

When your loved one is injured at the hands of those who you trusted, and who had a legal obligation, to look after them, you may have a claim to collect damages for the injuries suffered. For over 30 years, the elder law lawyers at the Bell Law Firm have used our knowledge and dedication to protecting the rights of seniors and their families, and we’re here for you. Get in touch with us for more information or to schedule a case evaluation at no charge today.