The over-65 population is already rapidly expanding. It’s increased by about 50 percent in just the last decade. Furthermore, this population group may double in size over the next twenty-five years.
Due to medical and other advances, many of these people will live independently for a long time. But many others will need long-term care, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, as the older adult population expands, the slip-and-fall risk in nursing homes will probably expand as well. How can a Florida personal injury attorney address this situation?
Nursing Home Fall Causes in Florida
To accommodate the exploding population, many nursing homes almost constantly undergo renovations, expansions, and repairs. Construction areas are extremely hazardous for anyone, and especially for older adults. Many of these individuals already have issues with balance and mobility. So, they are unable to step around floor hazards, like holes or wet spots.
Poor vision is also a problem as well, especially if the light is bad. On a related note, some residents have cognitive impairments, so a sign like “Construction-Keep Out” might as well be in a foreign language. Graphic signs, such as an image of a person falling, are much better.
As nursing home population expands, understaffing becomes a more serious problem. Low staff levels are already an issue at many nursing homes, especially during weekends and other low-census times. So, the orderly who is outside a construction zone on weekdays may not be there on weekends.
Economic factors, and specifically nursing home consolidation, need mentioning as well. Small, family-owned long term care facilities are disappearing rapidly. Today, out-of-state conglomerates run many Florida nursing homes. So, it’s no longer possible to quickly wrap up a construction job. Requests like this must follow a very long chain of command.
Establishing Liability in a Nursing Home Fall Case
Nursing home residents are invitees. These people are on the premises because they responded to the owner’s invitation and they provide an economic or noneconomic benefit. Nursing home guests are probably invitees as well, although the case is a little less convincing.
In terms of falls, invitees are entitled to the highest protection under Florida law. Owners must ensure that the premises are reasonably safe. Furthermore, owners must frequently inspect the property to ensure this standard is maintained.
If a victim falls due to the owner’s lack of care, the owner could be liable for damages. Some lack-of-care examples include:
- Wet spots on the ground,
- Poor lighting in hallways,
- Improperly-set bed rails that allow the patient to fall out of bed,
- Uneven flooring, and
- Loose handrails.
Lack of care by itself is insufficient. The victim/plaintiff must also prove that the owner knew about the dangerous condition. To evaluate this situation, most Florida courts use a variation of the time-notice rule. If the hazard existed for a long time, the owner usually has constructive knowledge (should have known) about the dangerous condition.
There may be direct evidence of knowledge as well. Attorneys usually uncover these smoking guns during the discovery process.
Contact Tenacious Attorneys
In many ways, nursing homes are dangerous places. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).